African Violet Root Rot (Signs & Treatment)

When I started growing and caring for my African violets, I struggled with root rot problems for about three years. African violets are hardy tropical houseplants, but their root systems are sensitive to excess moisture.

It is a no-brainer task to identify an African violet plant suffering from root rot. The most common African violet root rot symptoms are smelly potting soil, distorted leaves, mushy stems, wilting and stunted growth.

Identifying signs and symptoms of root rot among these houseplants may sound simple, but it can be challenging for beginners. We wrote this article to share the signs, causes, and tips for saving an African violet from root rot.

5 Common Signs of African Violet Root Rot

Identifying root rot among African violets can be challenging to beginners and other season houseplant enthusiasts. (Source: University of Florida). Below are the signs of African violet root rot:

Brown and Mushy Roots

A healthy African violet plant has firm and white or gray root systems. An African violet plant suffering from fungal disease has dark brown and mushy root systems that feel soft. If the condition persists for an extended period, your African violet will die.

Leaf Discoloration

African violets have rosettes of rounded and velvety leaves with scalloped edges. The leaves are usually dark green with red tint undersides or variegated. Root rot makes the leaves turn yellow with brown scars.

Leaves Dropping

Severe root rot will make your African violet experience leaf dropping problems. The fungal disease usually damages the roots and inhibits their functionality. Malnutrition also contributes to the African violet leaves falling off.

Stunted Growth

Damaged African violet roots inhibit water and vital nutrient absorption. The issue results in a rapid decline in plant health and the production of small pale leaves. Besides that, the plant will fail to showcase a tropical vibe in your living space.


Water is a crucial component for African violets since it helps in nutrient absorption and distribution. Damaged roots due to the fungal disease prevent water uptake from the soil and lead to plant wilting.

7 Causes of African Violet Root Rot

African violets are hardy tropical houseplants though they are highly vulnerable to root rot problems. Below are the common causes of root rot in African violets:

Pot Size

A large or small pot will hurt your African violet in many ways. For instance, a too large pot holds more water than the plant’s maximum requirement. The excess moisture encourages fungal growth and increases root rot risk.


Fungal diseases are the most common cause of root rot among African violets. Pests and bacterial diseases can make your houseplant sickly and vulnerable to root rot problems. These diseases will make your plant release a distinctive fishy odor.


African violets thrive in a moist environment that never gets soggy. Too much water will fill the air pockets in the potting soil to suffocate the roots. The swampy terrain encourages the smothered roots to experience root rot.

Infrequent Re-potting

African violets are fast-growing tropical houseplants and enjoy frequent re-potting in a year. Failure to re-pot your African violet, the roots will become undernourished and stressed. Therefore, they will become vulnerable to root-rot in the long run.

Inconsistent Watering

Inconsistent watering habit is another cause of root rot among African violets. If you expose your African violet roots to drought for an extended period, the young tips die off and rot quickly after watering. The rotting increases the risk of fungal growth killing the plant.

Poor Drainage System

African violets thrive in light and well-draining potting soil. Heavy and compact soil causes water-logging that submerges the roots. The issue is common to pots without drainage holes at the bottom to eliminate excess water. Boggy and stagnant water cause root rot.

Extreme Temperature Changes

African violets prefer a temperature range of 60-80oF (16-27oC). Any temperature above or below will stress the plant to become sickly. Unhealthy African violet will be susceptible to root rot when watering during cold and warm months.

How to Save an African Violet from Root Rot

It can be challenging to save an African violet from severe root rot. We recommend discarding or propagating the plant. Below are quick steps for saving an African violet from root rot:

Step 1: Stop Watering

If you notice the above signs of root rot on your African violet, stop watering it to allow the potting soil to dry out. Be sure to remove any drip trays or saucers to allow water from the pot to drain completely.

Step 2: Trim Infected Leaves

Use clean and sterilized shears to trim dying leaves from your African violet. We recommend starting from the bottom leaves and working your way to the crown. Remove any leaf that lacks a velvety green appearance.

Step 3: Remove the Plant from the Pot

Remove the plant gently from the pot to allow the roots to air dry overnight. Small African violets will dry within four to five hours. Place the plant under the shade to avoid sunburn effect.

Step 4: Trim the Infected Roots

Investigate the root parts with brown patches and trim them. You can also cut the brittle or squishy roots to combat the rot from spreading.

Step 5: Treat the Roots with Fungicide

Use a commercial fungicide to treat the roots before re-potting to a new pot with soil. It will help eliminate all traces of fungal growth around the roots. Exercise precautions since these powerful chemicals might pose risks near our homes and indoor plants.

Step 6: Transplant to New Soil and Pot

Use a new pot and fresh potting mix to avoid re-infection. Sterilize the new container and tools before handling your African violet. Ensure the fresh potting mix has excellent drainage and the pot has several drainage holes.

Step 7: Water after Re-potting

Water your African violet after adapting to the new environment. Soak the potting medium with distilled water or rainwater to hydrate the plant. Allow 2-3 inches of the top potting soil to dry before watering again.

Step 8: Provide African Violet Care

Keep your African violet in a spot with bright indirect sunlight and consistent temperature to promote healthy growth. Water the plant whenever 2-3 inches of topsoil is dry and provide high humidity with adequate ventilation.

My Final Thoughts

African violet root rot can be a cause of concern since you might risk losing your favorite houseplant. Besides that, treating root rot can be a daunting experience for beginners and season houseplant enthusiasts.

We hope this information will help you detect early root rot symptoms and techniques for fixing them. Take the time to read through and save your African violet plant suffering from root rot. Feel free to share this article with your friend or family members.

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