How to Revive a Dying African Violet

The reason for African violets dying is usually because root rot and crown rot or due to cold temperatures. African violets need temperatures in the range of 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C) and well draining soil. If the soil is damp and cold the leaves wilt and turn limp before dying back.

To revive dying African violets it is important to replicate some of the conditions of their native habitat with bright indirect light, temperatures between 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C), increase the humidity and to water with tepid water rather then cold water.

Her is a table summarizing the most common reasons for African violets dying…

Symptoms:Reasons for African Violet Dying:
Leaves turning yellow:Direct sunlight can bleach the leaves or scorch them yellow and brown. Low humidity and too much or not enough fertilizer can also be contributing factors.
Brown mould spots on the leaves:Water on the leaves for too long promotes the conditions for botrytis and powdery mildew.
Leaves wilting and turning limp:Overwatering, underwatering and fluctuations in temperature (particularly cold temperatures) cause limp wilting leaves.
Leaves curling:Curling leaves indicates the temperature is too cold. African violets can turn pale and leggy in cold temperatures.
Leggy leaves and flowers:Cold temperatures and a lack of light.
African violet not flowering:African violets do not flowering in low light. Cold temperatures, a lack of humidity, frequent repotting and low nutrients soil can all cause stress that results in a lack of flowers.

Keep reading to learn why your African violets are dying and how to implement the solutions to save your dying plant…

African Violet Leaves Turning Yellow

  • Symptoms: Yellow bleached appearance to the leaves or yellow with brown blotches.
  • Causes: Too much direct sunlight, low humidity and either too much or not enough nutrients.

Yellow leaves are most often caused by too much direct sunlight. African violets are native to tropical forests where they grow out of direct sunlight, under a canopy. Direct sunlight causes a light yellow bleached appearance whereas intense sun burn results in yellow and brown blotches.

To grow African violet successfully indoors and to promote flowering they need to be located in bright indirect light, so try to place them in a nice bright room, and avoid placing them on a window sill with direct sunlight.

Yellowing African violet leaves can also indicate stress due to low humidity. African violets are acclimatized to growing in tropical jungles, so the air indoors can be too dry for the plant to tolerate resulting in yellowing leaves.

This can be particularly problematic in arid climates or houses with indoor heating and air conditioning.

Occasionally a lack of nutrients can be responsible for yellow drooping leaves with poor growth and no flowers, or perhaps too much nutrients form applying fertilizer too often or in too high concentration.

How to Revive African Violets with Yellow Leaves

The key to saving African violets is to address the environmental stress that caused the yellowing leaves.

  • Move an African violets with bleached leaves into an area of bright, light but out of any direct light. If the leaves are only somewhat bleached yellow then the African violet’s leaves can somewhat recover in appearance with consistent care. However if the leaves are scorched yellow and brown in blotches due to intense sunlight then these patches do not recover and do not turn green again. I would recommend moving them out of direct sunlight and new leaves can grow in the Spring at which point you can trim back any severely scorched leaves.
  • Move the African violet into a more humid room but avoid misting the leaves with water. I personally keep my Africa violet in the bathroom due to its naturally high humidity which recreates the conditions of its native environment. You can also buy a plant humidifier if you live in a particularly arid climate or you need to counteract dry air from heating or air conditioning.
  • Use a general houseplant fertilizer once a month during Spring and Summer to address a yellow leaves due to a nutrient deficiency. I recommend using the fertilizer at half strength as too much high strength fertilizer can burn the roots causing yellow leaves and promotes foliage growth at the expense of blooms.

Once you have addressed the environmental stress and created more favourable conditions the African violet can recover, however you may have to wait until the following Spring until you can see new healthy green growth before carefully removing any yellow leaves that do not recover.

Sometimes the yellow leaves wither and die back as the plant reabsorbs the nutrients from the leaves so always wait until the leaf has died back before attempting to cut the leaf back.

Brown Mouldy Spots on Leaves

Brown mouldy spots are usually as a result of water being splashed on the African violet’s leaves which causes botrytis or powdery mildew. Whilst African need high humidity and to be watered often the leaves do not tolerate being wet for too long.

A common mistake I often see is to increase the humidity by misting the plant with water regularly. This causes a build up of moisture that promotes the conditions for fungal diseases that cause brown spots on the leaves.

However it can also be because of watering overhead which can cause water droplets to sit on the leaves.

If the leaves have brown spots but they are not necessarily mouldy then this indicates the water is too cold when watering.

African violets are native to warm tropical climates and they are sensitive to cold water temperatures.

How to Revive African Violets with Brown Spots on their Leaves

  • Cut off any mouldy leaves with a sterile pair of pruners and throw the leaves in the bin to prevent the mould spores from spreading. Spray the remaining leaves with a plant fungicide following the manufactures instructions.
  • Instead of misting the leaves, move the plant to a more humid room or increase the humidity with a humidifier.
  • Water the African violet from the bottom rather then overhead watering, to prevent droplets splashing and sitting on the leaves. To do this simply fill the saucer underneath the pot with water (for 30 minutes) to allow the compost to draw up the moisture. Empty the saucer of any excess water after 30 minutes to prevent root rot.
  • Use lukewarm water when watering African violets. They can also be sensitive to minerals and chlorine in the water, so if you have ‘hard’ tap water then use rain water, bottled water or distilled water.

