Special to the OBSERVER
African violets are one of the most popular flowering houseplants and the reason is obvious. They are floriferous almost continuously. So why is your violet going through a down time right now with prolonged flowerless days? Perhaps it's time to repot your plant.
Repotting is a must for violets at least once per year. One reason is that your violet may have outgrown its pot. This is good news, as it means that you are caring for your plant so well that it is growing nicely. Another reason could be that the soil is "tired" and needs to be replaced. If you are attentive to your plant, you have fed it well over the year. This results in an excess of salts in the soil and a depletion of minerals used by the violet.
Allow your plant to wilt a bit before repotting. This helps prevent breaking of the fragile leaves, swollen and turgid from water. Now gather the supplies you will need - several sheets of newspaper, a clean pot (plastic is preferable) with a radius of about 1/3 the radius of your plant and good drainage; a paring knife; your plant; and some potting soil expressly for African violets. If you wish to use regular potting mix, use potting mix, perlite, and vermiculite, as violets like a well-draining mix.
Spread the newspaper to facilitate cleanup. Dampen your soil lightly so it holds a crumbly ball when pressed in your hand. Gently remove your plant from its pot. Inspect the roots. If you have any darkened or diseased roots, you need to take other measures. Search "root rot" on the internet or in your library for remedies. If your roots are healthy and full, study the leaves. The bottom two or three rows of leaves should be removed. Also any broken, water spotted, unsightly, or dried leaves should come off. This leaves an elongated neck on your plant. With your fingernail or your paring knife, gently scrape away the brown crust on the neck until a nice green surface is exposed. Then using your knife, cut off half of the root ball from the bottom.
Put a bit of soil in the bottom of your clean pot so that when you place your violet on the soil surface, the crown is above the lip of the pot. Fill in around the root ball and under the lower leaves until about " away from the lip of the pot, getting soil almost up to the level of the lower leaves but without covering them.
Tap your pot gently on the table to settle the soil. Don't push it down with your fingers too firmly as the roots need air. Water lightly and you are finished!
Remember, overwatering is the main cause of African violet problems. They do not like to have wet feet nor do they like to be bone dry. Wait until the surface of the soil is dry and then water with a diluted violet fertilizer. With proper watering and fresh soil, your African violet will be thanking you in no time with an abundance of flowers again.
Mary Harris, Master Gardener (CCE) Cornell Cooperative Extension