African violets: Dealing with ‘Necks’

African violets should be repotted about twice a year, or every 5-6 months.  One mature, this simply means repotting the plant with some fresh soil, into the same size pot.  Never use a pot larger than the plant’s root system–for standards, this usually means about a 4″ pot, for minis and semiminis, a pot no larger than 2 1/2″.  Over the course of time, your violet will have lost (or had removed) its older, lower, leaves, forming a “neck”.  Repotting is necessary to eliminate this.

African violet neckStep 1:  African violet with a “neck”.  A “neck” is the palm-tree like trunk that appears over time as the lower rows of leaves are removed.  A well-grown violet should have its lowest row of leaves growing from the trunk at soil-level.  When a neck exists, the lowest row of leaves are well above the soil level and pot rim.  By repotting, this unsightly neck can be eliminated.  This is easiest to do when done regularly, about every 5-6 months.

African violet neckStep 2:  Cut-away bottom of root ball.  Remove plant from its pot and remove the bottom of the root ball an amount equal to the size of the neck–i.e. if the neck is 1/2″ long, remove 1/2″ from the bottom of the root ball.  This is why repotting is best done regularly, before the neck becomes too long.  For example, in an extreme case, where a plant has a 2″ neck, we would need to remove 2″ from the bottom of the root ball.  If the pot is only 2 1/4″ deep, then nearly the entire root system needs to be removed!  By repotting when the neck is still small, very little of the root system needs to be removed, and the plant will show few, if any, ill effects from repotting.

African violet neckStep 3:  Push plant back into same size pot.  If this is a mature plant, a larger pot is not needed.  Since a bottom portion of the root ball has been removed, the violet can now be pushed lower into the pot.  The objective is to lower the plant enough so that the lowest row of leaves is even with the pot rim (i.e. no neck will be visible).

African violet pottedStep 4:  Add fresh soil.  The violet should now be lower in its pot, so that its lowest row of leaves is level with the pot rim.  Add fresh soil, up to the pot rim, covering the neck.  The neck will produce new roots into the added soil.

African violet pottedStep 5:  The repotted violet.  Once repotting is finished, no neck should be visible, and soil level and lower leaves should be even with the pot rim.  Label the pot, and lightly water the plant.  This is important–until the plant begins to develop new roots into the added soil, it will require a bit less water than before (it has a smaller root system).  The more drastic the repotting, the more that this is the case.

Other tips.  Improper pot size, poor soil, and too infrequent repotting are probably the most common causes of unhealthy violets amongst inexperienced growers.  Though a miniature violet was used in this illustration, the same procedure is used for standard-size varieties.  Most standards (unless grown for exhibition), are quite comfortable in a 4″ pot–repotting does not mean continually putting violets into progressively larger pots!  Use only a pot as large as the root system–adding soil only benefits the plant if it can develop a root system large enough to use that soil!

A very light, porous, soil-less potting mix is very highly recommended for most growers.  If buying a commercially-available mix, judge a soil by its feel not its label!  “African violet soils” are often the worstsoil mixes for violets!  Look for mixes with plenty of vermiculite and/or perlite (1/3 to 1/2 of mix), with a light, fluffy, consistency.  Avoid thick, dark, heavy, soil mixes.  Though an experienced grower can grow beautiful plants in almost anything, a light, soil-less mix is much more forgiving of over/underwatering and infrequent repotting and neglect.

63 comments

  • I have a very large 10 year old African Violet. It has become very leggy under the growth and the legs are a 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter. It is still full and green and will still bloom. I am concerned because the center of the plant is not blooming and the legs are getting longer and creating a whole in the center. The diameter of this plant is 12 to 15″ wide. How should I continue to care for this plant?

    Thank you, Glenda

    • Don’t know what you mean by “legs” and “hole in center”. If you mean multiple crowns (very large suckers), then divide them into individual plants/crowns and pot them separately. See our lesson on “restoring” an African violet for tips.

  • I would like to help my sister start a violet. I live on the east coast and she is out west. Can I put some leaves in a damp paper towel to mail them to her?

    • Yes, but if too damp can rot the leaf. If the leaf is very fresh, you can simply put it in a plastic sandwich bag and mail as is. It will stay fresh for the few days in the mail.

  • Thank you so much for this! Time to get busy repotting!

  • Hi ! I am simply delighted to have found this web site ! It has answered a lot of questions. Never knew needed to repot so often. Thanks so much for the super advise !!

  • I have a trailing/hanging African Violet that has flowering stems hanging over the side of the pot. They are 1-2 feet long. I have regrown a lot of clusters from this plant. Is this a normal procedure?

    • If this is the look you want, there is nothing wrong in growing it this way. Nice thing about trailing violets is that you can grow them to whatever appearance you like.

