Has your African Violet stopped putting out new leaves? Does it seem to be stunted and failing to thrive? Even if you prefer your Saintpaulias on the small side, a sudden halt in growth is concerning. So why isn’t your African Violet growing? This article will break down the 6 most likely answers.
If your African Violet isn’t growing, it’s probably getting the wrong amount of sunlight, water, or fertilizer. Too much or too little of these crucial growth factors will disrupt your plant’s development. The roots could also be constricted by an overly small container or smothered by dense, clingy soil.
Slow or halted growth is often the first warning sign of a health problem that can get more serious if not corrected. Take this opportunity to evaluate your Saintpaulia’s growing conditions and make sure that it has what it needs to be happy. Once you figure out why your African Violet isn’t growing, getting it back to good health will be a breeze.
How Fast Do African Violets Grow?
Maybe you’re not sure if your African Violet is really growing slower than normal. What even is normal for these plants? How much growth should you expect from your African Violet?
The answer varies between different African Violet cultivars. Measures like the height and width of the crown will depend on whether you have a miniature or standard-sized plant. However, most healthy African Violets produce at least 2-3 leaves per month at the height of the growing season. If yours isn’t, you need to make some adjustments.
New leaves appear in the center of the plant. The area where they emerge is often called the crown, though this can also refer to the entire cluster of foliage. New leaves are small at first, but should soon expand and push the older leaves out to the edges. If the fresh leaves remain tiny and tightly packed, something is wrong with your African Violet’s growth.
Why Is My African Violet Not Growing? The 6 Main Reasons
When your African Violet isn’t growing, you need to assess your care habits for potential mistakes. Here are the usual suspects:
#1: Not Enough Light
Sunlight is the fuel that powers your African Violet’s growth. Not everyone realizes how much light these plants need, since they can’t tolerate much direct sunlight. However, they’ll eagerly gobble up indirect light, and if their space isn’t bright enough, they won’t grow.
You might not recognize an under-lit African Violet at first. Their leaves tend to grow longer than normal to try and catch any possible speck of brighter light. This means it may take time to realize that your plant is smaller than it should be. Look for skinny, flimsy, pale foliage, with big spaces between the leaves.
If your African Violet isn’t getting enough light, shift it gradually to an area with more sun. Start out by putting it there for 2 or 3 hours a day. Then lengthen those visits a little more every day. Good locations include:
- East-facing windowsills
- North-facing rooms that get a lot of light
- Shelves or tables 4-6 feet away from southern or western windows
- Any spot a foot or so beneath a full-spectrum LED grow bulb
If you have an illuminance meter, look for an area that gets 900-1100 foot-candles of light in the daytime. At least 8 hours of light each day is best, and 12+ hours will help your African Violet really thrive.
Have more questions about the ideal lighting setup for your African Violet? Read How Much Light Do African Violets Need? And When to Add More or Less.
#2: Too Much Light
An excess of light can warp or stunt your African Violet’s growth too. The biggest risk is direct sunlight hitting the leaves. It’s too hot for Saintpaulias and it can quickly dehydrate their foliage.
Are the leaves curling down, developing ragged brown spots, and getting crispy at the edges? If so, your plant may have sun scorch. Move it away from the light source or hang some sheer curtains in front of the windows.
Even if your African Violet isn’t sunburned, it could be shriveling due to overly intense light. This usually happens because you’re using a grow light that’s too powerful or too close to the leaves. This produces a condition known as “tight crown”. The leaves at the center of the plant stay bunched up and small, overlapping closely, instead of spreading out. The foliage might also droop and curl downward.
When this happens, adjust your grow light setup so that your African Violet gets no more than 12,000 lumens. This nifty calculator can help you calculate the right distance from the leaves based on the strength of your lamp.
Water is another indispensable ingredient for plant growth. Saintpaulias don’t appreciate dry roots. If you often let your plant get thirsty between waterings, that could be why your African Violet isn’t growing.
