7 Reasons Your African Violets Are Wilting and Dying
Are your African Violets wilting and dying unexpectedly? There are a number of different reasons that this can happen with these popular flowering houseplants. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen looks at the different reasons your African Violets may be wilting, and dying early.
African Violets are beautiful houseplants that can bloom year round. They have a reputation for being a bit fussy, but given the right conditions, they are easy to grow in the home environment. It’s important to observe your violets frequently and make sure they look healthy and happy.
A thriving African Violet will grow as a fairly compact rosette of leaves. Flowers bloom freely and appear fresh, firm, and brightly colored. Leaves and stems are furry, thick, fleshy, and firm. The plant grows vigorously and should generally appear quite healthy. Nothing appears soggy, mushy, droopy, or discolored.
If your African Violets are drooping and wilting, you probably have an issue that you can correct. They can recover from many issues, especially if they are caught early and corrected. Some issues will be easy to identify, while others may be a bit less obvious. Let’s look at some of the more common reasons your African Violets may be wilting or dying, and what to do about it.
Too Much Water
The most likely reason your African Violets are wilting is overwatering. It’s one of the most common African violet maintenance mistakes. These popular houseplants are very sensitive to overwatering.
They do not like being constantly wet and cannot tolerate soggy soil. An overwatered violet is prone to root rot which, if not caught early, can lead to plant death.
The first sign of an overwatered plant is soggy soil. If the soil in your pot is soggy and wet and isn’t able to dry quickly, chances are your plant has been overwatered. Plants allowed to sit in soggy soil, will cause leaf wilt.
If the roots stay too wet for too long, they will begin to rot. And if the rot is not quickly removed, the entire plant can become mushy and die.
How to Fix it
If your African Violet is wilting because the soil is too wet, you will need to take prompt action. If your plant has just started to droop and the soil appears to be too wet, you can repot in fresh soil and the plant may be able to fully recover. Be sure to remove any dead, severely drooping, or mushy leaves and flowers, as these will not recover.
If the plant has been drooping for several days or longer, you will need to determine if any of the roots have started to rot and remove the rotten parts by carefully cutting them away, then repot in fresh soil. However, if the entire root system is rotten, chances are it’s already too late to save the plant.
If a portion of the above-ground crown is still fairly firm, you can try to salvage the plant by removing everything but the firm crown, applying some rooting hormones, and repotting it in fresh soil. You’ll know if the plant is able to recover, because it should start sprouting new roots in a few weeks.
The ideal soil composition is light and loose, and they should be in pots with good drainage holes on the bottom. The soil should be kept moist but not wet. You can allow the plant to dry briefly between waterings, but be very careful not to let your plant sit in wet soil.
Not Enough Water
If your African Violet is too dry, it may also start to wilt. The most obvious clues that your plant has been underwatered are powdery dry soil and an extremely light-feeling pot.
If your plant stays too dry for an extended period of time, the plant itself will dry out and may become brown and brittle. It’s important to follow a regular watering schedule with African Violets.
How to Fix it
If you notice your plant has started to droop and the soil is very dry, just give it a normal drink of water. It’s best to water African Violets from the bottom, using room-temperature or slightly tepid water.
Just be careful not to overcompensate by giving your plant too much water to make up for it being dry. A dry plant should perk up quickly with a regular watering.
Not Enough Sunlight
Is your plant in a dark location? An African Violet that is trying to grow with too little light will become weak. The stems may grow extra long and leggy and the plant may also stop blooming. If the problem persists, the plant will grow with less vigor or may simply stop growing at all.
How to Fix it
If you think your plant is lacking in light, you can simply move it to a brighter location. Ideally, these plants need at least 8 hours of light each day, but anywhere between 10 and 16 hours of light is preferred. Violets do best with bright, indirect sunlight.
They can be placed in a bright window (but avoid extended periods of direct sunlight) or under a grow light. Violets also need at least 8 hours of darkness per day to produce blooms.
Water Too Cold
African Violets are sensitive to water temperature. If you are using water that is too cold, your plants may experience shock.
The leaves may curl downwards and appear to droop. If you are watering your plant from the top and accidentally get cold water on the leaves, this may cause brown spots to appear on the leaves.
How to Fix it
If you accidentally used water that was too cold, your violet should be able to recover fairly quickly. In the future, allow your water to sit at room temperature for a day before using it for watering. If you use either room-temperature water or slightly tepid water, your plant should not have any issues with water temperature.
If you notice your plant drooping, look carefully on both the top and undersides of the leaves for insects. You may see a cluster of tiny soft-bodied insects feeding on the juices from the leaves and stem.
African violets sometimes get infestations of aphids, mites, and mealybugs. These insects weaken the plants and can cause the leaves to wilt or appear misshapen. Severe insect infestations may result in plant death.
How to Fix it
If you see any insects on your plants, you will need to treat them to remove the bugs. First, isolate diseased plants so the pests can’t spread to nearby healthy plants. Very small numbers of insects can be individually treated or removed with a spray of warm water, or with a cotton swab dipped in insecticide.
Heavier infestations will need to be sprayed with insecticide that targets the particular pest. Treatments may include insecticidal soaps, pyrethrin sprays, powders, or soil granules. Be sure to follow directions carefully on whichever insecticide you choose.
Temperature Too Hot or Cold
Although African Violets originated in tropical forests of tropical eastern Africa, they do not like to be kept too hot. They also can’t tolerate temperatures that are too cold. A violet that is too hot or too cold may display wilting leaves, dry leaves, or slowed growth.
A healthy African Violet will grow up to 16 inches across depending on the variety. So if you see signs of slowed growth first followed by wilting, there’s a chance the water temperature you are using isn’t in the right range for your plant.
How to Fix it
If your plants are too hot or too cold, this could be a relatively simple problem to address. You will need to find a location where they can grow closer to their ideal temperature range of 65-80 degrees F.
They can tolerate temperatures slightly outside of this range for short periods of time, but if left for too long in poor conditions, they may suffer permanent damage. In a very cold room during winter, you can use a heating mat to gently warm your plants. In summer, try to find a place for them that stays below 80 degrees.
African Violets benefit from regular fertilization. This keeps them vibrant and blooming. But if they receive too much fertilizer, they may show symptoms such as drooping leaves, leaf burn, brittle leaves, and even crystals (caused by too many salts and other minerals) growing on the plant and soil surfaces.
Overfertilization for an extended time can cause your plant to eventually die. The good news is, this is usually an easy fix and you should be able to salvage your plant.
How to Fix it
If you notice any of these symptoms and think you may have given your plant too much fertilizer, your plant can probably recover. Try flushing the pot and soil with fresh, room-temperature, water to try to remove excess fertilizer from the soil.
Allow the pot to drain thoroughly and give your plant a break before fertilizing again. Be sure to use a fertilizer that is specifically formulated for African Violets and follow the directions carefully.
If your African Violet has started to droop or wilt, try to identify the problem as early as possible. The sooner you figure out what’s wrong and treat it appropriately, the greater chance you have that your plant will make a complete recovery. In some cases, it may simply be too late or too much damage has already occurred.
Generally, if you are able to provide ideal growing conditions, they should be fairly trouble free and reward you with healthy, vigorous growth, and lots of beautiful flowers!