There will come a time when an African Violet plant reaches its maximum size relative to its pot. Even a miniature can still outgrow the container and either it cannot stay standing and balanced, or vegetative roots and suckers will start showing.
Repotting is essential to the maintenance and survival of a plant. Even disease-infested or mineral-deficient African violets can recover if proper care is applied.
Humidity and Potting Mix
As a houseplant, saintpaulia is well-adapted to indoor conditions with 40 to 50 percent humidity. In humid seasons or areas, a higher percentage of coarse materials in the potting mix, like perlite or pumice, is recommended. Otherwise, more peat moss or vermiculite can be added to the transfer medium if the current season or climate is dry.
Root rot indicates too much soil moisture or salts, and the medium can use more perlite. This can be checked by carefully checking the roots of the new transplant, and if there are visible manifestations such as burns on the foliage after several days. Newly transplanted plantlets easily show signs of stress to the potting mix. The soil can also manifest getting dried out too quickly.
Pot Sizes and Types
Growers select first based on their personal preferences and interests, then modify when necessary. Between clay and plastic, pros and cons for each can be offset. Unglazed clay pots are porous and good for drainage but hold salts and can host mold or algae. Clay absorbs heat easier so in warm conditions, plastic pots are better, with options for self- or bottom-watering and hanging types.
Plantlets usually take time to expand, so 2-inch pots will suffice for the first few months. When active growth transitions to blooming, 3-inch containers hold more root space and nutrient retention.
Standard and giant types can reach as much as 9 to 12 inches in diameter, suitable in a 4-inch-wide pot. A rule is that the maximum leaf diameter should be thrice the pot size and the span is the same as the depth.
When to Repot African Violets?
Smaller African violets are advised to be repotted every 2-3 months, while larger pots are checked every 6 to 12 months. Aside from the signs mentioned earlier, roots tend to surface from the soil when it is too crowded in the medium, while the shoots can reveal discolorations and wilting symptoms.
Some pots look like they are due for transplanting since they have an asymmetrical appearance, but instead would just benefit from diligent pruning. Older leaves at the bottom do not always survive in between media, and they are often removed.
If the plant seems ready for transplanting, flowers are discarded to redirect all the energy to grow a new plant. When cutting for propagating materials, some rotten parts can be revealed which must be trimmed. Plantlets ideally have 2-3 matured leaves and adequate stem length at the base. Woody growth in the stems is scraped off with a dull blade or knife so that the rooting to replanting process proceeds.
Best Practices and Tips for Repotting and Transplanting
Make sure that the level of the lower leaf is at least half an inch above the potting soil, although this “neck” can be higher if the stem is more mature. It is the same principle if transplanting crown suckers, as they will only survive if removed at a more matured state, a little risk for the health of the mother plant. If the plant has no neck, the rooting regions must at least be fully submerged.
When filling the pot with soil, it is best to just level it off on the top without compressing the mix to keep good aeration. Then, the plantlet or crown can immediately be stuck into the medium, but if already rooted, it can be placed on a depressed hole and lightly covered with the soil at the base to bury the roots.
Do African violets need special pots?
The most important attribute of the pot should be having enough holes for drainage. A saucer or catchment at the bottom will also be useful to prevent excess water and fertilizer salts from leeching directly to the ground or drip on indoor tiles. Still, there are special pots that can upgrade this system into a more efficient one.
The self-watering pots are a popular choice among growers since the dryness of the soil will determine the uptake of water. It would have a layer of soil that has direct access to the roots, a water supply at the bottom that can catch water and recycle it, and a “wick” or string that can deliver the water to the soil.
Do African violets like to be root bound?
The answer is no, even in the wild, they occur at a generous distance from each other, although maximizing the root space in a pot can trigger flowering. Eventually, the plant will stop producing flowers. Observe for new floral buds before the older blossoms dry out, within three weeks from blooming, before repotting, or if sooner, the flowers should be removed.
Can you repot African violets when they are blooming?
Not yet, since flowering is energy-consuming, it will need some time to redirect its momentum to growing new shoots when cut. There will eventually be a halt in blooming especially when there is an overgrowth of roots, among other reasons. Otherwise, if repotting is insisted on during active flowering, the cuttings and the flowers from the mother plant might both fail to develop and eventually wilt or become sick.
The plant generally produces blooms for many seasons, although each flower may last for about 2 weeks on average. So, if there are no new blooms that appear to replace flowers that are wilting or about to fall off, this may instead be better timing for repotting.
Should I Water African Violets after repotting?
Yes, definitely! It will allow the roots to settle comfortably in the medium, and the soil is still loose enough to drain the excess water to the bottom. However, the roots may be saturated if they came from being soaked in the water or rooting hormone, which in this case, can benefit from a resting interval before being watered again. Check the soil if it’s dry, too.
Do African violets like to be crowded?
Crowding is conducive to foliar mold infections and mechanical damage in AVs. When transplanting, three plantlets or cuttings is the most that can be placed together in a pot, until all the plantlets grow enough to be separated. Once they overwhelm the pot, first flowers will likely appear, but to keep a healthy plant growth for future seasons, repotting after the pause in blooming is essential.
Missouri Botanical Garden. N.d. African Violets. Missouri Botanical Garden: William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening. https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/Portals/0/Gardening/Gardening%20Help/Factsheets/African%20Violets2.pdf
Perry, L. 2016 Nov 30. African Violets: Seven Steps to Success. University of Vermont Department of Plant Soil Science website. https://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/afrviolets.html
Perry, L. 1998 Dec 17. Your African Violet. University of Vermont Department of Plant Soil Science website. https://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/africanv.html
Tapping, B. 2011 Sept-Oct. Tips for Success with Saintpaulia. African Violet Magazine 64(5): 42-43.
Thomas, P. A. 2012. Growing African Violets. The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Cooperative Extension Circular 660. https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/C%20660_2.PDF
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