Thursday, September 29, 2011

African Violet Tree?

Is your African violet looking more like a small tree, than a normal violet?  Does it look like the violet in the picture? I'm embarrassed to even admit that this is my violet. I have let this get too dry, then watered it too much too quickly, and should have re-potted it long ago. It's a miracle it's alive after the abuse it has received. I'm going to demonstrate, with pictures, how I rejuvenated this plant. When I'm done, it will be hard to believe it is the same plant.
Sad, neglected violet. 

Violet "trunk" with brown scabs, after removing dead leaves.
"Trunk" after being scraped with knife.
First,  I have removed any brown, dry leaves and mushy leaves.  The resulting stem or "trunk" is revealed. The plant is looking better, but still sad. The next step is to take a sharp knife and carefully scrape the trunk all around the entire length. This step gets rid of the brown scabs remaining after the leaves have been removed. 
You can see in the next picture, the brown scabby tissue is gone, leaving fresh green plant tissue.
Violet with root ball cut away.

Violet placed back in the same, clean pot.

Now, I remove the plant from its pot. I then take a knife and cut away approximately 1/2 of the root ball. I want to take away as much root ball as there is "trunk" length. So, for example, if  I have 1" of "trunk" showing, then I will cut away 1" of the soil ball. Sometimes the stem can be so long, the entire root ball may have to be removed. This is only necessary on a plant that has been allowed to grow a "trunk" for a very long time. The result of this drastic measure being, only a rosette of leaves and a short stem remain. The stem with the rosette of leaves, is then planted in a pot of soil, with the soil coming up to the bottom of the first set of leaves. The entire plant would then have to be placed in a plastic bag. This will allow the plant to recover and grow a whole new set of roots, as if in a miniature greenhouse. The plastic bag will keep the moisture in and  keep the plant from wilting. The plastic can be removed when the plant starts growing again.  One should never let their plant get this bad, but sometimes it happens.
After washing the pot the violet came out of, to remove any unwanted residue, I will re-pot the violet into the same pot. Most standard violets will never need a pot larger than 4", so I don't need to use a larger pot.
By cutting away a portion of the root ball, I then can plant the violet back in the same pot. Covering the stem with fresh soil will allow it to grow new roots and the violet will be like a whole new plant. I water it well, let it drain, and allow the foliage to dry. It is a fallacy that you can't get water on violet leaves. They need a shower once in a while, like any other plant. Leaving  the violet out of the direct light until it is dry is the secret. Also, use warm water, not cold. Cold water will leave marks on the leaves.

After re-potting.

Top view of re-potted violet.

Look at these two pictures. It doesn't in any way resemble the sad plant in the first picture. It looks like it just spent a day at the spa for plants. It came out refreshed, rejuvenated, and looking great. The last thing I did and it could have been done earlier, is the removal of any flowers or buds. The plant does not need to expend any energy on flowering at this time. It needs to use all its energy to make new roots. It's hard to see, but there is a flower bud to the left in the first re-potted picture. It is hard to cut potential flowers off, since that's really why we grow these plants, but it is better for the over-all health of the plant, to remove them.
I have a plant that looks new, fresh and will be blooming again in no time.


  1. So the roots will be growing out of the trunk now and the trunk becomes the root, right?

  2. Yes, Rika. The trunk will now have roots growing out of it. This needs to be done at least every year to keep the plant looking good.

  3. Ah I see, thank you for all the instructions! :) I didn't know that. I thought the only way to refresh them is growing them from a leaf again.
    Next time I'm at my parents' (where my old humble collection currently resides) I'll be doing some operations..

  4. I'm so glad I could be of help! Enjoy your violets.

  5. Thank you for posting, I had never heard of scraping he "trunk of the brown plaques..I am one of those that has plants in every window too ( and the family does the groan about a plant in the shower :-)

  6. Very good,clear directions! Thank you