African violets can be difficult to grow when you are not prepared to give them the best care. Some of the care that you need to be aware of includes the soil that you plant your African violets in. I have found that these plants like a good combination of moisture, nutrition, and air in the soil to grow best, but which type of soil will help the plants thrive the most?
This guide is designed to help you find the perfect soil for your African violets.
African violets tend to grow the best in porous soil that is well-draining, but that will depend on the heat and the humidity that the plants are receiving. If your home is less humid than is recommended for these plants, you will need a potting mix that is high in organic matter so that the soil does not dry out too fast.
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Potting mixes that are designed for African violets tend to be a bit more acidic than other types of soil, but they also have most of the nutritional components that the plant needs to grow. Since these plants like to have an airy surface to grow from, a soilless mix will probably provide the well-draining, airy mix that is going to be ideal for the growing process. Most of these soilless mixtures contain sand, peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite. When you use this type of mixture, which is a common choice for those who have an entire garden full of African violets, you will need to add fertilizer to the mixture about once a week.
- Make Your Own Soil Mix
- African Violet Society of America
- Potting and Growing Medium for African Violets
- Recommended African Violet Potting Mix
- 1. Loosen Your African Violet from its Current Pot
- 2. Cut the Root Ball
- 3. Remove Damaged, Dead, or Dying Leaves
- 4. Re-Pot your African Violet
- 5. Lightly Water Your Newly Potted African Violet
- 6. Check Your Work!
- Tips on Taking Care of Repotted African Violets
- Pot size: Can You Use Your Old Pot?
- Soil: Do You Need to Make Special Potting Soil?
- Water: Is Room Temperature Water the Best?
- Fertilizer: Do African Violets Respond Well to Fertilizers?
- Why is African Violet Soil Potting Mix Important?
- What Are the Three Most Important Points?
- Simple African Violet Potting Mix Recipes
- Commercial Miracle Gro Afrcan Violet Potting Mix
- How to Prepare Soil Mix for Re-Potting or Potting African Violets?
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Make Your Own Soil Mix
If you are not fond of the types of soil mixes that you can get from the store, you can always attempt to make your own mixture at home. Before you begin, make sure that all of the ingredients are pasteurized so that the plants grow well and do not get sick. Doing this will minimize the number of pests that grow in the soil as well as get rid of any diseases that the soil may have already.
How do you pasteurize soil? Well, it is quite simple, and it is actually something that you can easily do at home. Start by filling up a large roasting pan with soil. I prefer to use a disposable option that I can simply throw away when I am done with it. Then, cover the pan with aluminum foil. With the oven at a temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit, you will need to bake the soil mixture for about an hour.
Use a meat thermometer to measure the temperature if you need. Make sure that it does not rise to higher than 180 degrees Fahrenheit because temperatures that are too hot will kill the good bacteria in the soil as well. Once the soil is cooked, remove the aluminum foil and let it sit to get air for four full days. Make sure to stir the soil a few times each day as well to increase the amount of air that it gets.
If you are making your own mix, here are a few soil options that you may want to try out for African violets:
- one part garden soil
- one part peat moss or leaf mold
- one part perlite or sand
- two and ¼ quarts of peat moss
- one and ¼ quarts of perlite
- one and ¼ quarts of vermiculite
- two and ½ tablespoons of limestone
- one and ¼ teaspoon of superphosphate
Hopefully, this guide has helped you determine the best soil mix to use for your African violets.
African Violet Society of America
Question: My wife has several Africa violet plants that are 20 years or older and she is worried she will lose them by repotting and separating, how old do African violets get?
Answer: I had a plant that reached 56 years old. It was repotted nearly every year of its life. I am fairly convinced that it would not have survived so long except for having been repotted so regularly. The key to successful repotting is good nursing care afterward, which for African violets means being enclosed in a clear sealed container such as a plastic bag.
The process of repotting is intimidating and often growers try to do it the “safe way” which is actually why they die. You have to be fairly aggressive in transplanting but then provide the safety net that gets them growing again.
Step 1- Remove all older leaves that are smaller than the leaves above or are faded in color or nicked and damaged. I rarely leave more than about 10 leaves total. Remove all flowers.
Step 2- Use the dull side of a knife to scrape about two inches of the stem (gently!) that is just below the bottom row of leaves. You should be scraping to smooth off the stumps of leaves just removed and to remove just the surface of any old dried tissue.
