Did you receive a stunning, blooming African Violet as a gift? You might have noticed it dwindling over time, wilting and losing its vibrancy. More often than not, this decline can be attributed to a plant disease called root rot.
Root rot is a fungal disease that wilts and discolors plant leaves. It turns the base of the stem soft and mushy. Overwatering coupled with poor drainage creates a breeding ground for the fungus, hastening the rotting process. But don’t despair – if detected in the early stages, trimming off the affected roots (leaving the healthy parts) and repotting can often breathe new life into your plant.
Let’s dive deeper into the common causes of root rot and how you can rejuvenate your wilting African Violet.
- Signs of African Violet Root Rot
- Causes of African Violet Root Rot and Solutions
- How to Save African Violet from Root Rot
- Propagating Your African Violet
- How to Propagate African Violets from a Leaf:
- Treating root rot with Chemical Fungicide
- Homemade Fungicides for Root Rot
- How to Prevent African Violet Root Rot
Signs of African Violet Root Rot
Easy Spot Symptoms of Root Rot
The most obvious signs of root rot are soggy, soft leaves. You might spot brown scars or an overall yellowing that indicates a leaf is unwell.
For an African Violet leaf, the natural fuzz can cause an unhealthy leaf to take on a gray appearance.
Don’t stop at the leaves though – be sure to check the stems. The disease starts in the roots, but it can spread upwards through the soil and infect the leaf itself, causing the entire plant to wither.
You’ll know root rot has taken hold if your African Violet’s stems are turning brown or blackish.
Keep an eye on the growing medium as well. If it’s constantly soggy and carries a foul smell akin to rotten eggs, fish, or sewage, it’s a definite red flag.
You might even spot mold, a pathogen that can thrive on waterlogged soils, giving the surface a gritty or fuzzy look.
Some pathogens, like mold, can grow on the tops of waterlogged soils, giving the area a grainy or fuzzy appearance to it.
Unmasking Hidden Symptoms of Root Rot
Your best gauge of a root rot infection lies beneath the surface, in the soil. Take your African Violet out of its pot for a closer inspection.
A healthy root system is light-colored, with a delicate network of fine, hair-like roots. The main roots will be somewhat thicker, but still pale.
Contrastingly, sick roots are dark. They’re soft and flimsy to the touch, often breaking apart. A more distressing sign? They smell foul, akin to rotting eggs.
Causes of African Violet Root Rot and Solutions
Overwatering and the Fungal Fallout
African Violets need just the right amount of water to thrive, favoring moist but not waterlogged growing mediums.
When the soil becomes too soggy, it suffocates the plant’s root system, causing it to rot.
Water your African Violet only when the top two inches of the soil are dry.
Feeling the soil with your own hands is a great tool to judge its moisture.
Remember, if you let the top layer of soil dry out, the moisture balance will be just right further down where it counts.
Poor Drainage and Waterlogging
African Violets are particular about their soil—it needs to drain well while still retaining enough moisture for the plant.
Insufficient drainage can lead to submerged roots. And if your pot isn’t well-designed, it might hamper proper drainage. Many pots, unfortunately, have inadequate drainage holes or none at all!
Selecting the right soil and pot is crucial for good plant drainage.
African Violets like textured, well-structured growing mediums. Adding vermiculite, perlite, and small stones to the soil can improve water flow and keep the roots healthy.
Make sure your pot has at least three drainage holes at the bottom. Many growers keep their African Violets in plastic nursery pots inside decorative ones – an attractive solution that also promotes root health.
While overwatering often causes root rot, inconsistent watering can be equally damaging.
If you water heavily after a long dry spell, the delicate, young root tips that died off can rot, providing an entry point for harmful fungi.
Water your African Violets regularly, keeping in mind they need more water in summer and less in winter.
Set a timer to remind yourself to check the soil moisture every week. This regular check also gives you an opportunity to look for pests, dust, or new leaves. It’s a calming, meditative routine that benefits both your garden and mental well-being.
Soft Rot in African Violets
Certain diseases are unique to African Violets. One of them is “soft rot,” which makes the plant’s leaves soft and damp to touch, usually caused by the Erwinia bacterium. This bacterium gives off a distinctive fishy odor as it progresses.
