How to Revive a Dying African Violet

How to revive a dying african violet

The reason for African violets dying is usually because of 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 your dying African violets, you need 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), increased humidity, and water with tepid water rather than cold water.

Here is a table summarizing the most common reasons that I come across for African violets dying…

Symptoms:Why is my 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 mold 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:African violet leaves curl in response to temperatures cooler than 60°F (16°C).
Leggy leaves and flowers:Cold temperatures and a lack of light.
African violet not flowering:Low light, cold temperature, or a lack of nutrients are usually the reason for 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…

Why are my 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.

One of the most common reasons I see leaves turning yellow is because of too much direct sunlight. African violets are native to tropical forests, growing out of direct sunlight under a canopy. Direct sunlight causes a light yellow bleached appearance, whereas intense sunburn produces 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.

However, yellowing African violet leaves can also indicate that your plant is stressed due to low humidity. African violets are acclimatized to growing in tropical jungles, so the air indoors in our homes can be too dry for the plant to tolerate resulting in yellowing leaves.

This can be particularly problematic if you live in an arid climate or your house uses a lot of indoor heating and air conditioning.

My African violet leaves turned yellow when I had the air conditioning on in my home when I lived in Southern California.

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

How to Revive Your African Violets with Yellow Leaves

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

  • Move your African violets with bleached leaves into an area of bright light but out of any direct light. If your leaves are only somewhat bleached yellow, then the African violet’s leaves can partially 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. You will see new leaves can grow in the spring, at which point you can trim back any severely scorched leaves.
  • Move your African violet into a more humid room in your home, but avoid misting the leaves with water. I personally keep my African 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 if 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 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 promoting foliage growth at the expense of blooms.

Once you have addressed the environmental stress and created more favorable conditions, the African violet can recover. However, I find it is often the case that you may have to wait until the following Spring to see new healthy green growth before carefully removing any yellow leaves that do not recover.

Sometimes, you will see 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 you attempt to cut the leaf back.

Brown Mouldy Spots on Leaves?

Brown mouldy spots are usually a result of water being splashed on the African violet’s leaves which causes botrytis or powdery mildew. Whilst Africans 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 too regularly. This causes a build up of moisture that promotes the conditions for fungal diseases that cause brown spots on the leaves.

This is a mistake that I have made myself, as misting leaves is often a great tactic for increasing localised humidity on other houseplants with preferences for humidity. This is why I personally keep my African violets in the bathroom so they can benefit from the higher relative humidity without the need to mist them.

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 you are using 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 moldy leaves with a sterile pair of pruners and throw the leaves in the bin to prevent the mold spores from spreading. Ensure you Spray the remaining leaves with a plant fungicide following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Instead of misting the leaves, move the plant to a more humid room (such as the bathroom) or increase the humidity with a humidifier. In my experience, a humidifier works well with African violets and can provide additional humidity for your other houseplants if you locate them in the same area.
  • Water the African violet from the bottom rather than overhead watering to prevent droplets from splashing and sitting on the leaves. This is my favorite tip. Fill the saucer underneath the pot with water (for 30 minutes) to allow the compost to draw up 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 rainwater, bottled water, or distilled water.

I know it can feel drastic to cut infected brown spotted leaves off, but it is essential for the plant’s survival. If the conditions are favorable, new growth should emerge and improve the appearance of your African violet in the Spring and Summer, so it may require some patience!

If the leaves are not mold and just have brown spots that are likely the result of watering with cold water, then the plant I find the plant does not get any worse if you switch your watering technique to watering from the bottom.

However, I find it is usually the case that the brown spots do not alleviate, so you can trim them back in the Spring to improve the plant’s appearance.

Why is my African Violet Wilting?

  • 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 overnight because they are left on a cold window sill, and some of the leaves are in contact with the cold glass, which is too cold for them to tolerate.

Other factors that cause temperature fluctuations include locating your African violet 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 increases the risk of root and crown rot. The most common causes of root and crown rot that I see are:

  1. Watering too often.
  2. Compacted potting soil that does not drain efficiently.
  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.

The plant may be 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 Your African Violet with Limp, Wilting Leaves

If the cause of the wilting leaves is due to a temperature fluctuation, then move your 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 than 60°F (16°C)

The most common reason that I observe African violet leaves curling is as a response to temperatures cooler than 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 temperatures very well at all.

The most common reason for this that I’ve seen 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.

I cannot emphasize how important it is to move your African violet from a cold window sill on cold nights. I had to move my own cold-sensitive plants back from the window when I lived in New York, as the cold would always cause the leaves to curl!

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 have dark green leaves.

Keep your African violet in a room with a temperature above 60°F (16°C) and move it to a brighter room to give your plant the best prospect of recovery.

Whilst a lack of light is a very common reason I see for leggy African violets, Do not make the mistake of going from one extreme to another by placing African violets in direct sunlight as this can scorch the leaves.

My own African violets grow very well in a light bathroom that has frosted glass to disperse any intense sunlight.

Why is My African Violet Not Flowering?

Most often, the reason I see an African violet not flowering is due to reduced light levels in Winter. African violets 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, I recommend that you plant in a nice bright room (without direct sunlight) with stable temperatures and apply a general fertilizer at half strength in the Spring and Summer.

I personally use 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 in 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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