African violets are a houseplant with many seasons of beauty. These small plants grace the home with their classic tiny violet blooms but also come in other colors and double petal varieties. The plants have a few peccadilloes regarding water and fertilizer, but are otherwise easy to grow. When African violet leaves are yellow, the plant is signaling that it has either a shortage or excess of something. Knowing how to take care of yellowing African violets can minimize the effect, but lower leaf yellowing is a natural part of the growth process and not a cause for worry.
Common Reasons for Yellow African Violet Leaves
African violet leaves usually only live for about a year. It’s a common trait for the older leaves to fade and turn yellow before they die and drop off, leaving room for new foliage. If the lower leaves are not the only ones turning yellow, it’s time to investigate a few potential causes. Cultural care, lighting or disease may all be potential reasons for African violet leaves turning yellow.
Water issues – One of the most common explanations when African violet leaves are yellow is incorrect watering practices. The leaves don’t tolerate water directly on them, and the foliage will respond by developing yellow or bleached, necrotic spots or ring spot.
When the water is warmer or colder than the leaf itself, the cells inside collapse and the leaf becomes discolored. There is no cure for the leaf, but you can avoid future damage by watering under the leaves. There are even special watering cans for African violets with longer stems to reach the soil surface under the foliage. You can also minimize damage by using room temperature water.
Lighting – African violet plants don’t perform well in direct light and strong sun; however, they do need light to produce energy and form flowers. The best site is a southeast or west window. Place the plant 3 feet (91 cm.) away from the window for best light.
Plants that are grown further inside the home or office under unnatural lighting will turn yellow on the edges. This is a signal that the plant isn’t getting sufficient light. Leaves will recover if you move the plant to a brighter location in indirect light.
Fertilizing – Lack of food is another cause of African violet leaves turning yellow. The condition indicates the plant may need supplemental feeding to produce deep green, fuzzy leaves. Use a food prepared for African violets and dilute it according to the directions.
Fertilize once per month in the growing season. To prevent over-fertilizing, drench the soil four times per year to remove excess salts.
How to Take Care of Yellowing African Violets
In addition to drenching the soil, it’s necessary to repot your plant at least every two years. The soil will gradually lose its nutrient content and texture, making it difficult for the plant to uptake water and food.
Use an appropriate mixture, which is usually sphagnum peat moss with some vermiculite. African violets don’t do well in traditional potting soil.
If your home has low humidity, place the potted plant on a saucer filled with pebbles and a small amount of water. Change the water every few days to minimize gnats.
Pinch off old leaves and remove spent blooms to encourage new growth.
With good lighting, watering and occasional food, your African violet should be back in the pink — or rather green, again.