Step 3- Next amputate the top half of the plant by making a straight cut about one and a half to two inches below the bottom row of leaves. Discard the bottom section of the plant, although the pot may be saved and washed for reuse.
Step 4- While you can see the inside of the stem, look to see if there is any sign of rot. A brown pithy center or dried powdery center is a definite sign. If this is present, clean your knife and cut higher on the stem until you are above the rot. As long as the center leaves are intact, the plant has a chance.
Step 5- Prepare a fresh pot, the same size as before, with a light porous potting mix. Commercial potting mixes are too heavy (even the ones labeled for African violets). We recommend a homemade mix made of one part sphagnum peat moss (brown is much better than black), one part vermiculite, and one part perlite. Or, if you can find a commercial mix that has a brown color, try mixing it half and half with either vermiculite or perlite. Water the pot to moisten the soil thoroughly and drain off the excess water that runs through.
Step 6- Set the stem of the African violet onto the top of the pot so that stem is in good contact with the potting medium. If that part of the stem is bent, set the stem straight down into the soil. The leaves will soon straighten out and go level. A bent stem under the soil seems to cause the plant to grow oddly for an extended time.
Step 7- Place the plant into a clear plastic bag or container and seal it tightly closed. Set it in a bright location but out of direct sunlight. In about a month, new roots will have formed and the plant will be showing new growth. You will not need to water during this time period.
Step 8- Open the bag or container gradually over a period of two days to equalize the humidity slowly and prevent shock. Then enjoy your rejuvenated plant! Happy Growing! Joyce Stork
Question: I read that African violets should be repotted about every 6 month(s). Is this recommended? When repotting an African violet, should I use an increasing larger pot with each repotting or can I use fresh soil and repot in the same pot?
Answer: The need to transplant depends a lot on the quality of your light and general culture. If a violet is getting plenty of light and is growing compactly, it may not need to be transplanted for a year. The purpose of transplanting is two-fold: 1) to bury the neck exposed by losing older leaves, and 2) to freshen the soil. I prefer a rule that says you should transplant whenever you can see a neck developing between the lowest row of leaves and the potting mix, at least once a year. When you repot, you simply bury the neck more deeply, often into the same pot as before. One of the simpler ways to do this is to slice off an amount from the bottom of the root-ball equal to the length of the exposed neck. Set the violet back into the pot (after it has been cleaned) and add fresh potting mix to the top. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork
Question: What time of year do you plant the African violet over into new ground?
Answer: African violets can be repotted into fresh potting mix at any time. Since roots develop best at slightly warmer temps, it is better to repot when the normal room temperature isn’t colder than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Please find the article on Repotting on the AVSA web site for more tips. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork
Question: I found the top of my one African violet laying next to it’s pot. I know the root will generate a new plant, but can I save the top? All the leaves and flowers grew off the single stem that broke.
Answer: The root is unlikely to generate a new plant. Instead you need to repot the top section that broke off following the directions in the article on Repotting on the AVSA web site. In step three, you should make the cut as directed even though your African violet “amputated” itself. Pay particular attention to step four, since it is often a rot disease that causes the top to break off. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork
Question: I read that African violets should be repotted about every 6 month(s). Is this recommended? When repotting an African violet, should I use an increasing larger pot with each repotting or can I use fresh soil and repot in the same pot?
Answer: The need to transplant depends a lot on the quality of your light and general culture. If an African violet is getting plenty of light and is growing compactly, it may not need to be transplanted for a year. The purpose of transplanting is two-fold: 1) to bury the neck exposed by losing older leaves, and 2) to freshen the soil. I prefer a rule that says you should transplant whenever you can see a neck developing between the lowest row of leaves and the potting mix, at least once a year. When you repot, you simply bury the neck more deeply, often into the same pot as before. One of the simpler ways to do this is to slice off an amount from the bottom of the root-ball equal to the length of the exposed neck. Set the violet back into the pot (after it has been cleaned) and add fresh potting mix to the top. If you suspect root rot or need to change the potting mix completely, then I recommend that you follow the directions in the article on repotting. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork
Question: When do I repot?
