Why Are My African Violet Leaves Turning Yellow?

African violets make popular houseplants as they are small and compact and produce a delicate bloom of purple, blue, or pink flowers on top of a rosette of fuzzy green leaves.

Under the correct conditions, African violets can bloom continuously for months. However, yellowing leaves suggest your plant is unhappy with its current growing environment. This article explains why your African violet’s leaves are turning yellow and how to treat it.

Why Do African Violet Leaves Turn Yellow?

Plant foliage gets its green color from a pigment called chlorophyll. This pigment is found in all photosynthetic plants. Without chlorophyll, plants would not be able to make energy from the sunlight to fuel their growth, maintenance, and reproduction. 

If leaves do not contain enough chlorophyll, they will appear yellow. This is known as chlorosis and is a symptom that something is wrong with your African violet. 

Chlorosis can be caused by several factors including nutritional deficiencies, lack of water, or a disease. Luckily, most cases of chlorosis can be rectified, and your plant will bounce back to a healthy state in no time.

african violet leaves turning yellow

What Causes African Violet Leaves to Turn Yellow?

Identifying the root cause of chlorosis in your African violet can be tricky, but it’s crucial to providing the correct treatment.  

This article lists the most common causes of yellowing leaves in African violets, what symptoms to look out for, and the steps to take to nurse your plant back to health. 

Overwatering

The most common cause of chlorosis in African violets is overwatering. Alongside yellow leaves, symptoms you are giving your plant too much water include leaves dropping from the plant and the soil being wet to the touch.

The fuzzy leaves of the African violet do not tolerate water directly touching them. Saturating the leaves will cause them to develop yellow spots and as a result, the cells inside the leaf will break down. 

Overwatering can cause the soil to become waterlogged. This deprives the roots of oxygen, meaning they cannot photosynthesize. As a result, the chlorophyll in the leaves degrades and they become yellow. 

Poor-draining soil can increase the chances of waterlogging and root rot.

African violets should only be watered once their soil is dry to the touch. Poke your finger about 1 inch into the soil and if it still feels damp then your plant doesn’t need another watering yet.  

You can use a moisture meter or soil probe to check the moisture level near the roots, which can help you keep track of when to water your plant. 

When watering your plant, you should lift the leaves and water under them to avoid splashing them. 

If you fear your African violet has root rot, then you should remove it from its current container. Wash off all the soil and cut off any infected roots. Repot your plant using light and porous soil in a container that has sufficient drainage. 

Underwatering

If your African violet is not receiving sufficient water, then it will show yellow leaves that are drooping downwards and are dry to the touch. The cells of dehydrated plants will shrink, which is what causes your plant to droop and wilt. 

Water is necessary for transporting minerals and nutrients around the plant during photosynthesis. Inadequate watering will reduce the rate of photosynthesis, leading to chlorotic leaves. 

If the first inch of soil feels dry, then your plant probably needs to be watered. Using a soil probe will help you know when to water your plant. Frequent watering should see your African violet regain its green foliage.

Nitrogen Deficiency

A nitrogen deficiency can be identified by your plant having yellow and shriveled bottom leaves, yellow middle leaves, and pale green upper leaves. Additionally, the leaves will be smaller than normal, and you will see a reduction in flowers. 

Nitrogen is essential for the overall health and growth of plants. African violets grow best in soil that has a slightly acidic pH of between 6.0 and 6.5. if your soil is too alkaline, this will hinder the plant’s ability to absorb nitrogen from the soil, leading to a deficiency. 

To fix a nitrogen deficiency, you should add nitrogen-based fertilizers to the soil. This will lower the pH of the soil and increase the availability of nitrogen. 

Potassium Deficiency

If your African violet has yellow leaves that are brown around the edges, then it’s likely suffering from a potassium deficiency. Potassium helps transport water throughout the plant, making it a key nutrient for photosynthesis. 

A potassium deficiency can lead to chlorosis as well as wilting and stunted growth through reduced rates of photosynthesis. 

Potassium availability is higher in acidic soil compared to alkaline soil. If your soil pH is too high, you can add a potassium-based fertilizer, mulch, or compost to your soil to lower it and correct the potassium deficiency.

Overfertilizing

Although fertilizer is beneficial to plants, too much of it can be bad for the health of your African violet. The main symptom of overfertilization is leaf burn. Leaves will become yellow with brown spots and curling edges and eventually drop off. 

To save an overfertilized African violet, you can leach excess nutrients from the soil by flushing it with water. Alternatively, you can repot your plant using fresh soil. 

To avoid this mistake in the future, you should give your plant fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks during the growing period and abstain from feeding at all during the winter.

Exposure to Cold Temperatures

Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures causes the leaves of African violets to develop yellow and brown patches and they may even drop off. Cold air can also lead to condensation build-up on the leaves which will rot them. 

Extreme cold snaps and sudden changes in temperature, humidity, and wind can lead to chlorosis or even death. 

African violets are native to Africa so thrive in hot and humid environments. In colder climates, they should be kept indoors at temperatures between 65oF and 80oF with humidity between 40% and 60%.  

Excessive Sunlight Exposure

Scorched leaves are a sign that your plant is getting too much direct sunlight. They will show dry yellow and brown patches where they have been burnt by the sun, killing the cells and tissues. 

Although African violets thrive in hot and humid climates, direct sunlight is harmful to them. They require bright light to photosynthesize, but it should come from an indirect and preferably natural source. Artificial light may cause yellowing on leaf edges.

The ideal location for your indoor African violet is a few feet away from a bright window. It’s a good idea to rotate the pot weekly to ensure all leaves receive equal sunlight.

FAQ African Violet Leaves Turning Yellow

What soil should I use to plant my African Violet in?

An African violet requires good drainage so the soil should contain a combination of 50% peat or coco coir, plus 25% perlite, and 25% vermiculite. You can also mix sand or grit into the soil to further help with draining. 

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.