Question: The crown of my plant stops growing and divides into 3-4 little sucker-crowns. The plant seems to be dividing at the crown and I can’t seem to distinguish which one is the true crown. I had a plant do this previously, and when the two crowns were large enough, I split them and got two plants.
Answer: “Crown-suckers” can be especially disfiguring, since identifying the true crown, as well as their removal, can be difficult. Their cause can be either cultural or genetic. An African violet will often sucker when subjected to stress–it’s a means of survival. Extreme heat, overfertilization, a toxic reaction to chemicals, and disbudding are a few of the possible causes. In each case, the plant tries to survive by vegetatively reproducing itself through suckering. In many other cases, unfortunately, this habit is genetic. These varieties will tend to crown-sucker more often than others, especially when subjected to stressful conditions. An example is an older variety of ours, ‘Rob’s April Storm’ which, though beautiful, would always seem to do this at the worst of times (like when grown for show). Even different plants grown from leaf cuttings would tend to do this eventually (the trait being genetic).
The best recommendation would be to provide good culture, minimizing stress, and to avoid growing varieties with this habit (which can be hard to know before the fact). Propagate only from plants of this variety that tend not to have this habit. Once crown-suckers begin to form, carefully remove them, if this can be done, to allow only one crown to develop, or let each crown grow to a size large enough where they can be divided into separate plants, as was done by this grower.