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Bottoms Up! The Perfect Watering Technique for Gorgeous African Violets

Bottoms Up! The Perfect Watering Technique for Gorgeous African Violets

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Have you found a gorgeous healthy-looking plant, read the label to discover the species and now wondering how often to water African Violets? Good for you because watering at any frequency is likely to lead to problems.

Timing and frequency of watering for African Violets are pivotal to keep them well nourished, and blooming throughout the season.

Determining When to Water African Violets

African violets should only be watered when they need to be hydrated and the only way to know that is by testing the soil. A simple finger press into the top soil will let you know if it’s dry to the touch.

These plants are best watered when the top soil is dry and not moist. Allow the soil to dry completely between watering.

How to Water African Violets

Bottom watering is best practice with this type of plant because the leaves don’t like to get wet. When the leaves get wet, it can lead to blight, spotting on parts of the leaves, powdery mildew and a host of other issues.

By bottom feeding an African Violet you can ensure the soil remains hydrated while keeping the leaves dry. Depending on the size of your plant, you may be able to use a saucer, but for larger plants, an alternative is to use a tray that can accommodate at least an inch of water.

The temperature of the water is best to be room temperature so not distilled water from the refrigerator or dropping in ice cubes for a longer release watering system. Water that’s either too cold or too hot can shock the plant.

Use at least 1-inch of water in a saucer or tray and place the planter in the water. Naturally, the pot will need to have drainage holes.

If you’re using tap water, be sure to dechlorinate it before feeding it to your plant.

How to Dechlorinate Water

1 – Off-Gassing

Off-gassing is only effective for removing chlorine content from the water but it won’t be effective at removing chloramine and other contaminants from your tap water.

This is the cheapest method as you only need to leave the water at room temperature for 24-hours before using it to feed your plants.

2 – Boiling Water

Boiling tap water for 15-20 minutes then leaving it to cool to room temperature is faster than off-gassing, but it’s going to have energy costs associated with it. The more plants you have, the more expensive it’ll be.

3 – Use a Charcoal Filter

Charcoal filters, sometimes referred to as activated carbon filtration systems are effective at removing both chlorine and chloramine.

Adding any tablets such as vitamin C capsules, which will get rid of chlorine content is not advised because vitamin enrichment will also alter the pH level of the water. This is why with hot tubs and pools, dechlorinating powders need to be balanced with a pH adjuster.

To avoid pH imbalances, it’s best to either let tap water off-gas for 24-hours, or if you’ve forgotten, speed the process along by boiling the water. If your tap water has more contaminants in it than you’d prefer, consider using a filter to purify the water before feeding it to your plant.

Fertilizing African Violets and the Importance of Flushing the Soil

As with most plants, African Violets bloom best when they have a little nutritional boost. These plants respond well to a 14-12-14 fertilizer, provided it is urea-free. Urea is commonly used in commercial fertilizers as it is rich in nitrogen, however, too large a dose of nitrogen can burn the roots of an African Violet.

Therefore, it’s better to use a fertilizer that uses ammonium nitrate as the nitrogen source, as that is kinder on the roots.

When bottom watering any plant, it should be noted that the soil is going to need to be flushed more frequently because there will be a build-up of salts in the soil. Top watering plants avoids salt accumulation to an extent as each watering is flushing some of the extra nutrients with each feed.

With bottom watering, the salt particles that build up within the soil are not being flushed out with each feed, therefore, you will need to do this manually. The only thing you need is a sufficient amount of clear water to flush through the soil.

African Violets are generally fertilized every four to six weeks. Every second feed, consider flushing the soil to avoid an excess of salt accumulation. The amount of water to use will depend on the size of the pot.

As a general guideline, two to three times the capacity of the pot is the amount of water to use.

As an example, a 5-inch pot can hold roughly 1-quart of soil, therefore, to flush the soil you’d use about 2-to-3 quarts of dechlorinated water to flush the soil every 2-to-3 months depending on whether you fertilize the plant every month or every six weeks.

Once you’ve flushed the soil, discard the water. Do not use the same water for bottom-feeding as that will defeat the purpose.

Avoiding Crown Rot on African Violets

Crown rot is the main killer of African Violets and it sets in when the soil is left too wet for too long.

A tell-tale sign of crown rot is when you notice the plant looks limp, but the soil feels moist. If you notice an African Violet looking limp, the first thing to check is the soil as it’s usually a sign that it needs to be watered.

If the soil is moist, it’s probably been over-watered. This can happen easily when you top-water the plant too frequently, but with bottom-feeding, it lessens the risk because you only need to sit the plant in standing water for up to 30-minutes. Any longer than a half-hour can be too long, causing the plant to be over-hydrated.

An over-watered African Violet is at risk of crown rot, and it can kill the plant. If you catch it early enough, you may be able to start a new plant with one or two healthy leaves.

When crown rot sets in, it’s almost always fatal on an African Violet. This is because crown rot is a fungal disease. The Phytophthora fungus attacks the plant’s roots and the crown of the plant.

The cause of the disease is the soil being left too soggy for too long. This is why it’s best practice to allow the soil to dry completely between watering rather than sticking to a set frequency.

By letting the soil dry out between watering, and sticking to bottom-feeding with a regular frequency of flushing the soil, you’ll be able to keep your African Violet in bloom and thriving for longer.

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