  • Hello,

    Please help me as my plant is a baby of a deceased family member that I have had for many years and don’t want to loose. I was told by a flower store to repot my plant as it got a neck on it and 2 parts of the plant was not doing well. The 3rd part of the plant is doing great, new leaves and flowers. However even being as careful as I could my plant broke off from the root system. What I have left is the neck attached to the leaves. What can I do now?

  • My violet is over 65 years old. I’ve lost count of the plants I’ve shared from it. When I inherited it six years ago it was in a 10” pot- and fell into many plants when I took it out. If not for your help it would surely be dead as all my former plants were. I promised to take care of it and through your customer service and site it’s still blooms all year. Thank you for helping me keep my promise!

  • I have an AV that is 4+ years old and has a very long “neck” it is getting very unhealthy looking, but I don’t know how to re-pot it, how far up to go, etc. Is there someplace I can forward a photo of him and get your advice, Please? I don’t want to loose him, but he is on the brink :(

    • Please see our “restoring/restarting” lesson. It may be more appropriate for dealing with such a long neck.

  • I have several mature African Violets. The problem is that the crown (and blooms) are way off to one side. Is this from not rotating them enough? Also, what is the best solution?

    • If growing in a window, this may very well be the problem. Plants will always seek out the light source. You can correct this by straightening the plant when repotting (do this at least once a year). Otherwise, just rotate it more often or, better yet, grow beneath the (perhaps artificial) light.

  • My son came home from 2nd grade with this little African Viloet his favorite teacher gave him. He’s 14 now. I assumed a plant was a plant and didn’t know what they were really supposed to look like. Mine grew huge, the leaves reach for the sky with darling little clusters of flowers. I patted myself on the back. But then it started leaning. Badly. I see I have no idea what it’s supposed to look like or what I am doing or how to fix it. I tried to cut the top, put in soil and in a bag. We’ll see how it goes. I wanted to send a photo along for you to look at…it’s probably a lesson in 101 thing in what not to do.

  • I just ordered three violets from you and have been reading through your lessons and FAQs. You have a wonderfully informative site. I’ve found that I’m doing most things right and a few things wrong in caring for my violets. I have just one comment/question at this point: When I re-pot my violets, I often wind up breaking leaves off the plant. How can this be avoided (and yes, I know, be more careful)? Do you have any tips for handling the violet plants to keep from damaging them?

    • To do anything well, it takes practice and, yes, it does help to be careful. A few tips, though. Repot when the soil is a bit moist (but not soggy), since this will help hold the soil together when you remove plant from pot. Try to handle the plant by holding the root ball or neck (if any) beneath the leaves. This will also keep the leaves from getting too dirty in the process. If you find that your fingers are to big (or the plant is too small), tweezers are a great tool to have, though using them requires some practice as well. Finally, rather than placing the plant in pot and trying to add soil around it, make a “mold” in the pot first, then dropping the plant into it. Pour moist soil into the pot, make sure its FIRM (not hard), then create a hole (like a jello mold) the size of the rootball you will be placing into it. Once you place plant in hole, all you need to do is “firm it in”. You can use the backside of a spoon to fit beneath the leaves to do this, if your fingers can’t get in there.

  • I have taken over the care of our office plants and I have a question about the African Violets. There are three in one pot, the necks have the leaves extended over the rim of the pot. I would like advice on how to properly repot this plant and if there are too many African violets in this one pot. They all take turns cycling through blooming, they are in indirect light, I water them once a week and clean the leaves at least once a month. And also, there are leaves growing out at the base of the neck. What are these and what should I do with them? I have photos

    • You’ll need to repot each of these crowns/plants into their own, individual, pots. Since it may not be possible to separate them with roots at this point, see our lesson on “restoring/restarting an African violet”.

    • I would like to see pictures, and know if you ended up repotting/how it turned out! I have the same situation and afraid to attempt this….Almost 4 yrs ago it started with one plant, and now it is 3 plants…. (I know I know….I have npt repotted in 4 yrs) BUT all 3 are blooming regularly, and seems to be thriving. (Can’t really see the elongated necks because the widespread leaves cover them from all angles.) I’d hate to mess up and kill them!

    • Always better to take preventative measures. Left too long, you may have to “restart” you violet if the neck gets too long. See the lesson on this elsewhere.

  • Can violets grow leaves from a bare neck? The top leaves have all died due to some blueish blight, turning brown where they meet the stem and slowly wilting away. I’m wondering if I can cut off the blight infected top portion and replant the neck, which has no leaves left on it. Thanks!

  • for 3 years I’ve had what has been a beautiful, healthy african violet that blooms at least a few times a year, with no visible neck. I have never re-potted it as I know I am supposed to. One day a month ago I noticed 3 layers of the bottom leaves were drastically wilting all around the bottom. The plant was not dry. I watched for several days with no change, watered, still no change so I removed the wilting leaves. Now the remaing, what were healthy lower leaves have begun to wilt leaving the ones above them healthy looking. I may have added some (1/8-1/4 cup) new potting soil to the top while doing so to other house plants as I do from time to time. I can’t remember if the african violet was one? What is happening to the leaves? What is your advise how to stop this before it gets to the crown?

