Monday, June 24, 2024

African violets: Repotting

If it’s been more than 6 months, and it’s time to repot your violet.  It’s best to do this when it when needed.  Don’t wait until your violet stops blooming–well cared for, it might not stop blooming!

Waiting too long only makes the job more difficult.  What is a simple job when done now, will become a BIG one if delayed (see “restoring your African violet”).  If done properly and carefully, your violet will continue to grow and bloom even after you’ve repotted it
First, remove all but the freshest, healthiest, leaves and blooms.  If you keep them now, you’ll only have to remove them in the near future–this will just create another problem that you’ll have to solve later.

A small neck (bare stem) will appear at the base of the plant above the soil level.  Since the neck is only about 1/2″ in length, it will be easy to lower the plant and cover the neck when repotting.

Pull the plant out from the pot.  This should be easy with a mature plant having a full root system.

Gently massage away much of the old soil and root system.  A general rule is this: the size of the root system below the soil should be large enough to support the foliage above the soil.  Since we’ve remove about half of the foliage, we can remove about half of the roots.  Don’t worry, we want to encourage new roots and leaves.

Using a clean pot (a 4″ pot is sufficient for a standard size violet), fill the bottom with fresh soil.  Then, holding the violet over the pot, tilt it to one side, and add fresh soil.  Turn the pot, tilt the plant to the other side, and add more fresh soil until the pot is full.

When done, your violet should appear to be resting atop a small mound of loose soil.  The secret: have enough soil so that you won’t have to add more when the plant is lowered in the pot (the mound is pushed down)–this will be much harder to do without making a bigger mess.

All that you need to do now is press-down the mound of soil.  Working with your fingers beneath the leaves, move around the pot and gently press and smooth the soil.  Since you’re working beneath the leaves, and don’t need to add more soil, this should be easy to do without making a “mess”.

Brush away the loose soil and dust from the pot.  When finished, you’ll have a still-blooming, freshly potted violet!