Answer: Ideally you should be repotting once or twice a year. You should pot into a larger pot only when beginning with an immature African violet or when growing for show when you are pushing the plant to grow to the largest size possible. For most growers, mature (blooming) violets are usually repotted into the same size pot each time. The purpose of the regular repotting is to bury the stem that is exposed as lower leaves are lost and to freshen the potting mix which tends to become acid over time. I would repot anytime I could see the main stem (sometimes called a neck) under the bottom row of leaves. Lift the plant out of the pot and remove an inch or so from the bottom of the root ball and set the violet back down into the pot, filling in at the top with fresh potting mix. It is usually best to put the plant into a bag or high humidity area for a week or so after doing this. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork
Question: My mom loves African violets and has always had them around her house. I have my own apartment now and would like to start my own African violets. I have already purchased two and I read that they must be repotted immediately, but does that include the standard procedure of cutting and repotting only the crown as I have read about in other FAQs?
Answer: If you bought your violets from a retail outlet such as Wal-Mart or Home Depot, and you hope to keep growing these violets for years, then yes, you should repot by cutting off the root system. The reason is that the greenhouses (that produce violets for these outlets) use a potting mix that is too dense for long term growing. Violets love to have lots of air around their roots and to be evenly moist at all times. In dense soil, the constant moisture will often result in the development of root and crown rot disease. Why do the greenhouses use this soil? Because violets grown in the loose mixtures we recommend would spill soil everywhere if the shipping boxes were to be tipped. You will definitely have more success if you do a transplant following the directions in the article on repotting on this web site and get your new violets growing in the right kind of potting mix now! Happy Growing! Joyce Stork
Repotting – Old Plant
Question: I have a beautiful old African Violet that blooms like crazy, but it is now all on the end of a long thick trunk, that is twisted and unattractive. Can I cut off the top and root the whole thing?
Answer: Yes, you can definitely cut off the bottom section of the plant and re-root the top. Just follow the directions on the article on Repotting to Bury a Neck on the AVSA web site. In just one month, the plant will look like a very young plant again. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork
Potting and Growing Medium for African Violets
African violet soil – potting and growing medium – must mimic conditions that African violets have in nature and must provide them with water and macro and micronutrients for their growth and blooming.
Conditions that good African violet soil must satisfy:
– good drainage – African violets are sensitive to soggy conditions around root system which can rot in such environment and kill plant. Good African violet soil must have good drainage so that any excess water can easily exit pot through drainage holes.
– pH levels – African violet soil must have pH around 6.0 – 6.5 which is slightly acidic. This pH factor enables African violets to take nutrients from the soil and keeps root system healthy. You can check pH factor using small testing kits that can be bought at garden centers, although we have rarely seen that people had problems with pH, even with homemade soil mixes.
– good water and mineral retention – African violets have very fine root system that in contact with soil particles takes water, macro and micronutrients and transport them to the rest of the plant (primarily to the leaves). If soil lacks important nutrients, plants don’t have proper conditions to grow and will not bloom the way they can and should. Good drainage and good water retention are two different things, so don’t mix them – good African violet soil should have both good water retention and good water drainage.
– aerated soil – African violets like plenty of air around roots. When you water the plants, water fills those air pockets and when water is drained out of African violet pots, new and fresh air enters into the soil and around the roots.
When potting and repotting your African violets, it is important to have good soil. If you are going to mix your own African violet potting mix, than you should mix one third of potting soil, one third of peat moss and one third of perlite or vermiculite. Some people also add sand, which is good for drainage and provides air around roots, but sand doesn’t retain water or nutrients well. If you are going to use used soil or soil from garden, sterilize it in the oven – at around 80-85°C (180-185°F) for some 30-40 minutes. Remember that melting point of expanded polystyrene is around 120°C (250°F) and under no circumstances you should reach or go above that temperature when sterilizing potting soil that has perlite in it.
You can buy special African violet soil in small bags at garden centers and some superstores. This type of soil is optimized for African violets and in most circumstances, it is sterilized. If you are buying African violet soil, buy sterilized one, and plant your African violets in new pots (ceramic, plastic) or use old pots, but wash them thoroughly with, for example, diluted bleach solution and after that with plenty of soap and warm water.
Note: when buying African violets potting mix, some bags can have gnats and other pests inside, even if the potting soil was sterilized during manufacturing process. If you notice any pests in your freshly opened bag of potting soil, either throw it away (after being refunded) or try to sterilize the soil in the oven – be careful, some manufacturers add ingredients that don’t react the best way on higher temperatures. Long story short, if you see pests in just opened bag of soil, don’t use it.
Also some manufacturers add small gel bag or ball inside the potting soil to keep moisture and other soil parameters within claimed range – if you have children or pets, keep them away from these gel bags/balls.
