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Mailbag: African Violet problems

African violets

African violets Credit: Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder

Dear Jessica,

I have Beautiful African Violets that bloom all year. The pots now seem overcrowed and the leaves are losing some color. I do not know what to do with them as far as repotting and starting new plants. I am afraid that I might do something and then they will die. Any advice will be so appreciated. 

Also you article on the Christmas cactus was great. Mine is just starting to get buds again. It already bloomed 2 other time this year. I never move it from where it is. I have it for about 10 years. My sister has one the has an abundance of beautiful coral flowers. I sent her your article.-- Thanks, Lorraine Lloyd 

If the leaves are yellowing or becoming pale, it's possible they got too much sunlight over the summer. During spring and summer, keep them near a window but behind a curtain to avoid burning, but from about October through the end of February, give them direct light (winter sunlight is not as strong as in spring and summer). But if the leaves are spotted, then it's likely they came into contact with cold water. Only use room temperature water on these plants.

You should be fertilizing with a 20-20-20 products labeled for African violets. Use a tablespoon diluted in a gallon of water about every 2-3 months. During the winter, however, use just 1/2 tablespoon to a gallon of water. Also, this is one of those plants that should be planted with its crown slightly above the soil, so keep that in mind when repotting your crowded plant: potting African violets too deeply can lead to rot. 

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