African violets are lovely house plants that don’t require a lot of upkeep, but occasionally they need to be repotted. Why?
1. If you purchased the plant anywhere other than from a greenhouse, its soil is probably too dense or heavy for the plant to live in very well. Heavy soil does serve its purpose; it’s just right for transporting the African violet to market because this soil will hold extra water as well as the plant itself in the pot. To help your African violet extend its roots through the soil and thrive, change the soil to a lighter composition.
2. The African violet may have grown too large for its container.
3. The soil is "old" and needs to be refreshed: all the nutrients have been used up.
4. The African violet has a "neck." This was formed as the plant aged and lost row upon row of lower leaves as it grew taller. The neck is neither attractive nor useful to the plant. Repot and put the neck below the soil line so it can help the plant by forming roots and bringing in more nutrients.
5. You simply want to change the pot for aesthetic reasons.
Put one layer of small stones in the bottom of the new African violet pot, making sure that you have covered the drainage holes and that the stones don’t fall through them.
Add African violet soil to about half the depth of the pot. If the African violet has a neck, put less soil into the new pot so that the entire neck will be below the soil when you are finished.
Carefully remove from its pot the African violet you will repot: put your hand over the soil and invert the pot. Lift off the old pot, and delicately separate excess soil from the roots. If the soil is dry and caked, while holding the plant set the root ball into a cup of room-temperature water to allow any soil to loosen and dislodge. Be careful to not damage the roots-they’re fragile!
Place the plant into the new pot and hold it in place with one hand. With a teaspoon in your other hand, add enough potting soil to finish filling the African violet pot. Then, use light pressure only to tamp down the soil; use too much and the plant will not be able to get air or water. Use a microfiber cloth, crumpled tissue, or a soft old paintbrush to gently flick away any soil that almost invariably was deposited on the leaves.
Put the African violet pot onto its saucer, and water the plant. See "How to Water an African Violet" for water requirements and technique.
The small stones placed in the bottom of the new pot must have a larger diameter than the drainage holes in the pot.
You can improve upon bagged African violet potting soil. Combine the soil with vermiculite OR perlite, at a ratio of 2 or 3:1. If, over time, the mix seems too heavy, repot the plant into soil with a higher proportion of vermiculite or perlite. Try different ratios until you find one that works best with the brand of African violet potting soil you use.
After removing the African violet from its old pot, don’t remove soil by force. Most of it should gently brush away.
Don’t try to remove all of the old soil! You will destroy the roots.
Only use African violet pots, not flower pots.
If you compress the new soil too much, you will kill the African violet.
Be sure to use tap water that is room temperature or slightly warmer. Consult "How to Water an African Violet."
If you mix your own African violet potting soil, make sure its consistency is not too light. The plant needs room to extend its roots, but the medium should also be able to hold onto a bit of water throughout rather than letting it drain through unhindered. All roots need water and nourishment, not just those at the bottom of the pot.