Recommended African Violet Potting Mix
It is hard to pinpoint ‘the best’ potting mix for African violet plants. Growing healthy and blooming African violets depends on many things, with potting mix being just one them.
However, choosing proper one can help significantly.
Long story short – growing medium must slightly acidic, it must retain moisture and minerals well, must be well aerated and must be pests free.
Buying certified growing medium for African Violets and other indoor flowering plants is sometimes the best way to go. Such growing medium can be bought in garden centers and online shops.
Thanks to their beautiful, bright colors, African violet plants are some of the most popular indoor plants for novice and more seasoned gardeners. But African violets are also extremely sensitive and not many people know how to take care of them properly – seemingly simple things, such as how to repot African violets, are incredibly important to keep your plant happy and healthy.
Unlike other houseplants, African violets need to be repotted at least once a year. If not repotted successfully, or not repotted at all, African violets are likely to lose their leaves, rot at the stem, and wither away.
But when properly taken care of, African violets can grow to have a palm-like trunk, with the lower rows of leaves disappearing. In fact, a good indicator of owning a healthy African Violet is if the lowest rows of leaves have grown from the trunk of the plant to a few inches above the rim of the pot. At this point, it’s time to get rid of the neck – usually done every six months.
Otherwise, repotting should be done once a year or when the plant outgrows its current pot causing the roots to grow around the rootball. If this happens, your African violet is rootbound.
The repotting process can then either be done by moving the plant into a bigger pot or if the neck is visible, but the plant isn’t rootbound, into fresher soil.
Now, let’s go over the six easy steps to repotting your African violet.
1. Loosen Your African Violet from its Current Pot
To loosen the plant from the pot, gently tap the sides of the pot against a hard surface. If it still doesn’t loosen, you may need to slide a knife around the edges.
African Violet Pro tip: How cold is it in your home? It might seem silly, but room temperature plays a part in new root growth. For best results, don’t do any repotting in a room that is colder than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cut the Root Ball
Once you have the African violet out of its pot, cut off the root ball in size relative to that of the neck. For example, if the neck is a half-inch long, you need to cut off a half-inch from the root ball. Note: this task becomes more difficult the longer you have gone without repotting. Simply because, the longer the neck, the more portion of the root ball you need to cut.
If your African violet has become rootbound, there’s more work to do. For rootbound African violets, you need to both cut off the root ball and prepare a brand new pot; otherwise, the plant will get sick and die (rootbound plants have taken the shape of the pot and are in effect strangling the soil, so it can’t get the water and nutrients it needs).
3. Remove Damaged, Dead, or Dying Leaves
With your African violet free from its pot, take some time and remove leaves that are damaged or old. Generally speaking, these are lower-rung leaves but even a novice gardener can tell by looking at them.
You also want to remove any flowers. Why? Simply put, you want your plant focused on new roots, new leaves, new growth, rather than focusing on allocating some of its nutrients and energy to keeping its flowers in bloom.
4. Re-Pot your African Violet
At this point, the plant should no longer have the lower portion of the rootball. This way, the plant can be pushed into the pot so the lowest row of leaves aligns with the pot rim – to clarify, the neck should not be visible.
African Violet Pro-tip: Place small pieces of pottery shards (plastic also works) over the drainage hole. Fill the pot halfway with African violet specific potting soil – the soil mix should be light and moist, containing perlite and peat moss which help the aeration process.
5. Lightly Water Your Newly Potted African Violet
Lightly watering the plant afterward is an important step to ensuring the plant develops a proper root system when added into the soil. It will, however, need slightly less water than the first previous around.
6. Check Your Work!
As we said above, if repotting is done properly, the neck should no longer be visible, and the lower leaves of the plant should level up with the rim of the pot. Plus, your African violet will be free of any damaged or dead leaves and plucked of any flowers.
Tips on Taking Care of Repotted African Violets
The most common cause of unhealthy plants for inexperienced gardeners is improper pot size and not repotting the plant frequently enough. Below we go over some general tips to help your African violets stay healthy before and after repotting.
Pot size: Can You Use Your Old Pot?
Most standard-size African violet varieties can be grown in 4” size pots without any problems. Repotting doesn’t mean every time you give the plant a fresh batch of soil; it’s moved into a larger pot. Always use a pot that’s as large as the plant’s root system.
Adding more soil will only benefit the plant up to the point it can develop a root system that’s large enough to take full advantage of the soil. It’s otherwise at the risk of suffocation. For semi-minis and minis, a pot no larger than 2.5” should be used.