Whilst it may feel drastic to cut infected brown spotted leaves off, it is essential for the plants survival. If the conditions are favourable, new growth should emerge and improve the appearance of your African violet.

If the leaves are not mould and just have brown spots that are likely the result of watering with cold water then the plant should recover without having to remove leaves.

African Violet Wilting with Limp Leaves

  • Symptoms: Wilted appearance with limp leaves. The flowers may also turn brown.
  • Causes: Overwatering and fluctuations in temperature. Underwatering can also cause wilting.

African violet leaves wilt and turn limp because of root rot and crown rot due to overwatering combined with temperature fluctuations. African violets prefer warm stable conditions, so a sudden drop in temperature can be the cause of limp, wilting leaves.

The optimal temperature range for African violets is 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C) so around room temperature is good.

I have seen African violet leaves turn limp and flowers start dying over night because they are left on a cold window sill and some of the leaves are in contact with the cold glass, creating unfavourable conditions.

Other factors that cause temperature fluctuations include locating your African violet to near a source of heat or near an open door where they are subject to cold blasts of air. Keep the plant out of the path of air currents from air conditioning or forced air.

The African violet also needs the top inch of soil to dry between bouts of watering. If the soil is boggy or saturated then this increase the risk of root and crown rot which is caused by:

  1. Watering too often.
  2. Compacted potting soil that does not drain efficently.
  3. Pots without drainage holes in the base.
  4. Saucers, trays or decorative outer pots that prevent excess water from draining properly from the base.

It is possible the plant is wilting due to underwatering or not watering thoroughly enough. Always water African violets with a good soak, so that the potting soil is evenly moist to prevent wilting leaves due to drought stress.

How to Revive an African Violet with Limp, Wilting Leaves

If the cause of the wilting leaves is due to a temperature fluctuation then move the African violet to a more stable room in the house and it can recover over the next few weeks, depending on the extent of the exposure to cold.

Remember to water the plant from the bottom to avoid splashing the leaves and use lukewarm water as cold water can cause shock.

If the cause potting soil feels boggy and the leaves and flowers of the African violet are turning brown and dying back then the likely cause is either crown rot or root rot. Unfortunately there is no reliable way to save African violets with crown rot or root rot and the plant always dies back.

African Violet Leaves Curling

  • Symptoms: Curling leaves that may turn pale and leggy.
  • Causes: Temperatures cooler then 60°F (16°C)

African violets leaves curl as a response to temperatures cooler then 60°F (16°C) If the African violet is in a consistently cold room the leaves turn to a lighter pale green and the leaves and flowers can turn leggy.

African violets are native to warm climates and do not tolerate cold temperature very well at all.

Typically this is because they are located on a cold window sill or perhaps by a frequently opened door or window where they get cold blasts of air.

The solution is to simply move your African violet to a warm more stable location and see if it recovers. Always water with lukewarm water to avoid cold shock.

If it is a frosty night outside then move your plant away from the window sill.

African Violet with Leggy Leaves and Flowers

  • Symptoms: Leggy leaves and flowers.
  • Causes: Cold temperatures and a lack of light.

African violet leaves and flowers turn leggy if they are in too much shade or the temperature is below 60°F (16°C)

African violets need bright indirect light to promote flowering, maintain compact growth and to have dark green healthy leaves.

Keep the African violet in a room with a temperature above 60°F (16°C)and move it to a brighter room and the plant should recover.

Do not place African violets in direct sunlight as this can scorch the leaves. My African violets grow very well in a light bathroom that has frosted glass to disperse any intense sunlight.

African Violet Not Flowering

Most often the reason for an African violet not flowering is due reduced light levels in Winter. African violet do not flower if they are stressed due to cold temperatures or because the soil does not have enough nutrients to support flowering.

Low humidity and frequent repotting or movement of the plant can also cause stress that interferes with flowering.

To stimulate flowering move the plant to a nice bright room (without direct sunlight) with stable temperatures and apply a general fertilizer at half strength in the Spring and Summer.

I recommend half strength fertilizer as too much fertilizer can promote foliage growth at the expense of flowers.

Bright light is the most important factor for stimulating flowers so ideally place it in the brightest room of your house for good flowering.

Key Takeaways:

  • Limp, wilting leaves indicate that the African violet is dying because of cold temperatures and overwatering. African violets need the top inch of soil to dry between bouts of watering and warm temperatures. If the potting soil is too damp and cold the African violet develops crown rot and dies back.
  • To revive a dying African violet, recreate the conditions of its natural habitat by locating the plant a warm, humid room with stable temperature and bright indirect and only water with tepid water when the top inch of soil feels dry.

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