7 Reasons Your African Violets Have Yellow Leaves
Does your African Violet have yellow leaves? There are a number of different factors that can contribute towards this condition. The good news is, most causes are treatable, and preventable. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen walks you through what to do when you start seeing yellow leaves on your favorite houseplant.
African Violets are very popular houseplants because they are small, readily available, beautiful, and relatively easy to grow. Their fuzzy green leaves and brightly colored blooms are a cheerful addition to any plant collection. They do, however, have some specific growing requirements and have a reputation for being fussy about their conditions.
If your African Violet has leaves that are turning yellow, should you be concerned? Yellow leaves may simply be part of the natural process of shedding older leaves.
Yellow leaves may also be a sign that your plant needs a change in growing conditions. In this article, we will look at some common reasons that African Violet leaves turn yellow, and what you can do about it.
Too Much Sunlight
These popular houseplants are sensitive to light levels. They cannot tolerate direct sunlight and will burn if they are exposed to too much direct sunlight.
Plants that that receive too much sunlight will develop yellowed leaves. If they receive too much sun for an extended period of time, leaves may develop brown spots and will eventually turn completely brown and die.
If your plant receives direct sunlight and the leaves are turning yellow, simply move your plant to a place with less light intensity. South and west-facing windows that receive direct afternoon sun may be too bright.
Try putting your plant in a north or east-facing window instead, or you can simply move it to a more protected spot, perhaps further from the window or behind a sheer curtain to help diffuse the light intensity.
Not Enough Sunlight
If your violet is in a very dark place for most of the day, it will fail to thrive. Leaves and stems may look long and leggy, the plant will not grow well, and leaves can start to turn yellow because they aren’t receiving enough light to perform photosynthesis.
African Violets need at least 8 hours of bright indirect sunlight each day. Anywhere between 10 and 16 hours of light per day is ideal, with an additional 8 hours of darkness. They also do well under grow lights. Without adequate light, expect a variety of issues, including limited bloom production.
If your plant is in a very dark place and the leaves are turning yellow, you will need to move your plant to a brighter location.
Ideally, place your plant near a window with bright, but indirect, sunlight. Make sure your plants are getting between 8 and 16 hours of light per day.
Water on Leaves
The leaves on this plant are soft and fuzzy. They have a tendency to hold onto water droplets, but they don’t like water sitting on their leaves. Violets are also very sensitive to cold water. Cold water on the leaves will create yellow spots.
Similarly, if you pour hot water on the leaves, this will also cause leaf spots. Water spots are a sign that leaf cells have been damaged and are dying. They will start as yellow spots, and will then turn brown and eventually die.
Always use room temperature or slightly tepid water for your plants. If you are watering your plants from above, be very careful not to allow water to dribble on the leaves. You can carefully pour the water under the leaves and directly onto the soil.
Rather than watering from above, it’s better to water your plants from below. Make sure the pot has good drainage holes, use a saucer, and allow the water to wick up through the hole.
Just make sure you remove any excess water after about 15 minutes so as not to overwater your plants. You can also use a self-watering system that wicks water from below.
Lack of Nutrients
African Violets benefit from regular fertilization. Fertilizer feeds the plants with the nutrients they need to grow, bloom, and thrive.
If your plant is lacking in nutrients, one of the first symptoms you may notice is yellowing leaves. You may also notice that the plant stops flowering, stops growing, or simply looks weak.
If you haven’t fertilized recently, and the leaves are turning yellow, this may be a good time to apply some fertilizer. Be sure to use a plant species specific fertilizer, so you know it has the proper balance of nutrients for this species.
Always carefully follow the directions to ensure your plant is getting the correct dosage of nutrition, as too much fertilizer also can cause issues. If lack of fertilizer was the problem, your plant should noticeably perk up again within a few weeks after feeding.
African Violets need soil that is loose, light, and well-drained. If your plant is trying to grow in soil that is dense, compact, waterlogged, or devoid of nutrients, your plant will look rather unhealthy.
Yellow leaves may be one of many symptoms you will see as a result of poor soil conditions. These signs can mean it’s time to repot. If you have checked other issues, such as sunlight, water, and nutrients, it may be time to repot your African Violet in fresh soil.
If you suspect your plant needs fresh soil, it’s easy to repot. You can buy plant specific potting soil to get started. They rarely need a pot larger than 4” across, so you can likely reuse the pot you already have.
To repot, carefully remove the plant from the pot and shake out any loose soil. Trim any rotten or dead roots and leaves. Thoroughly clean the old pot and then you can repot your plant by adding fresh soil. Sometimes this is enough to revive a struggling plant, especially if it has been in the same soil for a long time.
African Violets sometimes have issues with pests. You may first notice that the leaves don’t look healthy. They may be yellowed, curled, or deformed. If you look closely, you will likely see the insect invaders.
Scales, mites, mealybugs, and aphids have all been known to feast on violets. If you see any clusters of insects on your plants, you will know you have a pest infestation.
The first thing to do if you notice bugs on your plants is isolate the infested plants from any neighboring healthy plants so the pests don’t spread. If you can, identify the pest so you can figure out the best way to remove it.
A small number of insects can sometimes be successfully removed by hand or with a cotton swap dipped in insecticide. A larger infestation will likely require an application of insecticide. Be sure to choose something that’s safe for indoor plants and carefully follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Natural Plant Aging
If none of the previous issues applies to your plant, yellow leaves may simply be a sign that these leaves are old and ready to be replaced with new leaves.
After about a year, the oldest leaves at the bottom of the plant will yellow and die, and can safely be removed. New leaves will continue to grow from the top of the plant, and the plant should appear generally healthy.
If you have occasional yellowed leaves that die along the base of the plant, this is probably not a reason for concern. Simply remove any old, yellowed, or brown leaves and your plant should continue to grow normally.
If you see a large number of leaves yellowing at the same time, you probably have one of the previously listed issues to deal with.
Given proper care and attention, African Violets are easy to grow. Observe your plants regularly so that you can quickly catch any issues that arise. The sooner you take action, the more likely you will prevent further damage to your plant.
If you notice yellowing leaves, be sure to try to identify the cause. Check for potential problems with light, water, nutrition, and pests. Once you have identified the problem, you will be able to fix it and your plant will continue to grow.