African Violet Aphid Control – What To Do About African Violet Pests

Although Africanviolets (Saintpaulia ionantha)hail from Africa, lots of people in the United States grow them as indoorplants. They are easy care and beautiful, blooming most of the year, but thatdoesn’t make them free of aphids or other pests.

When you find African violet pests attacking your favoritepotted plants, you need to take appropriate action. Read on for information onmanaging African violet insects, including tips for African violet aphidcontrol.

About African Violet Pests

African violets have come a long way from their native homein the coastal woods of east Africa. Their vibrant blossoms in blues, pinks andlavenders can be seen on window sills everywhere, since they have become one ofthe most popular house plants in our country.

But the flower’s popularity doesn’t prevent African violetpests from going on the attack. While one pest – root-knotnematodes – can kill the plant, most pests are irritating bugs likeaphids that can be controlled relatively easy.

Aphidsare small, soft-bodied insects that such juices from plants, causing somedistortion of new growth. These pests can be light green, dark green, brown orblack. If you have an African violet with aphids, you may not even notice thebugs until you notice honeydew,the sweet substance secreted by the bugs. Ants love honeydew, so aphids onAfrican violets may lead to ants on African violets too.

Managing African Violet Insects

Fortunately, African violet aphid control is fairly easy.Usually, when you have African violets with aphids, you can use simple warmwater and dish soap to remove them. Alternatively, you can find differentpesticides that will kill aphids on African violets. But for these and otherpests, it’s always better to try non-chemical methods first. Neemoil is another option.

The best strategy for managing African violet insects otherthan aphids depends on the type of pest involved. Management techniques rangefrom spraying water on pests to limiting irrigation.

For example, if your African violet pests are small blackflies that seem to be running around the soil or flitting about randomly, youare dealing with fungusgnats. The larvae look like small worms that spin webs on the soilsurface.

Fungus gnat larvae feed on the roots of the African violetplants, but the adults do not cause any direct damage. Still, they areannoying. Your best strategy is to reduce the amount of water you give yourAfrican violet to reduce the gnat population.

Another of the African violet pests you might see on yourplant is the mealybug.They suck juices out of the plant leaves, which distorts them. If your planthas mealybugs, eliminate them by spraying on warm water. Alternatively, use analcohol-dipped cotton swab.

African Violets and Insects

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African violets (Saintpaulia) can be grown easily and offer colorful blooms almost year-round. If your favorite violet is not doing well, it’s possible that it's affected by one of the many types of insects known to affect this species. Watch your African violets closely for any signs of insect pests, and carefully inspect any new plants you bring into the house to avoid contamination. Insects are much easier to control when you detect them early. If you must resort to insecticidal treatments, always use the least toxic method possible. Follow product instructions exactly and observe all safety precautions.


Question: I have some violets as well as a few orchids. My problem is aphids, which I think came in on some mini roses from a local nursery. I’d like to get some more violets, but I’d like to get rid of this problem first.

Answer: Aphids aren’t usually a common problem in violets, though they have been known to appear in a collection on a rare occasion, usually when brought in on another plant. They are usually light green, sometimes black, and have soft, pear-shaped bodies that are easily visible to the naked eye. They usually can be seen on the undersides of leaves or on blossom stems, where the plant tissue is softer and more vulnerable. Because they are easily visible, they can usually be easily eliminated with quick treatment of the affected plants.

Only twice (in over 25 years) have we found aphids in our violet collection. In one instance, they came in on some newly acquired orchids and were quickly eliminated by spraying the affected plants with Knox-Outat the recommended dilution. One thorough spraying did the trick. There are a number of insecticides that can be effective on aphids–malathion, diazanon, or many pyrethrin spays. As always with such chemicals,read the label, and follow all of the usual precautions to protect yourself from exposure. In the second instance, we found large numbers of aphids on a number of Streptocarpus plants that we had purchased at a show. In this case, the numbers were too many, and the plants not valuable enough, so we simply tossed all of the affected plants into the compost pile. They could have been saved, but doing so wasn’t worth the time and wasn’t worth the risk to our health.


What does Knox out contain, which substance? I’m searching for insecticide in Canada to eliminate aphids from my AV. Thank you.

We have not used this product so can’t knowledgeably comment on it.

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Managing African Violet Insects: How To Control Aphids On African Violets - garden

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Questions usually answered same day

QUESTION: What is the Latin name for African violets?

Answer: The botanical name for African violets is “Saintpaulia.” It is in the family of Gesneriaceae, which also includes such plants as Gloxinia, Streptocarpus, Aeschynanthus and Episcia.

QUESTION: We’ve been having a discussion in a group about whether it is possible to definitely “name” an unknown violet based on characteristics. I’ve maintained that you cannot, because plants may bloom differently under different growing conditions. Even if you make the best educated guess possible, it is just that, a guess. I am positive I’ve seen an AVSA position on the issue of NOIDs (plants with no ID) in the magazine, but can’t recall where or what exactly was said. Does AVSA have a position on the matter? I’d love to share that with our group.

Answer: It is almost impossible to accurately identify an African violet that doesn’t have a name tag or other type of identification (a NOID, or a plant with no ID). The African Violet Master List of Species and Cultivars (AVML) and the First Class computer program lists more than 16,000 different named African violets and their descriptions. Depending on your NOID, you could find a few dozen that match the characteristics. You might even be able to narrow it down to four or five. But then you would need to choose one of them, and it would be highly unlikely that you would choose the correct name. Besides that, the AVML has less than half of the named African violets. Even if you found a photo that matched your plant exactly, the odds are great that it is not your plant. So many African violets look the same, and they all grow differently under different growing conditions. It is definitely a mistake to try to identify a NOID in this manner. There are already far too many misidentified African violets out there now. (Just ask anyone who has done classification and entries at an African violet show.) Please don’t add to the problem.

