January 13, 2013

Mature Plant Care

I have received questions from people who purchased AV plants, new to African violets.... and the most common one is: "Why do you say 'Repot twice a year'?"  I do think this is one of the best ways for novice growers to keep their plants happy and blooming.

Notice, I did not say:  Pot UP!  I said 'repot'.  The purpose of this 'repotting' is to give the plant 'fresh' potting mix, and room to grow.  A pot full of roots doesn't leave room for new growth, and I am a firm believer in the theory that root growth leads to top/crown growth, and that brings on the blossom stalks. (For some details on the 'root' subject, read the Class One notes of my House Plant Class.)

You do not have to put the plant in a LARGER pot, but please use a clean pot.

Here is a mature, 18 month old, plant of Ness' Fantasy Gold.  This variety tends to grow leggy... the leaf stems are quite long.  This particular plant has been pretty well shaped, with healthy leaves!  But it needed repotting.  The date on the labels said it had been repotted in August, 2012.
'Before' photo:

I took several layers of leaves off.... and then took the plant out of the pot.  I rubbed off much of the soil mix, expecially at the surface of the root ball.  Then, I held it in the new pot (the same size as the old pot).  I wanted to bury the 'bare trunk' which appeared after I took off the lower older leaves. So, I rubbed, vigorously, more dirt off the bottom of the root ball.  You can simply cut off a half inch to inch of the bottom, but the soil mix was loose, and there didn't seem to be many roots in the bottom bit of the rootball, so I just rubbed the excess soil off.

Then I set it in the new pot, filled in with fresh soil mix, tapping on the table to settle the dirt into the open spots in the rootball.  I topped off the pot with a layer of new mix, then pressed down slightly.  Please do NOT pack the soil mix when repotting African violets.  Press firmly, but not too much!
Here is an 'after' photo.

I did not remove flower stalks.... this is not a 'grown to show' plant, and I can enjoy the blooms.  The purpose of removing flower stalks is to put the plant's energy into growing foliage, and in this case, the plant has ample foliage, and it will bloom nicely while/after it is growng new roots into the fresh soil mix in the new pot!

Note, we made room for new potting mix in the same sized pot by reducing both the top and bottom size of the plant.  Personally, I would not cut off part of the root ball without also taking off a few leaves.  Remember, the roots supply the leaves with moisture... a reduced root system might not be able to keep a large crown healthy.

Your first impulse might have been to put the violet into a pot larger than the one it was in.  Many times you can do this... and you could have done so in this case. 

If the plant is younger than a year, and in a pot smaller than 4 inches, I would 'pot up' into a larger pot.  If the plant is in a 4 to 6 inch pot, I would recommend potting into the same size pot, as I did above.

(Remember, pot size depends upon the type of soil mix, the way you water, how much attention you give your violets, your house conditions, and your past experience.  If your violets like what you are doing, don't change it just because I do something different!)

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