African violets are the pretty colorful flowers seen in most gardens because of their ability to bloom throughout the year, adding colors to your garden.
But they stop blooming if they get tightly root-bound. The roots grow out of the soil and get twisted around the plant. But on the other hand, it is said that African violets bloom when they are root bound.
So, you might be wondering do African violets like to be root bound?
In general, African violets don’t like to be root bound as it restricts the plant’s growth and might lead to water and nutrient deficiency. However, African violets prefer to be potted in a small-sized pot where its root can grip the soil well but still have room for new growth.
Some common reasons for extremely root-bound African violets are that the roots do not get enough space in the soil bed or pot, the soil gets too compact, or the plants develop excessive roots.
It has been confusing whether these plants like to be round bound or not because, on the one hand, the root-bound state can decrease their growth rate, but on the other hand, they need to be little root bound for vigorous blooms.
Keep reading this article to know more about root-bound African violets and when you need to fix them.
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Do African violets like being root bound?
The answer to this is yes. African violets like being root bound, but slightly. They need to stay root-bound for blooming.
These plants will only bloom if their roots have a strong grip on the soil. But that doesn’t mean that you will let the plant’s root get compacted and tightly root bounded.
When the root-bound state reaches its extreme level, you need to either prune the extra roots from the plant or divide the plants.
The soil quality of raised bed can be improved and rejuvenated by filling the box with good compost.
If you are growing your plant in pots, you can report your plant. Repotting will save your plant from the extreme root-bound state. These plants, however, need repotting twice a year if grown in pots. But the pot size matters in such conditions.
While growing the African violets in the garden, relocating the plant to another spot might stress the plant. But still, it is needed to save your plant from staying root bound for too long.
A plant gets root-bound when the root system does not get enough space to grow properly. In this situation, they start growing out of the soil and twist around your African violet plants.
If the root-bound situation is not taken care of on time, the roots start creating clusters and become brown, ultimately leading to root rot.
Another problem can happen if your plant is too much root bound which is the soil will start getting dislocated. When this happens, the plant fails to absorb nutrients from the soil.
Because African violets like being root bound to some extent for flowering, instead of changing the position of the plant and transplanting it somewhere else, you can create enough space for the violets.
While planting the African violets, keep some space between each plant so that it can grow well even if it is root-bound. You can also divide the plants or cut off the extra roots and plant them again.
How to know if African violets are root bound?
It is sometimes confusing to understand whether your African violets are undergoing issues due to root-bound or not. If they are slightly root-bound, it will not be a problem.
Slightly root-bound African violets promote the healthy growth of flowers in the plant. But if your plants are experiencing extreme root-bound conditions, they will show specific symptoms.
Some of the probable signs might be:
- The leaves become limp and droopy.
- The growth of the plant slows down.
- Roots cover the soil surface tightly.
- Yellow leaves.
- Extremely root-bound plants cease to bloom and produce flower buds.
- Leaf stems become elongated.
Now let us know about the different stages of root bound in the African violets.
First, the roots wrap around the root balls. In such conditions, you do not have to do anything with the plant.
You can try to loosen the soil so that the root-bound doesn’t reach its extreme level. The root-bound state will help in blooming in the African violets.
If you have not loosened the soil and find out that the root-bound state is increasing day by day, it will show the symptoms mentioned above.
Slowly, the roots might dislocate the soil by coming out of the soil and covering the soil’s surface tightly.
These signs are seen because the plant faces difficulty absorbing the essential nutrients from the roots and the soil due to excessive root bound. Roots fail to get enough space to grow and breathe properly.
An extreme root-bound state can also cause overwatering issues and show signs like brown leaves.
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How to know when to rejuvenate the soil bed for root-bound African violets?
African violets like being slightly root bound because it encourages the flowers to bloom. So there is no need for immediate actions when you find that the plant is root-bound.
A lightweight soil mix is recommended for these plants so that the root-bound state doesn’t bother the plants much.
But when you start noticing that the situation is getting complicated day by day and the root-bound state is increasing, you need to do something about it.
Slightly root bound won’t be a problem, but when your plant is completely root bound, the roots will come out from the upper surface of the soil. This will slowly affect the overall health of the plant and cause a halt in plant growth.
Although a bit of root-bound will promote abundant blooms, more root-bound will reduce flowers and flower buds.
