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6 Causes of Your African Violet Leaves Turning Yellow or Brown

6 Causes of Your African Violet Leaves Turning Yellow or Brown

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When I first got my African Violet, I was awestruck at this houseplant’s bright cluster of thick, fuzzy leaves and enchanting violet-like flowers.

However, I quickly learned why these guys have a reputation for being delicate and somewhat picky when I noticed a handful of yellowing leaves.

Normally, you’d think that African Violet leaves turning yellow or brown is natural aging, and sometimes it is! However, it can also stem from a variety of other causes that, if left untreated, can severely harm your plant.

Let’s take a look at six things you can do if your African Violet leaves are turning yellow.

Why Are My African Violet Leaves Turning Yellow or Brown?

Your African violet’s leaves becoming yellow or brown is typically caused by the same factors. To help you out, I’ve compiled a list of six causes and troubleshooting steps below!

1 – Overwatering

Overwatering, or keeping the plant’s soil consistently damp, is one of the most common causes of your African Violet leaves turning yellow. Not just Violets, but most houseplants dislike sitting in too much water.

I get it. You cherish your plant and want to provide it with everything it needs. So you’d assume that showering it with water every two to three days is a smart method to care for it, but you’d be wrong.

If you overwater your plant, it will most likely respond by growing yellow, mushy, limp leaves. These yellow leaves frequently mislead plant owners into believing that the plant is actually thirsty, resulting in the never-ending overwatering cycle.

Not to mention that overwatering your plant can lead to root rot. This potentially fatal disease occurs as a result of persistently wet soil and roots resting in water for an extended period of time.

As the plant’s roots decay from the excess water, the leaves become yellow and then eventually brown. If left untreated, root rot will continue to destroy the root system, ultimately killing the plant.

Now I’m pretty sure this isn’t what you meant by spoiling your plant rotten!

What You Should Do

When watering your African Violet, try to mimic its natural habitat as much as possible. Seeing as this plant grows amid rocks and cracks, it doesn’t get direct rainfall. It instead thrives on the moisture in the earth and the humidity in the area.

It’s easy to tell you to water your African Violet once every week or two, but it took me one too many plant deaths to learn not to follow this method.

You can’t exactly have a fixed watering schedule for your plant, because every home environment is unique. For instance, the rate at which the soil dries out differs depending on each home’s lighting, humidity, and temperature.

Instead of setting a plant watering reminder every couple of weeks, you can use one of these two easy methods!

1 – Use the Soil Finger Test

Personally, I believe that the soil finger test is the easiest and quickest method for determining whether or not your plant requires water.

This test is performed by dipping your index finger into the dirt to around 12 inches, or until your first knuckle. If the soil feels dry to the touch and your finger comes out clean, then it’s time to water your plant.

2 – Use a Moisture Meter

Using a moisture meter is another method that provides more precision. As the name suggests, a moisture meter is a handy little tool that you insert into the soil and, on a scale of 1 to 10, indicates how moist the soil is.

Pro tip: For African Violets, allow the soil to completely dry between waterings.

2 – Underwatering

In contrast, a consistent lack of water can cause your African Violet leaves to become yellow.

If you repeatedly subject your plant to a period of drought, it will become severely stressed and its leaves will start to curl, dry, and yellow. As time goes by, the plant will dry up and eventually die.

What You Should Do

The simplest way to prevent underwatering your plant is, well.. watering! You can simply use one of the previously discussed techniques to measure the soil and water your plant.

However, if you’re always on the go and can’t keep an eye on your plant’s soil, you can still ensure your plant is receiving the amount of water it needs.

Here’s a list of things you can do to keep your plant hydrated for weeks, some of which are used by yours truly!

  • Use a self-watering pot.
  • Make a DIY drip system.
  • Try the wick watering method.

3 – Improper Lighting

As with most other plants, lighting is an important aspect of keeping an African Violet healthy. When a plant isn’t given the right amount of light, it will show indications of stress, such as pale green and yellow leaves.

Plants, after all, utilize light to generate chlorophyll, the chemical that gives leaves their green color.

So, without adequate light, your African Violet won’t be able to carry out the photosynthesis process, which is necessary for survival.

What You Should Do

To ensure your Violet is receiving the light it needs, there are two things you should do:

1 – Avoid Direct Sunlight

Yes, this is a tropical plant, no it doesn’t like direct sunlight! Like the majority of houseplants, African Violets prefer indirect light.