    • If the existing soil is very old (it would seem to be), you’ll need to do more than simply add soil to the top, since this losing leaves is a symptom of the roots not being happy–and the roots will still be in that old soil. Would suggest taking out of pot, pulling away much of the old soil and repotting with fresh soil. This will give the roots a fresh start and encourage new growth. If the plant is very old and “woody”, you can restart it–see the lesson on “restarting” a violet.

  • I have two violets that will not produce leaves from the top. A new baby is growing out of the stem under the leaves but any leaves that produce at the top stay tiny nd dry up and die. Help!

    • The baby is grown from the stem between the leaves because the growing point in the plant center is no longer there. Why the plants have lost the center is another question and one that can’t be easily answered without more information. May be a culture problem, may be a pest issue, or might simply be the genetic nature of the particular plants. For better diagnosis, send us a photo with a description of the plants care and environment.

  • I am having troubles with my streps. I have either repotted to soon, or over watered, or both. I have one now with no leaves left, is there any chance it might regrow new leaves from the roots? I was a bit late on reading your report on transplanting, and that’s most likely the cause of the drooping leaves. Can you offer any advice on my remaining plants that the main leaves are drooping but also have new leaves growing? I water them when the top soil is dry, should I wait a bit more before watering them again. All my AV’s are doing well, except for the mini’s. Most of them died. I’m really sad that I’m not doing well with these. I’ve had house plants for many many years, and never lost them. I thought I had a bit of a green thumb, but guess it’s turning a bit brown.

  • My 2 african violets have huge palm tree like trunks, I did not know what to do with them. Please tell me what to do with them and how to take care of them. I have had these for several years and transplanted them about three times and they would just bloom so pretty and be full of blooms. This last time they did not do so good. In one pot there is a bunch of leaves on the soil by itself like it is a violet by itself is this possible. What should I do with this. I will be waiting for you reply. I had four violets given to me as a gift, I lost two and I do not want to lose these. Please help. Thank you.

  • Thanks so much for your excellent information. Is it ok
    to place the restored african violet in a plastic storage box
    or plastic shoe box instead of a plastic bag?

  • violets to large. very large. don’t want to toss a single leaf but these violets don’t seem to want to bloom being they are so large. only one rosette. can I still split?

    • If there’s only one crown/rosette, there should be nothing to “split”. Since violets only bloom from the new growth (about the first three rows of leaves), anything more than this isn’t really necessary for blooms. If you have more than 12-15 leaves on the plant, you have too many. Remove the older, lower, leaves. Repot the plant to eliminate the neck. If still doesn’t bloom, provide more light.

  • I have 2 violets that I plant to report soon. They don’t bloom very often and that disappoints me. I have them in self-watering pots that I really like and they get south filtered sunlight daily. Can you help me get blooms on my violets?

    • Assuming ALL else is good and the plants are healthy and growing, lack of bloom means the plant needs more light.

  • My African violet has a stem about 4″ long. Should I remove the entire root ball and cut off some of the stem?

  • My African Violet is nearly 70 years old. I’ve lost track how many plants I’ve made for people. When I inherited it it was overflowing in a 10″ pot. I’ve used your site for help many times and want to thank you for all the sound advice.

  • Hi. I have been growing about 10 violets for about three+ years. They were starters I got off the mother plant. I just did their first transplant. I did increase the pots size just slightly. I used the Black Gold African violet dirt. I broke the old dirt and roots up slightly so the plant would integrate with the new soil. I am worried this was not the right thing to do. Also, I thought new soil needed a lot of water to get any air out of it. Today half of my plants are wilting. This makes me very worried because I dearly love them. Did I add too much water and if so can I start over again? Have I damaged the roots and will the ones that I broke just cause rooting? One last thing, a couple of the plants were smaller then the 1/3 pot size recommendation. Should I put them back into the smaller pots? I like the new ones because they all match, but I just want them to live. Thank you so much for your help!!!

    • If you have watered, yet the plants still look wilted, then they’ve likely been overwatered. This is common after repotting–you want to wet the root ball, keeping in mind that all of the surrounding (new) soil doesn’t yet have roots in it. The result is the pot is holding more water than the plant can access or use. Pot size should be one size (1″ in diameter) larger than root ball. It’s OK to loosen the roots/soil, but if you remove roots, pot size and watering will be adjusted accordingly (i.e. less of both). Aim for moist, not soggy, soil. Add perlite and/or vermiculite to the soil mix if it doesn’t have much to begin with–this will give you more “margin for error” when watering.