Quarantine any sick plant immediately. Then trim and discard the infected tissue using clean, sterilized tools.
Remember, prevention is always the best strategy. Keeping your plant cool, dry, and well-ventilated can help prevent the spread of diseases.
African Violets enjoy frequent repotting, ideally twice a year. If left in the same pot for too long, the plant can’t thrive as the roots become stressed and vulnerable to root rot.
As long as you have the right growing medium, repotting doesn’t have to be a hassle. Aim for mid-spring and mid-fall on a warm, dry day.
The Pitfalls of Too Large or Too Small Pots
Just like a shoe that doesn’t fit right, an ill-sized pot can damage an African Violet’s roots.
A pot that’s too large can hold more water than the plant needs, while a pot that’s too small can starve the roots of nourishment.
When selecting a new pot for your African Violet, make sure it’s not more than two inches wider than the plant’s crown. This size is just right for growth without offering too much room to disease-causing microbes.
African Violets aren’t great at adapting to rapid temperature changes
During the spring and summer months, they gear up for growth, but slow down to conserve energy when it gets too hot.
Forcing these plants to shift between summer and winter conditions in a single day can cause stress.
These sudden temperature shifts can cause root rot as the plant uses less water when it’s cooler, leading to overwatering and root damage.
African Violets do best in a steady temperature range of 65-75°F (18-24°C). Aim for consistent warmth, and steer clear of sudden chills, especially at night.
If your African Violet is perched on a window sill, remember that cold glass can radiate a deep chill once the sun goes down. So keep it away from drafts of air conditioner and cold of the window.
How to Save African Violet from Root Rot
Step 1. Let Your Violet Dry Out
Let’s start by giving your African Violet a break from watering. Take away the watering can and let the plant have a few days of dryness.
Empty any drip trays or saucers that you have, and make sure all the water seeping from the pot’s bottom drains out completely.
Step 2. Trim Off the Infected Leaves and Parts
Now, take your clean shears and gently start trimming away the dead or dying leaves. Start from the bottom, gradually moving upwards to the crown. Any leaf that isn’t green anymore needs to go.
Step 3. Unpot the Plant and Let the Root System Dry
Here’s where you need to take a big step – unpot your plant and let the roots dry out completely. Yes, it may seem a bit severe, but it’s a crucial step.
Find a shady, quiet spot and lay down a sheet of cardboard or a tarpaulin. Gently tap the plant out of its pot and spread the root mass, breaking apart any wet soil clumps as you do.
Let the roots have an overnight air dry. If your plant is smaller, it may dry out in about four to five hours. However, ensure most of the soil dries to the point where you can easily remove it for root treatment.
Step 4. Prune the Infected Roots
Once the root mass dries, it’s time to take your clean shears and start removing dead, damaged, or infected roots.
Be vigilant and trim off any roots that are brown, black, bright orange, brittle, or those soggy, squishy roots that are shedding their outer layer, just like an onion skin.
Step 5. Repot with New Soil and Pot
You’ve done a great job so far! Now that you’ve removed the infected roots, it’s time to repot your African Violet.
To prevent re-infection, use fresh soil and a brand-new pot. Make sure your tools are clean, and don’t forget to wash your hands before handling the new pot and soil.
Water your plant with a mix of one part 3% hydrogen peroxide to four parts water (one cup of peroxide for every four cups of water).
This mix will kill any harmful bacteria, fungus, insects, larvae, or eggs without hurting your plant.
For the new pot, pick one with at least three drainage holes to avoid waterlogged soil. A pot no larger than an inch wider than your plant is ideal, while a pot larger than two inches wide is perfect for bigger plants.
Your African Violets will love a slightly acidic soil that is free-draining and rich in organic matter. Consider making your own mix of two parts peat moss or coco coir and one part each of vermiculite and perlite for structure and drainage.
This blend ensures your African Violet stays well-watered without becoming soggy, and the peat moss or coir maintains an ideal pH balance.
I’ve found this indoor potting mix to be an excellent choice for my African Violet blooms, and I’m sure you will too!
Step 6. Water Your Newly Repotted African Violet
Now that your African Violet has found its new home, let’s get it watered.
Make sure you hydrate it thoroughly with clean water, considering that the new medium is typically dry. Rainwater would be perfect, but if you don’t have that, filtered or distilled water will do just fine.