Poke the soil every few days with a finger, a chopstick, or a moisture meter. When the top inch of the potting mix is dry, or the bottom is only slightly damp, it’s time to water. If it’s still too wet when you test, check again the next day. Your goal is to keep the roots mildly moist at all times without drowning them.
Always water your African Violet thoroughly, saturating the soil with lukewarm water. You can pour from the top or set the pot in a dish of water to soak moisture up from the bottom. Just try not to leave water sitting on your African Violet’s leaves. (Read more about watering African Violets here.)
#4: Soggy Soil
Wet, clinging soil can stifle your African Violet’s growth if it doesn’t dry out quickly. This can result from watering too often or from excessively dense soil. You can avoid the first mistake by testing the soil before hydrating your plant, as we described above. But if the potting mix retains too much water, you’ll need to repot your Saintpaulia in better soil.
You can read up on African Violet potting mix preferences here. The short version is that at least half of the blend should consist of coarse chunky material that promotes drainage. Good ingredients for drainage include:
The rest should be light but water-retentive stuff like coconut coir or peat moss, and maybe a little compost. One quick and easy option is to mix equal parts perlite and premade African Violet potting mix.
If your Saintpaulia has been in wet soil for too long, it may have root rot. Symptoms include musty smells, brown spots, mushy stems and leaves, and rapid yellowing of the foliage. When repotting your African Violet, trim off any roots that look too dark, smell bad, or feel slimy. Disinfect your trimmers with rubbing alcohol between snips.
Note that repotting your African Violet in an overly large container can be bad for drainage. The more soil is in the pot, the slower it will dry out. Choose a pot no wider than ⅓-⅔ the diameter of your African Violet’s foliage.
#5: Lack of Root Space
Though a big planter with too much soil can smother your plant, an overly tight pot can stunt it. If you’re wondering why your African Violet isn’t growing, ask yourself how long it’s been in the same container.
African Violets usually need repotting every 6-12 months. Beyond that, they may start to get root bound. One option is to pot up, moving them into a slightly larger planter. If you’re doing this, remember our advice above about the maximum pot width. A container that is ⅓-⅔ the diameter of your African Violet’s foliage works best.
You could also uproot your African Violet, chop off the stem just below the leaves, and replant just the foliage. It will grow new roots within a month or so. Before placing your Saintpaulia back in the soil, pluck off all but the uppermost 3-4 rows of leaves. Then gently scrape away the tough brown scales from the main stem and replant it. We have a more detailed guide to this process here.
Lack of growth is the earliest sign of a root bound African Violet. In more serious cases, the pot may stop holding water because there’s no room for soil. This will also cause the leaves to wilt and get brittle. You might also see roots creeping up out of the soil or down through the drainage holes.
#6: Fertilizer Problems
Your African Violet can’t put new leaves together without all the right ingredients. You’ll need to give it some fertilizer to supply what it can’t get from the sun, the water, and the air.
A small amount of fertilizer is usually all that an African Violet needs. Every 4-6 weeks during the growing season, you can provide a diluted dose of balanced liquid fertilizer. Cut it to ¼ of the strength the manufacturer recommends. Another option is to add a generous top dressing of worm castings every spring.
If this doesn’t work, you can try increasing the dose little by little. Only do this if you’re sure that lack of fertilizer is why your African Violet isn’t growing. Giving your Saintpaulia more fertilizer than it needs can backfire, causing a tight crown or even damaging the roots. Crispy leaf edges and browning foliage often indicate an overdose.
It’s easier to overfertilize if you water your African Violet from the bottom. Mineral salts can build up in the pot if water isn’t regularly washing them out. We suggest flushing your Saintpaulia with a heavy top watering every other month even if you normally bottom water it.
We hope you now have a pretty good idea why your African Violet isn’t growing. Restoring healthy growth is usually as simple as correcting a shortage or a surplus of some important ingredient. We wish you the best of luck in getting your African Violet growing like an all-star once more.