Question: I’d like to know why some of my violets grow by spreading out and others are growing upright like trees. These drop their bottom leaves and grow taller. Is there anything that I need to do to look after them?
Answer: There are a few possibilities. If “spreading out” means that the plant is becoming wider by producing more crowns and leaves, there are two possible reasons. The first is that the violet has been allowed to develop more than one crown (growing point in the center of leaves). This happens when “suckers”–the small, secondary crowns growing from the leaf axils, are not removed and are allowed to develop into larger crowns. If this is the case, divide the plant so that each of the new plants has only one crown. Pot each of these plants separately into their own pots. In the future, remove suckers as soon as it becomes obvious that they are not blossom buds. The plant will bloom better and grow more attractively if this is done on a regular basis. The other possibility is that the violet is a “trailing” variety, that, by its nature, freely produces additional crowns. The difference is that trailing varieties produce additional crowns without harming blooming potential or the display of foliage. Most good trailing varieties will produce this growth in the form of “runners” that often have a vine-like or crawling habit. The additional crowns on trailing varieties need not be removed.
As for those violets growing “upright like trees”, this is usually the result of not repotting frequently enough. Violets are no different than other plants–as new leaves are produced, older leaves are lost. As the older, lower, leaves are removed, a “neck” (bare stem) develops over time. If they are not repotted on a regular basis, the neck will become more and more visible. Nearly all violets should be repotted about twice a year. Repotting doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger pot! Use only a pot the size of the plant’s root system, and not larger. Repotting means removing some of the older soil (and a few roots), lowering the plant in its pot, and adding fresh soil, in the process burying the neck. The lowest row of leaves on the repotted violet should lay flat on top of the pot rim. Don’t worry about “shocking” the plant–if repotting is done regularly, then not much of a neck will need to be buried and not much of the old soil needs to be removed, so that your violet will barely notice that anything’s been done to it.