Humidity - Not Enough
Humidity is vital to the health of African Violets. In their native habitat, in the Usambara Mountains of Africa, the relative humidity is generally about 70 to 80 percent. While this level of humidity would be difficult to maintain in most homes, African Violets should have at least 50 to 60 percent humidity. If the level of humidity is much less than this, a Violet's transpiration rate will be greater than its ability to absorb water. As a consequence, buds will fail to open, plant growth will be slow and foliage will begin to lose its natural luster.
If your African Violet exhibits this symptom, while appearing otherwise healthy, it very likely is not getting enough humidity. However, be sure to rule out the possibility of a Phosphorus Deficiency.
There are a number of ways to increase the amount of humidity around your African Violets.
First, you can create a favorable microclimate by grouping your Violets together. This, by itself, can increase the humidity around your plants by as much as 15 percent. (Note: Do not place your African Violets so closely together that the leaves are touching. While maintaining high humidity is essential, it is also important to give your Violets enough room to grow and to maintain sufficient air circulation in order to prevent the growth of potentially dangerous fungi.)
In addition to creating a favorable microclimate for your Violets, you may also want to try a self-watering device which uses capillary matting, such as the Watermaid. Where capillary matting is used, low humidity is rarely a problem. A similar solution is to place containers of water around the plants. As with capillary matting, evaporation increases the water content in the air surrounding your Violets.
Finally, you may want to consider using a humidifier. This will probably be more necessary during the winter months than during than the summer. However, both heating and air conditioning can dry out the air to some extent. In the winter, use a warm-mist humidifier so that the increase in humidity does not affect the air temperature. In the summer, use a cool-mist humidifier.
In addition to the above guidelines, you may want to consider getting a hygrometer. Dedicated plant growers use a hygrometer to get precise measurements of the humidity around their plants.
For more about proper humidity and other factors of air quality, see "Caring for African Violets."
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