When you find an extreme root-bound situation, you can rejuvenate the raised bed for the African violets.
It will help you deal with the root-bound issue and increase the soil’s quality, making the soil fresh again, further encouraging the plant to grow more healthy and at a fast rate.
Again, while changing the soil, you can remove the extra roots from the plants for better growth. You can change the soil at least once or twice in the raised bed to improve the plant’s health.
Best soil for African violets
If you want your African violets to remain alive for a long time, you need to select the correct soil quality for them.
If your plants experience extreme root-bound conditions, the soil can be a reason. The soil will not have enough porosity and good drainage if the soil is old.
While making the fresh soil mix to change the soil for the raised beds, you need to keep certain things in mind:
- The soil must be lightweight and well-aerated. (Adding perlite, vermiculite, or sand will do the job)
- The soil must not be compact or heavy as this might not allow the roots to grow correctly, and they will get root-bound in no time.
- Do not change anything if the plants are slightly root-bound. A slight root-bound state is necessary for flowering. But if you have to change the soil to keep the plants healthy and away from such issues, you can prepare a new soil mix for the raised beds at least once or twice a year.
- The soil mix must be prepared so that it can drain excess water and retain enough moisture needed by the plant (adding compost to the soil will do well).
How to save a root-bound African violet?
You can save a root-bound African violet by:
- Rejuvenating and loosening the soil.
- Digging out the plant and pruning the extra roots.
- Dividing the plant.
Let us discuss a bit about these points.
Rejuvenating the soil
If you find out that your African violets are root-bound, you can try changing the soil bed by adding fresh soil mix into the soil bed.
If you have planted the plants too close to each other, the roots do not get enough space to grow. The plants either slow down their growth, or the roots come out from the soil and twist around the plant.
Sometimes, the soil is so heavy or compact that the roots fail to get enough space.
To solve the problem, you can dig out the plants, discard the old soil from the raised beds, and use fresh soil mix for planting the plants again. Make sure that you make the soil lightweight and loose.
Before planting, remove the affected and damaged roots carefully, avoiding the primary roots.
While planting, keep little space in between the plants so that the roots can grow freely. Even though these plants like being slightly overcrowded for maintaining the humidity level, make sure they have space to avoid getting root bound.
Pruning the extra roots
You can eliminate the damaged roots from a root-bound plant by pruning the affected ones. You might not have to change the soil.
You can cut off the plant’s roots that have created clusters but be careful while pruning because you would never like to cut the primary roots that will kill the plant.
Once you have pruned the old damaged roots from the plant, the plant will now get enough space and energy for good growth.
It will start focussing on the recovery of the damaged roots, and at the same time, it will focus on the new and healthy development of the plant.
Dividing the African violets
Other than the above two methods, you can save your plant from excessive root-bound issues by dividing the plant.
African violets are known for growing extra crowns and suckers. They grow different baby plants which can make the plant look odd and make them root-bound.
A sucker is a new baby plant growing from the stem of the mother plant.
For dividing this plant, take a disinfected knife or scissor, insert it where the baby plant is attached to the mother plant, and gently rip it off.
Now, you can plant the suckers in a new soil mix. It is better to cover the new baby plants after planting them with plastic bags to let them root properly.
Plastic bags will help in maintaining the humidity level. Open the plastic sometimes to let the plant receive fresh air and oxygen.
African violets like being slightly root bound because this helps encourage blooming in the plants. So, before you take any steps regarding the treatment of a root-bound plant, think twice.
Slightly root-bound plants don’t need any treatment. Check your plants before taking any steps regarding root-bound situations.
But, in case of excessive root-bound conditions, you must take steps because an extreme root-bound state might be an issue for the plants, which will eventually give rise to many problems in the future, like slow growth or no flowering.
African violets like to remain crowded for good humidity, but make sure not to overcrowd them. It will help to avoid excessive root bound situations.
You can change the soil of the bed once or twice a year. To avoid getting your plants extremely root bound, you can either prune out the damaged roots or divide the plants.
Take good care of your African violets by providing all their requirements to keep them healthy and safe.
Source: Wikipedia, African violet: Classical breeding, African Violet Society of America, In vitro propagation of African violet, University of Florida, North Dakota State University, The University of Georgia.