How to recover African Violets after Nitrogen Overload?


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So I bought and planted my African Violets in about November, and only figured out recently their off growth hadn't been from the fact the seller had crammed 5 into one pot and 4 into another, the pots being far smaller than the plants themselves... I accidentally potted them in a mix with fertiliser already in it. They have Nitrogen Overload. After I repot them, what can I do? I still need another pot, too, to give them a fair bit of room. I have them still 3 in one pot, 5 in the other, they'd almost been stuck together when I repotted them in the first place, and since being in their current pots were able to spread. The one that I had to fully change the soil of (It was infested with many unknown parasites) is doing far worse too. All the leaves are pale, solid light green and curled, and they've developed thin stalks with leaves coming off it almost like a branch or trunk (not the same as the palm like root trunk that can form). Even if that's permanent, I want my plants to recover. Their current pots are orchid pots, they get decent light, and I don't always use the same water. The filtered water here lacks things like magnesium, while the tap water has too much calcium, and the fish tanks soft water has enough nutrients for anything to thrive. So I tend to give them a bit of everything. They're indoor plants usually watered using a pot tray, and the topsoil is covered with light plastic gravel to help keep it moist for longer. They get watered once every two weeks or so, letting the soil dry mostly between waterings. The room they're in has very high humidity, and aside from the colour and curling the leaves are growing well but slowly. I prune any leaves that show any necrosis or damage, which is rare.
 
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Didn't know they needed hard water, thanks! All I have to do is not treat my tap water or get bottled water. XD Thanks to my fish tanks I can easily test the PH.
 

alp

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As my observations went (30 years ago), they were extremely happy in an air-conditioned rooms, with totally indirect sunlight, but a lot of it.
 
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My wife raises only African Violets and Orchids and does great with both. The one pictured was a victim of neglect in the local grocery store a year ago. She bought a new pot and repotted it after removing the existing soil. She never waters the flowers or the soil directly but puts only rain water in the bottom section of the pot. She never waters any of her plants with anything but rainwater.
 

alp

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As pointed out by @Silentrunning , African violets prefer rainwater. Just don't overwater them.

Here is advice from RHS

Cultivation notes


From spring to autumn, position plants in a brightly lit situation out of direct sunlight, such as on an east or west-facing windowsill. In the winter due to low light levels a south-facing windowsill is suitable.

The minimum temperature required is 18-24°C (65-75°F) by day and 16°C (60°F) by night. Avoid cold draughts and sudden changes in temperature.

It is essential to provide humidity around the plant by standing the pot on a saucer filled with gravel, expanded clay granules (Hydroleca) or recycled lightweight aggregate (Hortag). Keep the water level just below the surface of the gravel or aggregate.

Watering
Keep compost moist but wait until the surface of the compost is dry before watering. Bear in mind the moisture-retaining qualities of the compost and avoid watering too frequently.

Use water at room temperature. Do not let the water come in contact with the leaves, especially cold water direct from the tap, as it will chill plants and can mark the leaves.

Feeding
Supplementary feeding can be carried out using a dilute liquid feed at three to four week intervals during spring and summer when plants are actively growing.

Compost
Root growth is fibrous and a good percentage of organic matter is required, therefore pot into John Innes No.2 compost, with 30 percent by volume added peat substitute. Alternatively use specialist houseplant compost.

Repotting of established plants is usually necessary only after two to three years and should be carried out in spring. Use 9-10cm (3½-4in) pots for final potting, but for growing very large plants and for the most aesthetically pleasing effect, shallow 12cm (5in) pots or pans may be used.
 
