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Ask a Master Gardener: African violets suffer when overwatered

Winter is tough on African violets.

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Q: My house is dry in winter so I’ve been really careful about giving my African violet plant extra water, but it is very droopy. Could something else be causing this problem?

A: Typically when African violets seem limp, it’s because they’re getting too much water, not too little. This is a problem we see a lot with houseplants. They seem to suffer more from overwatering than underwatering, but it’s hard to tell the symptoms apart sometimes.

African violets are particularly sensitive to overwatering. You might try removing your plant from its pot and checking out the roots. If they are soggy and rotten, chances are the plant is not going to make it – but at least you’ll know why and have a better shot with the next African violet you try.

Even if your plant is not a terminal case, it sounds like you may need to change your watering practices.

African violets like to have soil that is moist but not soggy. You can water them carefully from the top, trying not to get water on the leaves. Or you can water from the bottom, setting the pot in a shallow container of water until the potting mix is moist. In either case, don’t let the plant stand in water once the potting mix is moist. Let it drain completely and make sure its saucer is dry.

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If your plant is in a pot that does not have drain holes in the bottom, repot it in one that does.

Some sources recommend not using water that has chlorine in it. It’s a good idea to let your container of water stand overnight to let any chlorine in it dissipate. That will also bring the water up to room temperature, which is better for the plant than cold water.

Winter is tough on African violets. They prefer more light than we get at this time of year; we often don’t get our homes quite as warm as they like; and indoor humidity tends to be low. But resist the urge to overcompensate with too much water, and don’t mist them.

If your plant is dusty, brush it off with a dry paintbrush or soft cloth. That will help the leaves absorb more light.

Written by U of M Extension Master Gardeners in St. Louis County. Send questions to features@duluthnews.com .

Related Topics: HOME AND GARDENGARDENING
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