Let the medium dry out before you water it again, ensuring the top two inches of the soil get dry between watering sessions. This allows the roots ample recovery time and helps prevent re-infection.
Step 7. Post-Repotting Care
African Violets love stability. Keep them in bright, indirect light, maintain a consistent temperature, and ensure good airflow.
Water only when the top two inches of the medium are dry, using room-temperature rainwater or filtered water when possible.
Repotting your African Violets every six months can be very beneficial. You don’t always have to move to a bigger container; if the plant is content in its current pot, just changing the growing medium will suffice.
This ensures they get the nutrients they need to produce their beautiful blooms and lush leaves.
Propagating Your African Violet
Sadly, root rot can entirely ruin an African Violet. But fear not! Even if you only have one green leaf left, you can still grow a new plant!
Here’s what you’ll need to propagate an African Violet:
- One firm, healthy African Violet leaf
- Growing medium
- A small pot or container with drainage holes
- A clean scalpel or scissors
- A clear plastic bag or container
- Clean rainwater or filtered water
- Rooting hormone (optional)
How to Propagate African Violets from a Leaf:
- Fill your pot with a mix of equal parts perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss or coco coir. Thoroughly wet the mix and let it drain.
- Cut the stem of your chosen leaf to about 1.5 inches (3cm).
- Next, delicately cut a shallow notch into the stem’s front at a 45° angle. This encourages multiple baby plants to sprout from the leaf’s front.
- Apply a rooting hormone to the cut part of the leaf to promote quick root growth.
- Create a shallow hole in the growing medium and plant your leaf.
- Water thoroughly and let it drain.
- Now, cover your leaf with a clear plastic bag or another small container to create a mini ‘greenhouse.’
- Place the leaf in a consistently warm, well-lit location. Water regularly, keeping the medium moist but not waterlogged.
Your little baby plants might take about twelve weeks to form. Once they’re two or three inches tall, you can move them to a larger pot and get them out of their mini greenhouse. And voila, you have a new African Violet!
Treating root rot with Chemical Fungicide
The use of commercial fungicides should be treated with caution, although they are unquestionably influential.
These powerful chemicals can pose a risk near our homes and places of work because indoor plants are kept in the same room as those who grow them.
The release of nutrients from the soil is also inhibited by using chemical fungicides, which kill off both friendly and harmful fungi.
Long-term use can lead to weaker plants overall, even if they are effective in the short term. It’s best to use them only in the most extreme cases.
You can take a more proactive approach to protect your indoor plants from fungal infection.
For example, root rot in African Violets can be prevented and treated with more gentle methods.
Homemade Fungicides for Root Rot
Cinnamon isn’t just a spice; it’s a fantastic treatment for root rot. With its antifungal properties and the ability to promote root growth, cinnamon is quite the multi-tasker.
Before repotting, give the roots a liberal dusting of powdered cinnamon. This will kill any lingering spores and get your plant back on the path to health.
Chamomile is another natural solution for indoor gardening woes. Chamomile flowers are powerhouses of antifungal properties. You can use them as a water additive to combat root rot.
Brew a calming cup of chamomile tea and let it cool before adding it to your watering can. It will help control any naturally occurring fungi in the soil.
Charcoal can be a wonderful addition to your soil mix. Despite not being a fungicide, it creates soil conditions that make it hard for fungi to flourish.
It’s chemically reactive and draws potentially harmful compounds out of the soil – think of it as a soil cleanser!
However, remember that charcoal is alkaline, so use it cautiously with African Violets that prefer acidic soils.
You don’t want the beneficial acids in the soil to be neutralized. While these natural remedies can be helpful, ensure you don’t overuse them.
How to Prevent African Violet Root Rot
Prevention is always better than cure, especially for root rot. Here are some tips:
- Water regularly, but let the top two inches of the medium dry out between watering sessions. This helps avoid waterlogging.
- Maintain temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18 and 24 degrees Celsius).
- Repot African Violets twice a year in a mildly acidic, free-draining medium.
- Ensure your pots have at least three drainage holes and keep them free from standing water to prevent over-watering.
By following these simple guidelines, you can keep your African Violets vibrant, healthy, and rot-free!