A plant parent’s work is never done. Even if your African Violet is growing happily in its pot, you’ll need to replant it sooner or later. How often should you repot a Saintpaulia? And what can you do to make sure the transfer goes smoothly? This post will teach you how to repot an African Violet – and how to tell when the time is right.
It’s best to repot an African Violet in fresh soil every 6-12 months. Many growers like to keep a mature plant in the same pot, trimming and replanting the stem. This keeps an African Violet compact and encourages blooming. Simply slice off the roots, scrape the stem bare, and bury it again.
With the right preparations, repotting won’t hurt your Saintpaulia – it will improve the plant’s health and beauty. To get it right, you’ll need the right soil, pots, and timing-along with the right technique. We’ll cover all of that in this post so that you can repot your African Violet like a pro.
Why Do You Need to Repot African Violets?
If your Saintpaulia is thriving, why not leave it where it is? There are 4 main reasons to repot an African Violet:
- Give your African Violet room to grow. If your plant hasn’t reached its mature size, it will need space to reach its full potential. The foliage can’t keep growing if the roots can’t spread out.
- Refresh your African Violet’s soil. Organic elements in potting mix break down over time. Replacing the soil every so often helps maintain its structure and keep it nutritious.
- Cover your African Violet’s neck. As they grow, Saintpaulias develop a long bare stem that’s often called a “neck”. Many people find this unsightly, and if it gets too long, it can snap off. Keep your African Violet tidy by moving it to a deeper pot, or by trimming and repotting the stem.
- Fix root rot. An overwatered African Violet can develop a nasty infection of the roots. Repotting it in clean soil is an important part of the treatment process. You’ll also need to prune away all the rotting tissue.
How Often Should You Repot an African Violet?
Most enthusiasts recommend repotting African Violets roughly every 6 months. If you prefer not to transplant that often, you can generally get away with doing it once a year. Just remember that your plant will be happier if you repot it before it can get root bound. (That’s when the roots are getting squished together because they’re out of room in the pot.)
How can you tell if your African Viole is root bound? The only surefire way is to take it out of the pot and look for yourself. But here are a few warning signs to look out for:
An African Violet’s pot should be around ⅓-⅔ as wide as its leaves. If your plant is more than three times the size of its container, it may feel cramped.
No Water Retention
When the roots crowd out the soil, the pot can’t hold much moisture. If water leaks out of the pot as soon as you pour it in, your African Violet could be root bound. You may also notice the soil drying out again very quickly.
Wilting, Crispy Foliage
Pinched roots can’t get enough water to maintain the foliage. A root bound African Violet’s leaves may droop or turn brown and crunchy at the tips. But remember: this symptom can have lots of other causes, like underwatering or sun scorch.
Roots Poking Out
Crowded roots may start spreading up or down instead of out to the sides. If you see roots coming up out of the soil or down through the drainage holes, it probably means your Saintpaulia’s pot is too tight.
What’s the Best Time to Repot an African Violet?
Is there an ideal season for repotting African Violets? In theory, the spring or early summer is best. High humidity and lots of indirect light will help your Saintpaulia recover quickly. But with the right preparations, you should be able to repot an African Violet in the dead of winter without a problem.
You may want to wait until after your African Violet finishes blooming before transplanting it. Flowering takes a lot of energy from your plant, and so does recovering from the stress of repotting. It’s best if your Sainptaulia can put most of its resources toward growing back strong.
However, this advice only applies when you’re repotting proactively. If you’ve waited too long and your African Violet is root bound and suffering, repot it right away.
But Don’t African Violets Like to Be Root Bound?
We should address this common misunderstanding before we continue. Yes, African Violets flower more when their pots are on the small side. But that doesn’t mean that you should let them get seriously root bound.
As long as you follow our recommendations above about African Violet pot size, your plant will be tight enough to bloom well. Don’t let its health suffer in a misguided attempt to force flowering.
Getting Ready to Repot an African Violet
Preparation is at least as important as proper technique when repotting a Saintpaulia. Here’s how to lay the groundwork.
Choose a Pot
First, decide whether you’re putting your African Violet in a larger pot, a smaller pot, or the same pot where it started.
If your plant is still growing, you’ll want to give it a bigger space. Do you know what type of African Violet you have? If so, it’s pretty simple to tell whether it’s mature:
- Miniature Saintpaulias have a mature width of about 6 inches or less across their leaf crowns.
- Semi-miniatures top out between 6-8 inches.
- Standard African Violets grow between 8 and 16 inches across.
- Large plants can reach 16-24 inches in diameter.
