African violets are popular houseplants, known for blossoming beautiful purple, blue, or white flowers. Proper care needs to be taken to ensure these plants stay perky and bright.
If your African violet is looking limp and droopy, this could be due to several reasons. Overwatering, improper lighting, and poor soil are all reasons that could lead to your plant looking limp. There are also several parasites, bugs, and diseases that could contribute to your violet’s lack of life.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about why your African violet looks a little droopy.
Too Much Water
One of the most frequent ways that people kill their African violets is by overwatering. Overwatering will cause the plant to lose leaves or flowers and can lead to your plant becoming limp.
Too much water will lead to your African violet leaves and flowers to retain that water, turning them soft, limp, and droopy. Luckily, overwatering is simple to reverse.
You will want to water your African violet enough so that the soil gets moist, but never soggy. Monitor your plant’s soil by touching it and adjusting as needed. If the soil is completely dry, it is time to water.
African violets prefer bottom water. You can purchase a self-watering pot or a self-watering globe to assist with bottom-up watering.
You can also bottom water by leaving a bit of water in the saucer that your African violet pot sits in. The holes in the bottom of the pot should soak up some of the water.
Be sure to check on your plant after half an hour of letting the water sit. Whatever water remains in the saucer, be sure to dump out. Too much water will, again, cause your African violet to look limp or droopy.
Bottom-up watering has many benefits for your African violet. The African violet is susceptible to ringspot. When water droplets spill onto the African violet leaves, it can damage them, leaving water ring marks. A self-watering pot or globe will help prevent this.
Too Little Water
Just as too much water is detrimental for your African violet, too little water can also cause damage to your beloved plant.
A lack of water can lead to the plant losing its vivacity and color. Too little water will cause the roots to shrivel and eventually die, meaning the flowers, stems, and leaves have no way to soak up nutrients.
A good way to gauge whether your plant needs more water or less water is to test the soil. The soil should never be soggy or too wet. It should simply be a little damp.
If your soil is completely dry, it may be time for some water.
Just as care needs to be taken when watering your African violet, care needs to be taken when potting the plant as well. Soil that is too wet or too dry can cause your African violet to become limp and droopy.
When potting your African violet, soil that is too dry or too wet will both cause your plant to wilt. You will need to find soil that is right in the sweet spot. The soil should be damp, but not too damp.
Soil that is too wet can lead to root rot, which can be very damaging for your plant. Too little water, however, will lead to the plant drying out.
When potting, feel the moisture levels in the soil with your hand. The soil should not be too dry or hard, nor should it be overly wet. Slight dampness is what you should be looking for.
Another reason your plant may be looking a little lifeless could be due to fertilizer. If fertilizer has built up in your soil, it may cause your plant to droop.
Fertilizers are added to soil to encourage plant growth. They are either chemical or natural and often improve the health of the plant by enriching the soil.
However, if fertilizer has built up in the pot of your African violet, this can be detrimental to your plant. Check for fertilizer build-up, which will appear as a white crust on the top layer of your dirt.
To avoid fertilizer build-up, you will want to flush your plant regularly with clear water. Be sure to drain out the remainder of the water that accumulates in the saucer beneath your pot to avoid potentially overwatering.
When fertilizers accumulate, they can also cause petiole rot, a rather serious disease. Petiole rot is caused when petioles— the stalk of the leaf— touch the edge of the pot, causing brown, wilted areas to develop.
Petiole rot is caused by fertilizer salts built up on the top layer of soil or on the rim of clay pots. To avoid petiole rot, clean your pot rim regularly. You may want to wax the rim to help the pot avoid any accumulation of fertilizer.
The Humidity Levels in Your Home
If your African violet plant is looking limp or droopy, it may be a result of the humidity levels in your home. African violets thrive in humid environments.
As their name suggests, African violets are originally from the Usambara Mountains of eastern Africa, where humidity levels are high— usually between 70 and 80 percent.
As African violets have spread globally and become house plants, they have needed less humidity. The average African violet houseplant today requires a humidity level of between 50 to 60 percent.
If the humidity level is too low, the Violet will transpire water faster than it is able to absorb water. This, like underwatering, will cause the plant to become desiccated, dried out, and limp.
You can help your plant by maintaining humidity levels in your home. You can either use a humidifier or use a spray bottle to mist the area around your violet daily.
The Temperature in Your Home
Like the humidity levels in the home, the temperature of your home can affect your African violet. If the home is too cold, it could cause your African violet to become limp and droopy.
African violets are originally found in the mountains of Kenya and Tanzania. The plant is used to relatively warm temperatures.
If your plant is near the window during winter, the cold air could be affecting it.
Ideally, your home should be between 60° and 80° Fahrenheit. Any colder than 60° and the plant may stop growing altogether. Lower temperatures will certainly cause your plant to wilt.
Unfortunately, the impact of cold temperatures on the plant can take several weeks to become visible. By the time you notice the damage, it may be too late to save the plant.
In some cases, though, the damage can be reversible. Move the cold, droopy violet into a warmer area. For example, during winter months, you may want to move it closer to a furnace.
You will also want to prune any dry or desiccated leaves from the plant. If your plant is far gone, you can try reviving it by sealing it in a plastic bag.
The plastic bag will help your plant retain heat and may help bring your plant back to life. Do not check on it for a week for the best chance of revival.
If the leaves on your African violet are drooping downwards, or the leaf stems on the bottom leaves are becoming brown and mushy, your African violet may be suffering from root rot.
Root rot can lead your plant to become mushy, pulpy, and soft. If affected with root rot, your plant may seem to droop, losing its life and color.
