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Common African Violet Problems


Originally posted here on Real Country Living ~ August, 2009

More African Violet Stuff

African Violet problems can plague this popular flowering houseplant, but they are basically simple to keep healthy. In the right conditions, they will reward you with flowers for most of the year and will have very little trouble with pests and disease.

african violets

These African Violets are overgrown and need to be repotted…a problem which is easily fixed…and something I’ll show you how to do in an upcoming post.

African Violet Pests

Mealybugs and Cyclamen Mites are the Most Common African Violet Pests

Mealybugs

There are two mealybugs which most often plague the African Violet; the Citrus mealybug  (Planococcus citri) and the Comstock mealybug  (Pseudococcus comstocki).

At about 1/4 inches in length,  mealybugs have soft bodies and look like they are covered with cotton. This is from a white waxy, sticky material that covers their bodies for protection.

You will find mealybugs on the leaves, stems and at the stem joints. The leaves will look undersized or deformed which is caused by the mealybugs sucking the plant sap for food. They excrete a sugary material, honeydew, while they feed which can coat the leaves and makes them sticky.

A plant will die if there is a heavy infestation that goes untreated.

Cyclamen Mites

Cyclamen Mites (Steneotarsonemus pallidus) are actually small spiders and not insects at all and are one of the most devastating of African Violet problems.

At 1/100 inch long, they cannot be seen just by looking at your plant which makes them very difficult to detect.  Most likely, you will find damage to your plant before you ever suspect mites are present.

Mites assail the underside of leaves, the new growth and the flowers of African Violets. Webs can be found around the leaf joints (where the leaf stem meets the main stem).

Symptoms of a Cyclamen Mite infestation might include severe stunting and curling of the leaves from the central part of the plant.  New leaves can appear grey in color because often they will be extremely hairy. Flowers might be malformed or may not open at all.

Similar to mealybugs, Mites feed by sucking the sap from the plant. Injecting a toxic chemical during feeding, mites cause the plant to grow abnormally. If left untreated, the African Violet will die, either just in the center of the plant or entirely. Some symptoms can linger, even after the infestation is under control. It will take time for the plant to return to it’s normal state and requires a continuous pruning of damaged and deformed leaves. This African Violet problem takes patience and perseverance to overcome.

A Natural Bug Spray Can Be Effective

A natural bug spray of soapy water can be effective in controlling Cyclamen mites and mealybugs. Insecticidal soaps such as, Safer Houseplant Insecticidal Soap and Concern Insect Killing Soap are two such sprays that can be used for African Violet pests as well.

Another choice may be botanical pyrethrins like  Schultz Houseplant & Garden Insect Spray or Safer Houseplant Insect Killer Aerosol.

Light infestations of Mealybugs can be controlled by dipping a Q-tip into rubbing alcohol and removing the pests with that. If it is a significant invasion, managing it will be much more complicated. Adult mealybugs are covered with a waxy substance to protect themselves from insecticides. Young mealybugs are at risk though, so the use of insecticidal soaps should be sufficient in getting rid of them.

If your plant is particularly special, spray with a product that is labeled for indoor use.  Bonide Mite-X is a good choice. Or use Ortho Systemic Insect Killer outside only.

Prevent Plant Fungus With Proper Watering

African Violet problems include Plant fungus, such as Crown Rot which can be avoided with proper watering methods.  This can occur when an African Violet is over watered, is planted too deeply or has poor drainage. The main stem and lower leaves can appear soggy, turn black and die, usually leading to the plants doom. I always, always water my African Violets from the bottom to avoid the top soil from becoming too moist.

Mildew can appear if the surrounding air is too dry, believe it or not. Prevent this by providing a high humidity environment for your African Violets.

Proper Care is All It Takes

With proper care, your African Violet problems will be kept to a minimum. Personally, I have never had a pest invasion, although my plants have experienced a bit of plant fungus problems from time to time. And becoming overgrown in their pots is something that happens to everyone…well, if you can keep them alive long enough! And I’ll show you how to re-pot your overgrown African Violets in an upcoming post! TTFN!

More African Violet Stuff

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15 Comments

  1. April 9, 2012    

    Real Country Living,
    The leaves of my double, pink, African Violet became brown-ish at the leaf margin. The hairs in these areas seem to be longer. Can you tell me what the problem is? Should I throw it out or try to save it? Arpad.