  • DenaAugust 18, 2022 11:17 amHello! I purchased a few self watering ceramic pots for my African Violets. My question is: Do I leave the water in the reservoir and refill it when it dries out, or when the soil is almost dry, or do I wait until my violets absorbed enough water and then dump out the excess water? Thank you. DenaReply
    • Violet BarnAugust 20, 2022 11:28 amEither. If your soil mix is very light (at least 50% perlite) reservoir can be kept full. That said, at least an occasional (at least partial) drying of soil can help–if let to totally dry, may be hard to “restart” the absorption through the inner pot.
  • Anne LagacheApril 23, 2022 1:07 pmHi! I’m obviously new to V.B. I tried to read all over for an answer to my question but haven’t found it: if I rotate pots so as to put my violets in a clean pot every few months, How should I do clean up the pots?
    Particularly ones in which they’ve lived for years and have gotten encrusted by I don’t know.
    I don’t want to clean the pot up with something that reactivates after I repot my Violet in later with the first watering!!
    I killed treasured plants mysteriously and these are my longest lasting plants whom I wish to keep “forever!”
    Thank you.
    Anne LagacheReply
    • Violet BarnMay 20, 2022 11:27 amWe wash and reuse all of our plastic pots. We soak them in a large tub of hot water with detergent. We will add a small amount of bleach if needed. Then we rinse pots in clear water. What little residue there might be isn’t enough tom matter when used again.
  • Charles HouldingAugust 18, 2019 11:59 pmI’ve grown AVs in five states, since 1968, Florida to Alaska, but Waco Texas is tough! From late November through February there’s a fungal infestation which attacks the roots, dwarfs petioles, curls and pits leaves, and eventually kills some varieties as stem rot advances. I’ve tried reducing watering, diazinon, stopped wick watering. This decimates my collection! I even ordered a replacement plant from another Texas grower and it too had pitted leaves on arrival. Any suggestions other than leave Texas?Reply
    • Violet BarnAugust 19, 2019 4:36 pmTypically fungal problems arise in damp/humid/warm conditions. Can’t comment on your specific problems but can relate some general advice. Apparently even the recent harvests of peat have had issues–this is what we were told by one company representative. We use a mix with a bit more perlite and try to keep things from staying too wet. We also add Physan to our water every few weeks.
  • Ann T WrennAugust 3, 2019 12:38 pmI would like to convert my African violets to the same soil mix as I repot each one, eventually having all of my plants in the same mix. You recommend 50% vermiculite or other similar component, but what should I use for the other half? I don’t understand “soil-less” mix. I have about 20 plants in my collection, many are needing repotting now.Reply
    • Violet BarnAugust 19, 2019 4:42 pm100 people will give you 100 different soil recipes. Basically, the idea is to add more perlite the wetter you keep your plants. “Soil-less” just means not containing any top soil or garden loam–i.e. peat-based. Our “all purpose” mix, for example, is about 40% peat, 40% vermiculite (two grades), and 20% perlite. Our “wicking” mix, for plants kept constantly wet, contains a little more than 50% perlite.
  • L MarcusMay 30, 2019 3:18 pmI have a 4 year old African Violet. It has been repotted from 3 times since the original 2 inch pot. The blooms are about 5 to 6 inches across and are there for weeks at a time. The pot is 10 inches. Am I supposed to break the root system into two sections and use smaller pots? How can I keep my beautiful AV going?Reply
    • Violet BarnJune 12, 2019 11:54 amYou shouldn’t have to break the root system into sections unless the plant has become multicrowned. Best to grow as a single crown–remove suckers as they appear. If it has become multicrowned, then divide the plant and root ball, and pot into a pot just slightly larger than the resulting root ball.
  • KellyMay 19, 2019 7:48 pmIs it good to use miracle grow orchid mix potting soil when repotting African violets? I’m going to buy African violet mix but I read that the orchid mix helps to aerate the soil.Reply
    • Violet BarnMay 20, 2019 4:08 pmThe best mix will have a good amount of coarse vermiculite and perlite. The wetter you keep the soil, the more perlite you will need. Many commercially available “African violet” mixes aren’t as porous as you would like. An orchid mix would be much lighter and would likely work well if you keep your plants on the wet side.
  • Leslie & John RhoadesJanuary 4, 2019 3:45 pmHello VB, We’ve decided to go to wick watering to make it easier for our plant sitter to take care of our violets while we’re away. We have purchased your soil designed for this and plan to reuse the 4” clay pots our violets currently reside in. Could you provide some pointers on repotting with wicks…length, placement, start up, fertilizing, should we move back to plastic pots, etc.?
    • Violet BarnJanuary 5, 2019 11:05 pmIf you plan on wicking, would use plastic pots, since the whole point behind a self-watering system is to keep the soil constantly moist. Most importantly, be certain to use a potting mix containing at least 50% perlite.
  • AlinaSeptember 4, 2018 1:32 amShould we put some draining material at the base of the pot, before the potting mixture or isn’t this necessary?And I have one more question: is it wrong if I grow the violets close together, so they are touching leaves and there is no space visible between them? (they seem like one large plant)