African Violet Pro-tip: Don’t worry too much about a plastic pot or ceramic plot. The best African violet pot is one that works for your needs and gardening style.
Soil: Do You Need to Make Special Potting Soil?
African violets require a light, porous, soil-less potting mix. Most growers should be fine buying commercial mixes, judging the soil by how it feels, not the label. If anything, soils labeled ‘for African violets’ tend to be terrible soil mixes.
Soils with perlite or vermiculite are the best choice. Go for fluffy soils with light consistency – avoiding heavier soil mixes. Experienced enough, you can grow the plant in almost any type of soil. Lighter soils happen to be more forgiving of neglect such as infrequent repotting and underwatering.
Water: Is Room Temperature Water the Best?
African violets can be quite troublesome to water. You should normally use lukewarm water that’s been allowed to sit for about 48 hours, and always water the plant at the base of the stem. Even so much as a drop on the foliage can cause spots and damage the plant.
Be careful not to overwater the plant, either. Feel the soil for moistness. If lacking, then it’s time to water it. Careful not to let it dry out completely, however. Experienced growers should be familiar with wick watering, which, while appropriate, tends to be problematic for people just starting out.
Fertilizer: Do African Violets Respond Well to Fertilizers?
African violets fair best off with fertilizes that have higher phosphorus content – the middle number in the fertilizer ratio should be higher than the rest, ie. NPK – 15-45-15. When mixing the fertilizer, it should be at a quarter strength at every subsequent flowering.
Indicators that the plant is not getting enough fertilizer include pale leaf colors. Yellowing and wilting of lower plant leaves, black-brown or rotting roots and a crust of fertilizer on the soil surface are additional indicators that the plant is being overfertilized.
Why is African Violet Soil Potting Mix Important?
- The soil or potting mix in which an African Violet is planted is very important for the overall survival of the plant.
- This is because the plants roots spend all of their time within this soil mixture.
- Healthy soil promotes healthy root growth which in turn will lead to a healthy African Violet plant.
- Healthy roots also ensure the efficient uptake of water and nutrients from the soil.
What Are the Three Most Important Points?
Three most important points to remember about African Violet Soil / Potting Mix:
- The soil should be light, loose and airy (this can be achieved by the addition of perlite, vermiculite or sand which can create air pockets in the soil promoting healthy root growth).
- Conversely, the soil should not be compacted, heavy, dense or packed hard, this will prevent root penetration through the soil, leading to poor root growth.
- African Violets should be re-potted in fresh soil every 6 months and kept in the same size pot. Do not re-pot to a larger pot. African Violets like to be slightly root bound which promotes flowering. Root bound is when the roots start to grow out of the pot holes underneath the pot or when roots show on the upper surface of the soil.
- For more information on re-potting African Violets, can visit blog post, “How Often To Change African Violet Potting Soil Mix & Why?”.
Simple African Violet Potting Mix Recipes
Below are three common African Violet Potting Mix recipes:
- Two cups Peat Moss +one cup Vermiculite + one cup Perlite (50:25:25 ratio)
- One cup Peat moss + one cup Vermiculite or Perlite (50: 50 ratio)
- One cup AV potting mix + one cup peat moss + one cup vermiculite /perlite
Commercial Miracle Gro Afrcan Violet Potting Mix
- You can also use the commercially available Miracle Gro African Violet Potting mix; however, this soil is too dense for violets, so remember to add peat moss and vermiculite or perlite to lighten the potting mix.
- This commercial mix also contains fertilizer, so remember not to over fertilize if you are using your own fertilizer.
- For more information on fertilizing African Violet plants, can visit blog post, “Fertilizer for African Violet Plants“.
How to Prepare Soil Mix for Re-Potting or Potting African Violets?
- Prepare the soil mix in a well-ventilated area.
- Add room temperature or tepid water to the soil mix till the mix is moist but not wet.
- Fill up the pots with moist soil mix using spoon or hands.
- Use a pencil or tool to make a hole in the center area of the soil mix.
- Take out African Violet plant from existing pot and remove any dead/ dry/ mushy/ yellow leaves.
- Shake/remove excess soil sticking to roots. Can also trim roots if too long.
- If plant has a long neck, clean that area by gently removing roots and dead /dry plant tissue.
- Place African Violet plant , its neck and its roots inside the center area of soil mix.
- Cover roots /neck of plant with soil mix till the lower ring of leaf stems just graze the soil.