How to Repot African Violets
After several years, an African violet can grow into a shape similar to that of a palm tree: the lower leaves tend to yellow and drop as the crown of the plant continues to grow upward. When the foliage crown reaches a couple of inches above the rim of the pot, you should rejuvenate your plant. But repotting your prized blooms might be a bit more complicated than you expected. Here, our experts discuss the best ways to repot African violets, and signs that it's time to repot.
When to Repot Your African Violets
Repotting these blooms is so important due to their long lifespan. "Remember that African violets have a very long lifespan and have been said to last up to 50 years," says Ryan McEnaney, public relations and communications specialist for Bailey Nurseries. "As the plants grow, they can be repotted into larger pots so that they don't get too root-bound." Once your African violet has doubled or tripled the size of your pot and the leaves are starting to wilt, it's probably time to make the move, says McEnaney.
That being said, you don't need to rush to repot your plants. "African violets are healthiest when their roots are in a slightly bound condition, so don't rush to transplant them if your violet looks like it has outgrown its container," warns Brian Parker, senior merchant for Live Goods, Home Depot. "With just a little routine of the correct light and feeding, they will produce and perform for years and years!"
How to Repot Your African Violets
Gently tap the sides of the pot against a hard surface to loosen the plant from the pot, according to Martha. If necessary, slide a knife around the edges. Then, once removed, take the knife and slice off the bottom third of the root ball. Carefully tease or wash away the loose soil from the top and sides of the roots without damaging them. Using a sharp knife, divide the plant into two or three smaller plants, taking care to determine where these separations happen naturally, and allocating as many roots as possible for each individual plant, our founder says. Gently separate the plant, taking care not to break any leaves or stems. Cut off brown, wilted, or broken leaves with the knife.
Martha recommends placing a small piece of screen or pottery shards over the drainage hole of a clean clay pot (some growers prefer plastic, which retains more moisture) and fill it halfway with premixed potting soil sold especially for African violets—light, moist soil that contains sphagnum moss and perlite for aeration. Then, she suggests making an indentation in the soil for the plant and set it in the pot. Add more soil to cover the root system, without burying it any deeper than it was in the old pot, and pat down gently. When resettling a plant deeper in a pot, gently scrape the bare stem (as if you were scraping a carrot) to remove the heavy bark that forms when leaves are shed.
"Use new potting soil as you re-pot the plant and make sure it's watered in well, but again doesn't stay wet for longer than 15-20 minutes," says McEnaney. "As you shift the plant into a larger pot, go ahead and remove any dead or dying leaves, stems, or flowers. Finally, it's totally fine to deadhead blooms as they start to fade." He warns that African violets will bloom almost all the time, so if you remove the wilted or dying blooms, it'll encourage new growth.