    Thank you wery much for all your advices, I love your site!Reply
    • Violet BarnSeptember 9, 2018 6:25 pmIf your potting mix is light and porous enough (contains plenty of perlite and/or coarse vermiculite) the drainage material in bottom of pot likely isn’t needed. Some self-watering pots (like “Oyama” pots, or “Texas” method) need a layer of perlite to work best. As for crowding of plants, this can be done, but violets will always grow better given their own space.
  • Janice NistaJuly 5, 2018 4:48 pmI just found your website the other day. Thank you for the wealth of information! I have an African Violet that I got at a bridal shower a number of years ago. My dad repotted it for me several times and, not knowing any better, he put it in a very large pot the last time it was repotted. I’d like to take it down to a smaller, healthier pot size in hopes of encouraging blooming. Am I going to have difficulty doing this? Should I just rub off the old soil and root system until I see a size that looks more in line with a 4″ pot? I haven’t unpotted my plant yet so I’m honestly not sure *what* I’ll find! Thanks for your help.Reply
  • ScottJuly 3, 2018 7:58 pmDo you sterilize the vermiculite and perlite in your mixes? If so, what is the best way to do this at home?Reply
    • Violet BarnJuly 4, 2018 8:22 amThese ingredients are generally ‘sterile’ to begin with. We don’t sterilize.
  • Dave HaaseJanuary 11, 2018 10:51 pmI have a Chicago Flair that I purchased from you back in August. It has done spectacularly! It has a few blooms on it and is producing more and looks wonderful! I currently have it in a 4″ pot, but it is now about 12″ in diameter (3x pot size) and has been in the same pot since it was purchased, about 6 months ago.I have a couple of questions: 1) Should I go ahead and re-pot it after coming out of a 2-1/2″ pot? 2) Should I re-pot it into a larger pot and leave the leaves as-is. 3) Should I remove some of the lower leaves, root prune and then re-pot into the same 4″ pot. Or, 4) should I leave it alone for a month or two?Reply
    • Violet BarnJanuary 13, 2018 12:07 pmConfused about what pot size it’s in (you said both 2 1/2″ and 4″). In any event, from size we ship (2.5″) can go into 4″ pot. This may be sufficient grown as a houseplant (i.e. your 12″ plant). If you choose to grow much larger (a “showplant” for example) perhaps a 5″ pot (or even 6″ if very large). If repotting into same size pot (the 4″ pot), you can prune both some leaves and roots–this will give the plant a fresh start and encourage new growth of both roots and foliage. If you are intending to grow as a large, display plant, and are “potting up” into larger pot, you can leave healthy leaves and roots on plant. If you do want a large (show)plant, you can disbud as well, as this will encourage a larger plant with larger leaves. As a “houseplant” this isn’t necessary, and a 4″ pot should be sufficient–just repot, with fresh soil, into the same 4″ pot every 6-12 months.
  • David HaaseJanuary 10, 2018 4:09 pmI have typically used small-grained pumice instead of perlite. I’ve found that it works better because it doesn’t “float” in the soil and seems to hold roots better while still allowing great drainage. Have you had any experience with pumice?Reply
    • Violet BarnJanuary 11, 2018 1:31 pmWe haven’t, but should be no reason it doesn’t work as well, since it has similar properties.
    • MarieFebruary 4, 2020 12:22 amWhat’s the ratio of pumice do you use in you mix? Perlite is quiet expensive here in the Philippines.
    • Violet BarnFebruary 10, 2020 6:50 pmAbout 10% in our all-purpose mix, about 50% in the wicking mix. You can use any other coarse ingredient that won’t absorb much water and serves to aerate the soil. Some mixes use beads of styrofoam, or charcoal could be used.
  • Shirley GordonNovember 9, 2017 1:12 pmI have a lovely pink and white variegated African violet that has been in bloom for more
    than 3 weeks. I notice that the big outer leaves are all “drooping”. I did overwater the
    poor thing, and poured off as much as I could. Should I repot it into a 8″ pot?Reply
    • Violet BarnNovember 10, 2017 1:33 pmGiven that this is your suspicion, likely yes. After repotting, you need to be more careful in watering, since the root system may not be able to process the additional water you are giving it before it begins to grow new roots into the additional soil. An 8″ pot is WAY too big–this will only make overwatering even more likely. No larger than a 4 or 5″ pot.
  • Erika FischerOctober 17, 2017 6:51 amYour website is full of wonderful information in clear, direct language and illustrative photos. Have you thought of starting or keeping a U-tube channel ? I concentrate on orchids and violets and found the information and “how to” videos done by “the orchid girl” to be better than the orchid society magazine. Check it out: she has a huge following because she is a teacher for those of us who can’t join clubs or societies to gain plant knowledge. Your website, by the way, is one of the best I have encountered so far. Far better than the AVS magazine.Reply
  • Debbie RobsonAugust 22, 2017 9:51 pmI just received my gr-grandmothers African Violet. She passed away in 1981 at the age of 96. “Papoo”, as we fondly called her, was an old southern woman. I remember the plants in her her house were always kept in her old claw foot tub. I often wondered how she bathed, and my dad told me she used the sink. My dad, now 90 years has given the plant to me. I followed instructions on how to repot it, and used a compass to place it in the same location at my house that it was at his house. I was SHOCKED to see an actual root bulb! It was huge! Needless to say, it seems to be thriving. I must add that my father never repotted it since he got it 1981! Dad estimated the plant to be a minimum of at least 60 years old. I’m honored to be a fourth generation “caretaker” to this beautiful plant! Thank you for all the information you provide on your page!Reply
