Why African Violets Grow Sideways and How to Fix It | African Violet Resource Center
Why African Violets grow sideways is usually because the main stem has grown too tall to support the whole plant.

Why African Violets Grow Sideways and How to Fix It

Many plant enthusiasts have encountered the frustrating issue of leggy, sideways growth in their African violets. Why do African violets grow sideways in the first place? Let’s take a look!

What Causes African Violets To Grow Sideways

When an African violet begins growing sideways, it’s usually because the main stem has grown too tall to support the whole plant, and it begins to tilt to the side. There are several reasons an African violet plant may begin growing sideways instead of up like a normal-growing plant. Here are some possible reasons your beloved plant is growing sideways.

1) Plants Not Being Rotated

One common reason why African violets may start growing sideways is if they are not being rotated regularly. Like most plants, African violets have a natural tendency to lean towards the light source. If they are constantly exposed to sunlight from one direction, their stems will start to bend in that direction.

This will become more obvious if the plant just isn’t getting enough light. If it’s receiving enough light, then not being rotated will not have as much of an impact on its sideways growth. So this reason is kind of a two-for-one, but either way, you should check how much filtered or indirect light your plant is getting, and remember to rotate it once every week or two.

2) Watering Issues

Proper watering is crucial for the healthy growth of African violets. Overwatering or underwatering can cause them to grow sideways and become leggy. When a plant doesn’t get the right amount of water, it will begin to compensate for that in odd ways. To figure out if this is the reason behind your plant’s sideways growth, take a close look at the soil. If it’s soggy or overly dry, then you likely have your answer!

Watering issues are easily fixed most of the time, but it’s always better to prevent these types of issues than to treat them. If your plant develops root rot from overwatering, you will need to put in a bit more work to solve the problem.

3) Soil Erosion

Soil erosion can be a common culprit when it comes to African violets growing sideways, although it’s not always so common when the plant is in a good pot. When the soil erodes, it becomes loose and unstable, making it difficult for the roots of the plant to anchor themselves properly. This lack of stability can cause the plant to lean or grow in a sideways direction. Soil erosion can also happen if the soil is just old and has lost its density and stability.

4) Excessive Fertilizing

While fertilizing can provide much-needed nutrients for growth and bloom production, going overboard with this essential step can have negative consequences. Over-fertilization can lead to an accumulation of salts in the soil, causing root burn and disrupting the delicate balance within the plant. This imbalance may manifest itself as leggy or sideways growth rather than compact and upright foliage if it doesn’t burn the roots first. It can also force the plant to grow too tall too quickly, causing the stem to lean over due to the excess weight it is trying to hold upright.

5) Lack of Pruning

One common reason why African violets may grow sideways is a lack of pruning. Just like any other plant, African violets need regular maintenance to thrive and maintain their shape. When they are not pruned regularly, the stems can become long and leggy, causing the plant to lean or flop over. Pruning is essential to allow new growth to emerge, making the plant more compact and balanced.

Why African Violets grow sideways is usually because the main stem has grown too tall to support the whole plant.

How to Fix Leggy, Sideways Growth Step by Step

Fixing the cause behind the sideways growth is the easiest way to fix the problem and prevent it from continuing to happen. To fix a stem that has grown too long and is causing the plant to begin growing sideways, you’ll basically be burying a portion of the stem. This will not only help to stabilize the plant and stop it from leaning, it will also give the plant a new set of roots that can bring more nutrients and oxygen to the plant. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you fix the problem.

1) Remove Plant From Soil

Gently lift the plant out of its pot and shake off any excess soil. This will allow you to better assess the condition of the roots. You can easily wash away any excess soil in a sink or a bowl filled with water, just try to make sure the water isn’t too hot or too cold, as it could quickly shock the roots without the soil around them as protection.

2) Remove Spent Leaves and Blooms

You can do this portion before removing the plant from the soil, but it is much easier to see those bottom sets of leaves when the soil is washed away from the roots. Trim away any yellowed or withered leaves, as well as spent blooms. These can rob energy from healthy growth, and now is the best time to do this.

You’ll also want to remove the bottom sets of leaves until you have a few healthy sets at the top of the stem and you have a decent amount of stem to work with in the next steps. Your plant’s size will determine how many sets of leaves you should trim off.

3) Check for Root Rot

While your plant is out of its pot, examine the roots carefully for signs of rotting or decay. Healthy roots should be firm and white, while rotting ones may appear mushy or discolored. If you do find some roots that have rotted, you’ll need to take care of those before potting up your African violet.

4) Remove Roots

Use sterilized scissors or pruning shears to trim away those rotted roots until only healthy roots remain. This will significantly help your African violet to begin the journey back to healthy growth, and will help it grow properly once it has recovered. A warning about this process: if more than 50% of the roots are rotted or mushy, you may need to supplement your plant with some root supplement to help it recover from the drastic loss of so much of its root system.

5) Trim and Scrape Stem

Inspect the stem for any blackened areas indicating disease or damage. Carefully trim back damaged sections using clean tools to prevent further infection as long as your cuts do not go too far into the stem. You’ll also scrape the brown scabs where previous leaf stems came out from on the side of the stem. Don’t cut in too deep, just enough to allow new root growth to emerge. For any areas that were affected by disease or damage, you may want to treat the stem with some cinnamon to prevent any regrowth of those diseases.

6) Bury the Stem

Pat some rooting hormone around the stem where you’ve scraped off the scabs, then bury the stem up to about ½ inch from the bottom set of leaves. Water your plant thoroughly, and keep a close eye on your plant for the next few weeks. You should start seeing improvement by then, and you can then resume your normal care routine with your African violet.

By following these steps, your African violet plants can regain their upright growth habit over time! Remember to provide proper care including regular watering and appropriate lighting conditions specific to this delicate houseplant species!

Final Thoughts

An African violet that is growing sideways can be a sign of several different things, but most commonly, it’s just because the plant has overgrown. Luckily, there is a relatively easy way to fix it and to stabilize your African violet so it’s less likely to grow sideways in the future. By following this step-by-step guide, your African violet will recover quickly from growing sideways and your African violet will soon be happy and healthy again.

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Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned grower, African Violet Resource Center has everything you need to help your plant grow vibrant and strong. Explore our other articles, visit our online shop, and connect with other houseplant lovers in our Facebook group to learn everything you need to know about this rewarding hobby!

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