African violets: Restoring or Restarting
What happens when you’ve really neglected your violet? You might have a plant that appears something like the one shown at left. This plant (aSaintpaulia species) has been left virtually ignored, other than occasional watering, on the corner of a light stand, pressed up against a wall.
For more than six months, it hasn’t been turned or had any leaves or (dead) blossoms removed. Though seemingly healthy and still in bloom, it needs a lot of work…
Turning the plant around and looking at it from behind, you can get a better idea of its true condition. Lots of dried, shriveled up leaves and blossom stems
Also, as the lower leaves have gradually died and dried, a long neck (bare stem) has developed. About 2 inches of bare stem appears between soil level and the lowest row of leaves.
African violets should be repotted every 6 months to avoid this, and this one hasn’t been. We’ll need to repot this one, once we’ve removed all of the old, dead, and dying, leaves.
Once we’ve done that, we’re left with not much more than the newest, attractive growth atop a very long neck (and a pile of compost).
Normally, we’d like to repot the plant, lowering it into the same size pot, covering the neck with fresh soil. Unfortunately, this would require removing 4″ of the rootball to lower the plant enough to cover the 4″ neck! The pot just isn’t deep enough!
What to do? Start over again! We’ll just lop-off the top of the plant, and reroot the crown. A drastic measure, but one that’s necessary.
Remove the crown with a pair of sharp scissors or a knife. Notice that you don’t need to keep much of the neck with the crown. Just enough to reroot. The idea, after all, is to give the plant a fresh start, including the root system. Keeping the neck would mean starting over with a (very) old root-system. Discard the neck and the old soil.
Using a clean pot and fresh, premoistened soil, make a hole just large enough to accommodate the base of the crown.
Firm the base of the plant into the moist soil. It almost looks “normal” again, except for the fact that it has no roots!
Because it will easily wilt without roots, we’ll place it in a covered container (a large plastic bag would work as well) for about a month until the crown is well-rooted. At that time, remove the cover (or bag) and voila!
Now, of course, your job is to take better care of it the next time around. Give it good light, remember to water it when needed, and regularly remove dead and dying leaves and blossoms. In another 6 months, repot it by removing a bit of soil from the bottom of the root ball and lowering the plant into the pot, adding fresh soil to cover the (small) neck.