  • Miriam BickleyApril 28, 2017 10:56 amMy violets are currently blooming in an east window. The foliage is perfect but they haven’t been repotted for at least 2 yrs since I bought them. They go through a long period that they don’t bloom but stay healthy. Do I now repot to keep them blooming or leave well enough alone?Reply
    • Violet BarnApril 30, 2017 6:39 pmBest to repot you violets at least once each year. If you wait too long, then it becomes a bigger job and “sets the plant” back further. If done regularly, there should be little effect on plant or blooming.
  • Kathleen GalvezFebruary 25, 2017 10:38 pmHello,
    I’ve got a semi mini trailing (Rob’s Vanilla Trail) African violet due for repotting soon. I’m at a loss of what’s a good potting soil mix to buy. I don’t think I’d be good at making my own potting mixture and the ingredients on the back of these bags I’ve seen so far don’t even mention perlite. Is there a certain brand you guys might recommend? Or do you guys sell your own potting soil? That would be even better. I’d definitely buy that. Also, do I have to pot up? My violet seems to be doing great in its original pot and it being a semi mini, I wasn’t sure if it was necessary like standard violets. For any info, thank you in advance.Reply
    • Violet BarnMarch 1, 2017 4:33 pmBest to repot all violets at least once a year in fresh soil Your semimini likely won’t need a bigger pot, since it will stay small. As for trailers, use larger pots as the root system demands, but keep the pots shallow, since roots don’t grow deep. Soil formula depends upon watering habits–the wetter you keep the soil, the more perlite you will need. If you use a self-watering system, it should contain at least 50% perlite. We mix our own and sell it as well.
  • Jacki WiedowJanuary 11, 2017 9:49 amThe root system is very small on 2 violets that were just planted into 4 inch pots. Should I bag them or put them back in the pots they were shipped in?Reply
    • Violet BarnJanuary 11, 2017 10:14 amNo need to bag them, just be very careful with watering until root system begins grow into the additional soil. Water based upon the existing root system, not the size of the pot. The soil outside of the root ball can be moist, but not soggy, since roots don’t currently have access to this water. Water in moderation, and definitely do not use self-watering or wicking pots until root system develops. Best to water from top until plant develops, since you can control volume of water better.
  • Jacki WiedowNovember 26, 2016 3:49 pmI just received my first order of standard violets. Excellent packaging by the way. They are in the small pots. How long should I wait to plant them into larger pots?Reply
    • Violet BarnNovember 27, 2016 10:16 amSame general rule for all plants. Pot into larger pot (4″ in this case) when root system fills current pot. As a general rule of thumb, this will be about 6 months after the date shown on our pots (date when they were first potted as plantlets), but can vary by variety.
  • Celia ChanAugust 26, 2016 4:04 pmI tried to repot one of the miniatures african violet but as soon as I did it, it died. Because it is a small plant, the root system is not very long which I decided to cut any and repot with soil. Not sure why it died. Now I am afraid to repot the others that are slowing due.Reply
    • Violet BarnAugust 27, 2016 12:09 pmRepot minis same as you would a standard violet. Since root system is small, use small pot, not larger than 2.25″ or 2.5″ at most. After repotting, only moderately water until plant begins to show signs of new growth. Many make the mistake of overwatering a freshly repotted plant–small root systems need less water than larger root systems. If a plant hasn’t enough roots to take up the extra water, the extra wet soil and water can do more harm than good. Since you didn’t say, don’t know if this is what happened here….
  • carmen stevensonApril 22, 2016 10:22 ammany of my violets have 3-4 inch stems out of the dirt and then a sad looking plant above than. I don’t know how to replant or how to correct this problem as the actually roots are several inches from the plant. On the stem there are no leaves or roots. do I need to propagate using leaf cuttings and toss the plant or slice the stem and try to get roots to grow from it. ?Reply
    • Violet BarnApril 22, 2016 4:56 pmSee our restoring/restarting an African violet lesson in the plant care pages. A good visual “how to” for what you’ll likely need to do.

2 thoughts on “African violets: Repotting

  1. If you water from the bottom, how do you determine when to remove the water from the saucer because the soil is sufficiently saturated? This pertains to microminature and minature violets. Their small size makes it difficult to determine when the soil is wet or dry. It is easier if the violets are standard size or even semi. The problem is especially difficult if the leave and stem of the plant cover the soil.

    1. If you cannot see or touch the soil, you can judge by weight–wet soil will be heavier than dry. Like everything, this takes practice and experience. For plants grown here, we make a judgement based upon either appearance, feel (moist or dry to touch) and/or weight. Sometimes one just to confirm the other.

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