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Rainwater isn't an option, aside from being in drought here the rain picks up a lot of nasty stuff. My window is West facing, I had had them there. The house thankfully usually is around the right temps, the main issue is the fact these have nitrogen overload- waay too strong fertaliser in the soil I grabbed... Wrong bag. Thankfully thanks to the area and fish tanks, it's always humid. XD Didn't know about the gravel though, I have loads spare, I'll add it to their water dishes. I do know about things like the leaves being incredibly sensitive to water, and in fact, if you do water them a patch of direct sunlight draws it right out if only used for a couple of minutes. =D
The tank water is warm, the tap water is cold, now I know why they liked that soft water better... As for feeding, I was giving them orchid slow release fertiliser in one of those baskets that sits on top of the soil so I could just drip some water through when needed to fertalise them.
Compost is a weird thing. I'd been putting their dead leaves back in after the initial giant pruning they had to have when I got them, and I know next to nothing on composts and soil PH and stuff. The more you can tell me, the better- I'm Autistic so I need simple but highly detailed explanations, especially on stuff I don't understand. I at least know what peat moss is, though the stuff we have is all brown but still soft (My mum is an avid orchid gardener, though I've only been able to keep minitures going. XD).

Thanks for all this info, though when it comes to the repotting even though they've only been in for a few months it really has to be done, it's the only way to remove the fertaliser. I'm just waiting on info on what I can do to keep them from going into shock, or help them recover in the first place from the overload (such as would I add a certain mineral through the water to help negate what's already in the plant?). I did enough research to narrow down the cause, but I sadly can't find anything on actually fixing it beyond 'stop fertilising it'... Which can only be done by a heavy repot that removes all soil. =[ The one that's faring better still had a nice clump of its original soil around its roots so it wouldn't get shock. I sorta half know what I'm doing, I know stuff like how to tickle their roots to get all soil off if something goes wrong and the right ways to pot it (The orchid pots they're in are indeed 5 inches deep, but around 10 wide, and took an orchid show to find). Sorry if I seem like I'm trying to argue, I'm not, I'm just trying to find the right info I need while giving you what you may need to help.
 
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Excess nitrogen can cause such symptoms.
But I would also take a magnifying glass and check for a cyclamen mites. (Tarsonemus pallidus)

The earth should be light and loose. I add the perlite, coarse sand or vermiculite separately.

Each plant should grow in a separate pot. If you notice that the bush is divided inside the pot, this means that you have to pull the plant, divide it and then plant each plant in a separate pot. After transplanting, old leaves may wilt, it's not scary.
Like that.

35.jpg


Exception - trailer. This violet has several long stems that grow on one common stem. These stems can not be separated.

34.jpg
 
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So the 10 inch wide 5 inch deep pot can't have 3 each in a triangle? Ah well, looks like it has to wait even longer... I can only get the right kind of shallow pots at the orchid show. ;-; What's perlite and vermiculite? Also, the ones I bought were indded individual plants, even the roots, though tangled, were different systems... I lost one of the worse off ones a few days back. I have checked for mites and not seen any, nor any symptoms of mites. The leaves are uniform in colour on the sicker plants, all light green. =[ Thank you for telling me what I need to add. Though getting the pots is gonna be annoying, they'll have to make do with each other for a while longer even after repotting unless I stick them in tiny pots where they'll get rootbound...
 

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perlite is a very slight white material used by a lot of gardeners to aid drainage so that roots won't sit in the soil and rot. It is used by a lot of people in potting mixed. Find the smaller size, not the medium one. Vermiculite has the benefit of improving soil structure.

Also remember, you can take cutting very easily with the leaves of African violets. If you go to utube and find videos on propagating African Violet, you can easily get an heir and several spares. Tap water rested for a few hours and with added warm water so that it warms up the plant is a good idea. Remember, these plants like moisture and thrive in woodland, so rainwater is better. But you haven't got it, the plant will just have to get used to to your water. You can also add a very weak fertiliser to your spray and spray the plant. West facing sun is a bit harsh, but as long as it is indirect, and the moisture is raised, it will help the plants.
 
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So the 10 inch wide 5 inch deep pot can't have 3 each in a triangle?
Can not. This depresses the plants.
As the @alp said, perlite is a natural material of volcanic origin. Looks like that.

perlit37minn-250x150.jpg


Natural vermiculite is a natural mineral too. Looks like that.

kak-vyrastit-rassadu-s-primeneniem-vermikulita.jpg


Both materials are used for loose soil. In the soil, you can also add coarse sand and a little moss. :)
 
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alp

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Perlite and vermiculite are not a must. In this instance, perlite is more useful for improving drainage. Most important of all is not to let the root rot in stagnant water and don't overwater it. Avoid water coming into contact with leaves at all costs. And take leaf cutting from time to time.
 