QUESTION: What is a NOID or No-id?

Answer: This term is commonly applied in social media to describe a violet which has been separated from its identity and name. It now cannot be identified and has no-id. Once lost, it is extremely difficult to restore the proper name. Many violets sold in large retail stores will be NOIDS primarily because unlabeled hybrids are easier to produce and may be sold at a more competitive price. NOIDs may not be entered into AVSA shows, but otherwise they are enjoyable violets to grow. As violet collectors come to understand the value of the hybrid name, they also become more careful to buy violets which are properly labeled and to maintaiin that label when they repot or propagate the plant.

QUESTION: I’ve had my African violet for about two-and-a-half years. It’s growing great, but I have yet to see a single bloom. is there something I’m doing wrong?

Answer: African violets need several things to bloom well.

  • It must receive adequate light. African violets prefer to be within 12 inches of a bright window. If windows aren’t available, fluorescent light or LED lights may be used to supplement. Depending on the lighting product, violets should be positioned 10-30 inches away from the light unit, and the light should be turned on for 6-12 hours a day. Violets receiving adequate light grow with a flat horizontal wheel of leaves. If it isn’t getting enough light, the leaves will usually reach upward and have long petioles (leaf stems).
  • It must be fertilized regularly with a balanced mix for African violets. There are many good brands. Many growers opt to use products at 1/8-1/4 strength every week.
  • African violets bloom best when in small pots, ideally only one-third the diameter of their leaf span. A plant that measures nine inches across should be in a three-inch pot.
  • African violets bloom best when the roots are well-developed. The best roots form in very porous potting mix which is kept evenly moist at all times–never saturated and never bone dry. We recommend a quality mix combined half and half with an equal amount of coarse perlite (tropical regions may need a greater ratio of coarse perlite).
  • If the air is very dry, the flower buds may be drying off before they are even visible. Humidity levels of 40% are ideal. Check also to see if a vent might be blowing dry air across the surface of the plant.
  • Some African violets become vegetative, meaning they are so comfortable that they only grow leaves. To convert them to being reproductive, you must give them a little scare. Repotting is one method. It also works to tap the pot firmly on a hard surface or squeeze the pot to create a minor earthquake. This seems to awaken the survival-of-the-species instinct, and your violet will often set buds.
  • Some varieties are shy bloomers. If you have tried all of these techniques and it still does not bloom, try again with a different variety that may be more suited to your conditions.

QUESTION: I have an African violet chimera that used to “bloom true,” but now it is not. Do you have any reason why and will it bloom true again?

Answer: Chimera hybrids contain two separate sets of DNA, which makes them an unusual type of African violet which may only be reproduced by suckers or by blossom-stem propagation. Chimera African violets are prone to sport which means that they mutate easily back to a hybrid with only one of the sets of DNA. Stress factors such as uneven cultural conditions, age, or even electrical currents seem to result in sporting. Occasionally, just a single leaf on the chimera plant will sport and throw a solid blossom, while other leaves will continue to bloom true. When that happens, it is wise to take a blossom stem to propagate so that you can keep the original chimera traits. If it has been blooming incorrectly for several months, from all parts of the plant, it is safe to assume that the chimera trait is lost, and it will not be likely to reappear.

QUESTION: Once a flower or cluster of flowers is spent, do you trim it back just below the flower or do you trim it back to the base of the plant at the dirt. The original crown of flowers on my plants are all almost done. I see new buds emerging but not to the extent as the first time. Is this usually what happens?

Answer: Trim off the individual flowers as they fade, and when the entire cluster is gone, remove the flower stem by rocking it from side to side until it comes loose from the main stem. This trimming has the effect of increasing future blooming, so it is important to keep up with it.

QUESTION: I have several African violets. They are all in the self-watering pots. One is a mature plant that has been blooming regularly. Recently, two of my African violets have begun to get buds as if they were going to bloom, but before they actually bloom they wilt and die. The leaves look really healthy. I fertilize when I water, and they get natural, indirect sunlight 8-10 hours a day. Can you tell me what I am doing wrong?

Answer: I can make a few suggestions as to why your buds are not opening.

  • Low humidity can be a factor. African violets thrive on 40-60% humidity, and when the air around the African violet is dryer than that, the buds can fail. This is especially bad if there is a dry air draft blowing across the surface of the plants.
  • Similarly buds may collapse if the African violet potting mix gets too dry. If you have been allowing the self-watering pots to go dry, this could be the problem. Once potting mix goes dry, it can be difficult to get it moist again because peat moss tends to shed water. In self-watering pots, especially the kind that have no drainage, it can be especially hard to restore the balance in the soil moisture. Repotting is often the only answer.
  • Powdery mildew is a fungal disease and looks like white powder. It can appear on many parts of the plant. If it should happen to grow on bud stems, it could cause the buds to fail. A fungicide may be needed to control it.
  • Cyclamen mites are a pest that feeds on the newest growth of the plant, which includes bud stems. If the center part of the plant seems to be twisting, gnarling, or stunting, or if the buds stems are growing in a similarly distorted way, you may have an infestation of mites.


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