    • April 10, 2012    

      Hi! I can’t be sure without seeing a picture of your African Violet…is there any chance that your plant has been over watered? I believe there’s a way for you to share a photo when leaving a comment here…that would be really helpful, if I could see what you have going on there. There are many reasons for leaves to turn brownish. There is some pretty good information here: http://www.uri.edu/ce/factsheets/sheets/africanviolet.html Try looking over some of that and maybe getting a picture of your plant here for us all to see? Thanks for writing! Deena

  2. Diana Bussen's Gravatar Diana Bussen
    June 24, 2012    

    Why do my African voitets slowly migrate to the side of the pot? I am rotating. Thank you.

  3. Darlene Hiltabidle's Gravatar Darlene Hiltabidle
    October 20, 2012    

    Several of my African Violets have curved necks instead of straight ones. Any ideas why.
    Thank you.

  4. October 27, 2012    

    Two of my African Violets that are small, one started from a leaf, the second one bought at a local AVS sale, are not thriving, the one that is a plant I may have overwatered and am trying to dry it out but the leaf has babies that are not growing. What can I do? Thank You

  5. Josephine McGinnis's Gravatar Josephine McGinnis
    January 9, 2013    

    I have an African Violet that has grown very “leggy” and tall. Can I prune this down so that it will become a bushy plant again. It is not very pretty this way. It is in an
    east window that has a blind on it. Please help

  6. Donna's Gravatar Donna
    January 30, 2013    

    My African violet is floppy. I have removed the brown leaves.(There were not many.) In examining the neck and crown, both seem OK. I am going to repot it in a clean clay pot, using Espoma African Violet soil. Any suggestions? Should I water it? Help! Thanks

  7. Grace Christenson's Gravatar Grace Christenson
    March 24, 2013    

    My violets have long stemmed leaves coming out of the edge and there is a cluster of small leaves coming up in the middle.. Is there something wrong with them.. I have had them for a long time..thank you for your time..Gracie

    • April 29, 2013    

      I’m so sorry Gracie, but I’m really not sure about your poor violet babies! I wish I could see a picture of them so I knew for sure what you were describing? Have you divided them before?

  8. Claud Y.'s Gravatar Claud Y.
    July 12, 2013    

    I have a mature Violet that has become overrun with suckers and new growth. It’s really pushing 1 side of the plant almost vertical.

    This plant is blooming so very well, but is growing all out of shape and appears to have too much extra growth on her.

    How do I go about splitting and separating her without damaging her? I want to make sure that I save the main plant, and possibly some of the new growth for propagating and sharing with friends and family. I have pictures, but don’t know how to post them here.

    Thank you in advance,

    Claud Y.

  9. Jnona's Gravatar Jnona
    August 8, 2013    

    Help. I was repotting my African violets and as I took them out of the pot there was these white spots. don’t know how else to describe them I would call them eggs, but I have no idea. Not all my plants had these but several did, the spots are on the dirt where it had been against the side of the pot. Please if you have any suggestions?
    Thanks

  10. Deb bergh's Gravatar Deb bergh
    August 30, 2014    

    I have had African violets for years and have never seen this. It looks like something is eating my leaves! What?

  11. Kathy Echevarria's Gravatar Kathy Echevarria
    April 8, 2015    

    Violet blooms start turning brown before they open. Leaves look good. Could send a picture.

    • April 8, 2015    

      Hello Kathy, I have not experienced what you are describing, but did some looking around for a possible cause. I found the following on the “African Violet Society of America” website (http://www.avsa.org/faq-diagnosis), written by Joyce Stork: The symptoms you are describing sound a lot like botrytis blossom blight, which is a fungus disease that is very difficult to control. While you describe the blossoms as brownish, I might say that the flower color has a tan hue. My husband describes it as looking like the color got sucked out of the flower. When it is advanced, the buds also show the odd color. If the disease is advanced, you would also see some stunted growth in the center of the plants with a grayish color. If you are seeing all of these symptoms, then it is a fair bet that you have botrytis blight. The disease thrives in high humidity particularly if the temperatures tend to go above 80 during the day and below 70 at night. It spreads by spores that are in the air. Having fought the disease myself, I have found that the best cure is to discard all the plants that show symptoms and to treat the rest with a fungicide like Physan 27 which is specifically effective on botrytis blight. Once the disease is established, it can take a while to get rid of it. Be prepared to continue discarding plants that show signs of the disease. You should also take steps to maintain humidity at 40- 50% and no higher (day or night), as well as to maintain the temperature in the growing area between 68 and 75 degrees (day or night). It is also wise to keep a fan running day and night in the area so that the air is continually stirred and humid pockets of air are dispersed. Finally, I would suggest wiping down the area and the outside of your pots with bleach water or with Lysol disinfectant to kill any spores that might be on surfaces. If you think I’m on the wrong track, please send a photo of the affected plants and I’ll think this through again.

      I sure hope this helps you out, Kathy! Good luck and keep on growing!!! DKink

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