These guys love bright light and need it to bloom, but may be sunburned from too much sun exposure, just like you!

Even though they technically have fuzzy leaves that protect them from harmful sun rays, the cellular structure of these leaves can break down from the sunlight. Like the Pothos houseplant, the leaves will turn brown, crinkly, and scorched.

2 – Choose the Right Location

Place your African Violet in a warm room near a southeast or west window. To be more specific, situate the plant about three feet away from the window.

This will guarantee that it receives enough bright light to grow and blossom without being burned.

4 – Water Exposure

African Violet leaves are particularly water sensitive. After all, the forest canopy shields these plants from heavy rain and harsh sunshine in the wild. And the conditions in your living room are, let’s say, a tad different from those in the forest!

Prolonged moisture on the crown makes African Violets vulnerable to a variety of fatal diseases, including Crown Rot and Pythium.

What You Should Do

If your plant’s leaves have turned yellow from having too much water on them for an extended length of time, there isn’t much you can do except care for the surviving leaves.

But how can I water my African Violet without wetting the leaves? You may wonder. The answer is bottom-watering!

Here’s how to bottom-water your Violet in five easy steps.

  1. Fill a bowl, saucer, or tray with room-temperature water.
  2. If necessary, add additional fertilizer.
  3. Place the Violet into the container.
  4. Allow the plant to sit for 15 to 30 minutes to absorb the water through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
  5. If any water gets on the leaves, carefully wipe it away with a clean, dry towel.

5 – Poor Nutrition

Fertilizer provides plants with the nourishment they need to grow, bloom, and thrive.

If your Violet is suffering from poor nutrition, one of the first signs you’ll notice is yellowing leaves. Not only that, but your plant will stop flowering and growing, basically imitating a still-life painting.

Re-potting also plays a major role in plant and leaf health. Sometimes, yellow leaves are an SOS for fresh soil!

If you’ve had your African Violet for two or three years and haven’t repotted it, all of the soil nutrients the plants had are probably long gone by now, because they don’t last forever and need to be changed.

What You Should Do

When it comes to fertilizing your African Violet, it’s best to use a fertilizer made specifically for this plant. You should also soak the soil 3–4 times each year to reduce unwanted salt accumulation.

Also, I should probably note that these guys are picky with their potting soil. African Violets prefer peat moss, which you can find in any plant shop or garden center.

6 – Pest Infestation

Another reason why your African Violet leaves are yellowed, curly, or malformed is a pest infection. If you take a closer look, you’ll most likely see the tiny little invaders.

The most common bugs that may take up residence in African Violets are mealybugs, thrips, and mites.

What You Should Do

The first and most important step is to separate your infested Violet from any surrounding healthy plants. After all, you don’t want any of your other houseplants to fall ill.

Examine your plant; if there are only a few bugs, you may simply soak a cotton swab in insecticide and remove them. If your Violet is infested with a high number of pests, you’re going to have to apply insecticide to the entire plant.

Just remember to choose an insecticide that’s safe for your plant and carefully follow the instructions provided.

Should I Remove Yellow or Brown Leaves From My African Violet?

Yes, it’s best to remove yellow or brown leaves from your African Violet. This is because they provide no benefit to the plant. They instead waste precious nutrients that other healthy leaves could use.

Second, removing the yellow leaves encourages new growth from the plant’s base, allowing it to produce its mesmerizing violet-like blooms!

Pro tip: The optimal time to remove brown leaves is after a dry season, like winter, when the plant’s development has decreased but not ceased entirely.

Will My African Violet Yellow Leaves Become Green Again?

No, yellow leaves will not become green again. This is because a yellow leaf has lost its chlorophyll, which gives it its green color.

When that happens, the plant discards it and absorbs the remaining nutrients from the leaf. That is why, once a leaf turns yellow, it’s impossible to turn it green again.

Final Thoughts

It’s rather concerning to witness your African Violet leaves going from bright green to pale yellow or brown.

Fortunately, this is caused by things you can easily change, such as moving the plant, adding the correct amount of fertilizer, properly hydrating it, and so on.

It’s worth noting that the solutions I previously mentioned will not restore the yellow leaves to green, but will rather prevent future leaves from turning yellow, keeping your plant happy and healthy!

Before you go: Now is the perfect time to start tracking your gardening progress, and I created a garden journal to do exactly that. Click the image below to see it in action and to get your own copy.

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