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I can finally get that stuff tomorrow, I will fully repot the sicker ones, and leave some soil around the roots of the healthier ones again. I can't get them their own pots until the next Orchid show comes through, though I will be looking! I'm definately going to pick up some perlite. I won't be taking leaf cuttings because then I'll be overwhelmed with plants I can only get pots for once a year...
Still, yeah, will be adding some gravel to their water dish, and will water in small intervals over the course of two days as they dry out on the surface instead of just filling the dish and going. I might even try getting some PH upper at my favourite pet store and see if letting some water age with it will help. I'll mix that water with some tap water during watering, but the bulk of the water will come out of my fish tanks still as those are very high in nutrients and very good for many plants, the closest thing I have to rain water.

Bad news: I tried putting the sicker ones closer by the window but they're still rolling downhill. If they die after the repotting, though, at least I can separate some of the 5 in the other pot. I lost one of the sick ones, down to just 3 of them. They're getting the full force of the fertiliser stuck in the soil, unlike the others... I'm going to repot while the soil is moist, rather than let it dry out.
Edit: Forgot to mention, they do have some brown moss on top of their soil (The kind you pot african violets in) that I added along with some lightweight gravel to help keep moisture in longer, even though this is a very high humidity environment. I have lots of that moss but it's all brown instead of green.
 
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Of course the traffic and everything else was nuts today. -_- Managed to get to the bank, failed to get to Bunnings.
 

alp

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We have Bunnings here now. They have bought up our Homebase. The one called Bunnings is really lovely. We drove all the way to go there and it has a lovely gc. All the other Homebase branches are still named Homebase. We always go there for our plants. One day, a checkout lady asked us, "No bargains today?" Last time we went through her till, we bought all the Aechmea / bromeliads for 75p and some of them are still growing very well. Some have thrown up new shoots and I then found out that I needed to water from the urn.. Things that you learn when you google!
 
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Replanted, 4 to a pot! I can't help but notice the suffering ones had much smaller roots... It seems they were stunted in their pots and couldn't grow through the fertiliser rich soil. The soil across the bottom is packed but all the soil above, including with the african violets, is loose. The decorational stones were rehomed to the water dishes as I was unable to get perlite in a small bag. I can easily add more sphagnum moss (I probably mispelled that) if needed. The soil is already damp and easy so I'm letting them settle for the night before wating in half hour intervals tomorrow.
 

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I don't think you need to add sphagnum moss. But I am not 100% sure.

Here from RHS

Compost
Root growth is fibrous and a good percentage of organic matter is required, therefore pot into John Innes No.2 compost, with 30 percent by volume added peat substitute. Alternatively use specialist houseplant compost.

Repotting of established plants is usually necessary only after two to three years and should be carried out in spring. Use 9-10cm (3½-4in) pots for final potting, but for growing very large plants and for the most aesthetically pleasing effect, shallow 12cm (5in) pots or pans may be used.

You don't need to buy John Innes 2. The RHS might get income plugging the stuff. MIGHT as I am not 100% sure either. But need to keep your judicious mind.

What is in John Innes 2 compost?

Just buy any decent but cheap and cheerful houseplant compost. Some people do use peat. It depends on your ethics.

Here's more on the page

https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=942
 
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I just add it around the base of the plant to help keep the dirt from building up too much around the base/stems, and to make it easier for the plant to shoot. The mix I got has compost mixed in! And I can buy horse poo by the kilo around here. It's late Autumn but the conditions in the house are steady, thankfully. The pots are indeed shallow, much shallower than they are wide. Only about 3 and a half inches tall. I'm not really sure if I can get that kind of compost here, sadly.
I forgot to add, the healthier ones had very long roots because I had put most of their old soil in the bottom of the pot since theirs had no bugs. They had reached down into that and spread nicely.
 
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alp

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Horse poo? I don't think you need that. Leaf mould and tomorite would be fine. I have the feeling that you over-complicate the process. But I could be wrong. Find the name Dibleys as they are British specialist on Streptocarpus and African violets. Also google youtube and see what size of pot they suggest when potting up please. Try to find advice to nurseries or suppliers please.
 
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