  • Just found this site and hope you can help. I have an african violet that is decades old that is growing out and down the side of the pot. The stem is probably 6″- 8″ long from the soil to the leaves. At the end of the stem the leaves are green and it is blooming. Only problem is the leaves and blooms of the plant are almost at the bottom of the pot not on top. Is there a way to save this plant?

  • Thank you for the clear advice!

  • My 20+ year old African violet just toppled off a shelf and it’s neck snapped off from its roots. After panicking, shoving it back into its pot, adding soil and watering it through, what else should I do? It’s in full bloom at the moment with approx 15 buds about to open.

  • Carol Nicewarner

    I have a gorgeous African violet that measures over 18″ across and is in a 4″ pot. It was repotted when it was small, but it loves the diffused light so much that it has grown to its present mammoth size. It blooms almost continuously with large clusters of blossoms and now has a bit of a “neck” — although in one year’s time, it has lost only three or four leaves. The leaves are huge and it is top-heavy in the small pot. Should it be repotted back into the 4″ pot?

    • Unless grown for exhibition (which is another process entirely) most violets grown as “house”plants should have no more than 3-4 rows of leaves (maximum maybe 20 leaves). If it has more, these older, outer leaves can be removed. Plant will only bloom from first three rows anyway. To avoid a long neck, best to repot at least once a year. This will avoid making the repotting so severe when it is eventually done. A 4″ pot may be sufficient, certainly no larger than 5”. Go by the size of the root ball, not the plant itself.

  • I have an African Violet that was given to me by a dear friend many years ago. It has been so healthy but I had it in a planter that was too deep. I transplanted it (did not change the soil) . The leaves are wilting ?? Never had a problem with this before. It does have a “neck”. I never knew I could safely shorten the “neck”. Is there a safe way to do that ? I thought this was just part of the root system. How moist should the soil be ?

    • If the soil is “many years” old, the root system may not be as healthy as it should be. Repotting with fresh soil will help. If the neck is very long, you may want to view the “restoring an African violet” lesson. Soil should be moist, not soggy.

  • This is extremely helpful advice. Thank you! I’ll be repotting my African violet today.

  • Been growing violets since childhood. Both my mom and grandma were avid violet lovers. Your website is so informative. Can’t wait to visit your store!! You rock

  • I have been growing my African Violet for about 14 years! She has a neck that’s about 7″ long! I had no idea I was supposed to repot her twice a year until I found your site. Thank you SO MUCH for the information! She’s going to be SO HAPPY!!!

  • I have a self watering pot that is see through plastic. About once a month I have to clean it out of green mold. It gets filtered eastern light for most of the morning till 11:30 or so. Is this too much light for the water underneath?

    • Wouldn’t worry about it. This is one of the downsides of using self-watering pots, especially if the reservoir is transparent–algae will grow anywhere it’s wet and bright. No way to avoid it. You can add a drop of Physan 20 (an algaecide, bactericide, etc…basically a liquid disinfectant) to your water. Can find this at well-supplied garden centers. There are similar products–would guess hydroponic stores or pond/pool supplies may have similar products. A tiny bit (drop) of mild dish soap may even do the trick. Alternatively, block the light from the water in the reservoir–but not the plant (you still want it to bloom).

  • I just found site today. I Love it! I’ve been growing violets now for about 4 yrs. I found an article in “Best of Country Gardens”. I had no idea that there were Green violets and deep red, etc. I’m so excited and will have to order a few from you. I’m learning So much more about this beautiful plant because of you all. Thank you, Violet lover of all

  • I have a plant that has two necks. What do I do? The neck go so long in branched in two.

  • Sylvia Williamson

    I cannot find any African Violet pots that are self watering that I can afford??? My mother left me about 5 and now 3 of them have doubled, so I need to separate and repot them. What is the best way to separate them? With a knife?

    • A knife would work. Remove the old leaves, keep the youngest on each plant/crown. Don’t put into pot much larger than the root system that remains. If you have no, or very few, roots you can place the potted plant in a plastic baggie for a few weeks until better rooted (moist soil, not soggy). In future, don’t let suckers develop, or you’ll have to do this again. If you see growth from the leaf axils that you know isn’t a bud or bloom, remove it. Your violets will bloom better and won’t need dividing again, if you do this regularly.

  • Hi,

    Hello,
    I never knew about repotting violets. I inherited five in one pot from a friend several years ago!!! I never did anything to them except water and feed. I discovered their necks were now climbing out of.the pot. I found your directives and have repotted three in the original pot. Two others in a new pot.
    There was no root system to speak of. I cut the necks leaving about two inches and shaved them a little.
    I’m hoping they will survive as they are quite large and bloom beautifully all year. I’ll just keep an eye on them and hope for the best. What do you think?
    Thank you.

    • See our ‘restoring or restarting’ lesson for how to deal with separated plants if there are few, or no, roots.

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