Question: I’m growing a number of violets, most of them in a couple of windows in my kitchen. One of them has very “spooned” leaves. The outer edges are curved upwards, and the foliage is very thick and brittle. Is this normal? I’ve had mites on my violets before–is it possible that I’ve got them again?
Answer: It’s possible that thick, brittle, and “spooned” leaves can be evidence of a mite infestation, but it’s unlikely the case here. To begin, only one of your violets is growing in this manner. Since you’re growing them all in one area together, it’s likely that if one had mites, others would. It’s more likely that what you’re seeing is particular to this one variety (which was the case when the caller identified this plant).
In addition to this variety’s genetic predisposition to spooning, age, stress, and environment can be contributing factors. Some varieties of African violets that may have flat leaves when young will tend to spoon more as they age. We know this to be true of the variety you are growing. The age of the plant, and the time since its last repotting, may have something to do with the thickness and brittleness of the foliage, too. As the old soil accumulates excess minerals, so will the plant tissues. Having very “hard” water ourselves, we try to regularly repot our plants–as our plants spend more time in the same soil, getting the same water, they tend to develop thicker, stiffer, leaves. Spooning is also a common reaction to stress or extreme conditions, such as heat and drought. We’ll tend to see more of this during the summer months, especially, when our growing area can be quite warm. Varieties that want to spoon will do so then, and even others that normally don’t might do so if conditions get extreme enough.