What if your plant has reached its maximum size, but it’s been more than 6 months since you last repotted it? You should still uproot it and change out the soil. Just put it back in the same pot afterward.
In some rare cases, you might find that your plant is too small for its pot. This usually happens because you thought you were buying a larger variety. Or maybe you just didn’t realize that these plants prefer slightly tight spaces. In that case, pot your Sainptulia down to a smaller container.
African Violets usually prefer slightly shallow pots. Try to find one that’s about ¾ as high as it is wide. The material doesn’t matter much, but if you’re prone to overwatering, you should try a terra cotta pot. The porous clay lets water evaporate faster from the soil.
Prepare Your Potting Mix
Speaking of soil – what kind should you use to repot an African Violet? The short answer is that you need something with good drainage and aeration. Unfortunately, most store-bought potting soils are too dense to give you the best results.
You could also create your own blend from raw ingredients. We like the following mix:
Take a look at our post on soils and containers for African Violets for more information.
Choose Your Tools
You don’t need much equipment to repot an African Violet. But you will need some pruning shears if you’re going to slice and rebury the neck. And you’ll need a disinfectant to clean the shears. Rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide are good options. You could also mix 1 part bleach in 9 parts water.
If you think there might be root rot, get some smaller pruning scissors as well. You’ll use these to trim away the infected roots.
Your African Violet may need some added humidity for a few weeks after repotting. That’s especially true if you’re transplanting it during the winter. The simplest tool for this job is a plastic bag or another clear container that fits over the plant’s leaves. A humidifier is more expensive but will help you maintain a healthy humidity for your plant all year round.
Water Your Plant
It’s often helpful to water your African Violet before repotting. Its roots will take a while to get back to their full strength, so hydrate your plant a day or two before you start the repotting process.
How to Repot an African Violet – Step by Step
Now you’ve made all your preparations and you’re ready to repot your Saintpaulia. Here’s how:
Step 1: Prep the Pot and Soil
Moisten your potting mix, getting it about as damp as a squeezed-out washcloth. If you’re replacing your African Violet’s pot, fill the bottom third of the new container with this soil.
Step 2: Uproot Your African Violet
Slide your fingers around the base of your plant’s stem. Then flip the pot over and tip your African Violet out. You might need to tap the base of the container to get it loose.
Step 3: Clean the Roots
You can skip this step if you’re going to remove the roots and repot your African Violet with just the stem. Otherwise, swish the root mass in some lukewarm water to clear away the old soil. Then inspect it for signs of rot.
Use your scissors to snip off any roots that look brown or black. And get rid of any that have a slimy or squishy feel. Disinfect the blades between cuts, or you could spread infectious material to healthy roots.
Step 4 (optional): Prep the Stem
You only need this step if you’re repotting to cover up your African Violet’s neck. Cut through the central stalk with your pruning shears just above the root mass. Then scrape off the outer coating on the remaining length of the stem. You can use your fingernail or the edge of your scissors.
Once the brown, scaly outer surface is gone, the stem should be a pale green color. This exposed tissue will grow new roots when you plant it.
Step 5: Trim the Foliage and Blooms
It’s a good idea to get rid of any excess growth on your Saintpaulia. This saves energy which your plant can put toward recovering.
First, get rid of any flowers. They cost your plant a lot to maintain. Don’t worry, it should blossom again soon.
Next, remove the leaves your plant doesn’t need. As a rule, African Violets grow and bloom best with 3-5 rows of leaves (counting outward from the center). You don’t necessarily have to get rid of everything beyond the fifth row, but taking off at least a few excess leaves should help.
To remove a leaf, pinch the petiole as close to the main stem as you can get. Then give it a sharp tug. You can either discard these leaves or plant them to propagate your African Violet.
Step 6: Plant Your African Violet
Place your African Violet in its new pot. Or empty out the old one and add some fresh, moist potting mix. Then place your plant inside. Fill around the roots and stem with potting mix. Your African Violet should be deep enough that the lower leaves are just above the soil.
Step 7: Tend Your Plant With Care
Move your African Violet to a spot where it will get lots of light but no direct sun exposure. Then place your plastic bag over its leaves or switch on the humidifier. You’ll want to make sure its environment stays moist for at least a few weeks. During that time, water sparingly and don’t add any fertilizer.
When you see fresh foliage popping up again, it means your African Violet is feeling secure in its new pot.
Don’t wait to repot an African Violet until it’s cramped and unhealthy. Your plant will be in much better shape if you make a point of doing it at least once a year. Follow our suggestions above, and you should be able to transplant your Saintpaulia without a hitch.