Root rot is a disease that affects a wide variety of plants, both outdoor and house plants. However, it impacts indoor plants with greater frequency.
Due to the fact that roots are mostly underground, root rot can be difficult to detect. Oftentimes it goes unnoticed until the damage reaches the upper stems, flowers, and leaves.
Plants that contract root rot often have their roots turn from strong, white, and supportive into black, brown, soft, and limp stubs. The affected roots may easily fall off from the rest of the plant.
The leaves of an affected plant will become limp, wilt, and can become discolored. The overall plant’s growth will be stunted.
Generally, root rot will lead to the death of a plant. In some cases, however, it is treatable. While the affected plant might not be able to survive, you can still propagate it and create a new plant.
What Causes Root Rot?
Root rot is often caused by inefficient drainage. Too much water is already harmful to your African violet. If your pot is not draining properly, your plant can also develop root rot.
Surplus water will lead to waterlogging. Waterlogging essentially clogs the roots, which prevents oxygen from traveling through the plant.
In addition to excess water, root rot can also occur if the soil is too dense. Bad fertilizer or insufficient light are all also causes that can lead to root rot.
Some spores and water molds are known to cause root rot. Spores are airborne, but can also be transferred by bugs.
Root rot is contagious, so it can spread from plant to plant. Be sure to isolate any affected plant.
How to Treat Root Rot
In most cases, the best way to treat root rot is to get rid of the affected plant. This is the best way to ensure the rot does not spread to other plants.
Most often, by the time you notice the rot, it is too late to save the plant. However, if the rot is localized to a specific area, you may be able to amputate the area and save the rest of the plant.
If you choose to cut off the affected area to attempt to save your plant, you will want to replace the soil. This will give your African violet a better chance at survival.
Any number of parasites could be causing damage to your African violet. Here are the most common parasites that frequently wreak havoc on African violets.
Cyclamen mites are frequent destroyers of African violets. They are sap-sucking pests that impact a variety of houseplants.
These mites operate by biting into the leaves and draining the contents of the cell. The damage caused by cyclamen mites can be severe and persistent.
They are extremely small arachnids with eight legs. Measuring at less than 1/100th of an inch, they are very difficult to see with the human eye.
Due to their size, the cyclamen mites can be rather difficult to detect. Some people don’t notice the infestation until it’s too late to save the plant.
Cyclamen mites live on all parts of an African violet. They can be found on the leaves, stems, and flowers.
The mites like to hide between the folds and curves of the flowers and leaves. Often, they will avoid light and dwell in the hidden ruffles and curves of the plant.
These mites are extremely destructive to African violets. If an infestation goes unchecked, the mites may end up irreparably destroying your plant.
Cyclamen mites can and will spread to other plants in your greenhouse or home. Be sure to take care when treating the problem. The mites can spread via clothing, hands, and can easily transfer to nearby plants.
You will want to isolate any affected plant and be sure to wash your hands, clothing, and disinfect the surrounding area. If you catch an infestation, be sure to monitor your other plants for signs of mites.
To help treat your African violet, you will want to trim or prune off any affected areas. Once you have cut off the badly affected leaves and flowers, submerge the plant in a hot water bath for around 20 minutes. The water should be around 110°F (43.3°C).
You can also use pesticides to try and get the infection under control. Fill a spray bottle with insecticidal soap and spray the plant. You should apply insecticidal soap every three days.
Unfortunately, the damage that cyclamen mites cause can be too severe. Oftentimes, it is better to throw the plant away than to try and save it. The mites are invasive, and by the time you have noticed the damage, the destruction may be irreparable.
Thrips are another pest that frequently causes damage to African violets. They are extremely small insects and can cause great damage to your plants.
A frequent terror to greenhouses, there are over 6,000 recognized species. At less than 1mm long, these insects operate very similarly to the cyclamen mites. They puncture the leaves of the plant and suck up its contents.
Thrips often carry and spread plant diseases. They are frequently known for spreading the tospovirus.
Thrips often thrive in greenhouses due to the lack of natural predators. Their population can grow unchecked and wreak havoc on all of your plants. For this reason, it is important to get your thrip population under control.
To treat a thrip infestation, you will want to prune off any impacted areas. Use plant scissors or shears to cut off the damaged, dried, or browning parts of the plant.
Use insecticidal soap to eliminate any unwanted thrips. You can purchase a variety of insecticidal soaps at any gardening store. Be careful when choosing insecticidal soap, though, as some plants are more sensitive and resistant to certain chemicals.
Alternatively, you could create your own insecticidal soap. To do so, simply mix a household oil (such as vegetable, peanut, or soybean) with regular dishwashing soap.
Mealybugs are small insects that thrive in warm, humid climates. They frequently feed on greenhouse plants and often spread diseases.
If you have a mealybug infestation, you may notice the leaves on your African violet begin to yellow and curl. The insects are draining the plant of its nutrients, and weakening it.
At 1/10th of an inch long, they are larger than the cyclamate, but still relatively tiny. There are 275 different species of mealybug that can be found in the United States. As such, they are a common greenhouse pest.
To treat a mealybug infestation, you will want to prune any area that has been impacted. It is suggested to clean off the other areas with rubbing alcohol to make the plant undesirable for the insects.
There are several insects that are hostile towards mealy bugs. These include ladybugs and lacewings. Consider adding these natural predators to your greenhouse to tame the mealybug infestation.
Insecticidal soap can also help you to keep the infestation under control.
Neem oil— a vegetable oil from a particular evergreen tree— is another substance that will help curb the spread of mealybugs. Neem oil is a natural substance that is frequently used in organic farming to help control invasive pests.
Those are the most common culprits that will cause your African violet to look limp and droopy. Good luck with gardening!