Question: Should I ever remove leaves from my violet? I would guess so but, other than removing obviously dead ones, I have no idea how to decide. Which ones need to be removed?
Answer: Yes. Most (non trailing) varieties only need to have 3 or 4 rows of leaves since blooms are produced only from those leaves. This means a total of no more than a dozen or so leaves. Some larger plants grown for exhibition may have more but, even then, not as many as you might think. Their large size is due more to the size of the leaves rather than the number of them. For some varieties, especially those with very wavy, girl, or ruffled leaves, removing excess foliage is even more important. If out leaves are never removed on these varieties, new growth becomes very crowded in the center as there becomes no place for it to grow, and the leaves that are produced can be distorted or misshapen. Further, bloom stalks that are produced have a hard time finding their way up through the foliage.
How to decide which leaves to remove? Plant “symmetry” or “form” is important, but this is a concept that can be difficult for some to grasp (not everyone has an “eye” for this). Instead, here are a couple of never-fail, easy to understand rules that can be followed. Rule #1: always groom from the bottom up. The first leaf to be removed is always that leaf that is growing from the lowest point on the plant. Look at the plant from the side (not from the top), and determine which leaf is (or leaves are) growing from the lowest point. This is the oldest leaf on the plant and is the first to be removed. Now you can look at the plant from overhead. If it doesn’t have the shape that you want, remove another. Which one? Repeat rule #1. Rule #2: looking from above, leaves hidden beneath other leaves are unnecessary and can be removed (assuming twisted and out of place leaves have been properly arranged). These leaves are invariably older leaves, growing beneath younger ones, that add nothing to the symmetry of the plant. Removing them will not even be noticed, since leaves above them already occuply the same space!
Finally, be certain to remove leaves being produced from the axils between existing leaves–these are suckers! The only place where new growth should appear is from the crown, or top, of the plant (except on trailers). Removing suckers as soon as they appear not only improves symmetry and overall appearance, but it will encourage your plant to produce more flowers, sooner.