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Archive for Sunday, February 15, 2004

Watering, lighting vital for violets

February 15, 2004

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By now, most houseplants look their worst.

The short days, low relative indoor humidity and other unfavorable conditions mean they are merely surviving and not thriving. Usually, there is not a lot we can do because most plants show the same signs for a variety of problems. However, African violets are just fickle enough that when they're not happy, they will show you why.

If your violet is a poor performer, here are reasons why, and what you might try to nurse it back to good health:

  • Spotted leaves. They occur if cool water is poured on top of leaves. When watering use only room temperature water, and try to wet the soil only. Better yet, use a special pot that allows water to be wicked up from the bottom, preventing this problem altogether.
  • Small plants with pale yellow leaves. This is often caused by too much light and not enough fertilization. Try moving the plant away from the bright window, or fertilize once a month using fertilizers formulated for violets.
  • Leaves curled downward. This may be a result of temperatures below 60 degrees. Move the plant to a warmer part of the house. Or, if it is directly in front of a window, lower the blinds or draw the curtains at night to prevent cool drafts around the plant. This will help your plant and will save on heating costs.
  • Long leaf stalks and a few or small blooms. They often result when a plant does not receive enough light. Try moving it to a brighter window or placing it under a grow light set on a timer to stay on for 18 hours a day.
  • Buds dry up. This might happen if there is not enough moisture in the air or soil, or if temperatures are too high. Increase plant humidity by grouping several plants together. Likewise, check your watering practice and adjust your schedule to water more frequently.
  • The plant wilted quickly and crown rotted. Likely it was getting watered too frequently, or the drainage was poor because of bad potting mix or lack of drainage holes in the container. Or the plant was planted too deep. Buy a new plant and try again.
  • Leaf stalks rot where they rub against the edge of the pot. High salt concentrations on the sides of the pot and near the soil surface damage the leaf stalks, allowing the Botrytis disease organism to enter. You can protect the stalks by putting a strip of aluminum foil, paraffin or a cardboard cover around the rim of the container.
  • No flowers. Possibly because of one or more of the following: temperature too low, soil is over fertilized, too much light or too much shade, too much or not enough water, or air contains stove gas.

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