African Violets: Divide & De-Sucker for Better Flowering

My white-flowered, no-name African violet is going under the knife today. Why? Because it no longer looks attractive. It has produced — as all saintpaulias eventually do — multiple crowns and a series of little offshoots, or “suckers.” These two things wreck the parent plant’s symmetry. They also interfer with flowering. A little surgery, artfully performed, will restore the plant back to its original, single-crowned glory. And the surplus crowns and suckers? These can have lives of their own.

A saintpaulia with more than one crown can be separated into a number of smaller, individual plants. Let the soil dry out a little before the operation. Dry roots are easier to cope with than wet ones. First, remove the plant from the pot. Then spread the plant out on a newspaper and gently but firmly pull the sections apart. If roots are stubbornly entwined, use a pen-knife to sever them. In the photo above, I was able to get two divisions without any trouble at all. Later, a third division was cut away with the aid of a pen knife.

When a division is removed with at least some roots attached, the next step is to plant it in a 2- or 3-inch pot (above). With plenty of surface room, it will soon develop large, handsome leaves and maintain an open crown from which a constant parade of flowers will spring forth. Use any light, porous soil.

If, however, all roots are lost, additional surgery will be required. Reduce foliage until the division is nothing more than a tiny rosette of leaves (above). Then plant into a 2-inch pot, using the same soil as before.

Suckers growing out at the sides of the crown are another source of new plants. Let them attain enough size to get hold of (and make sure you are removing a sucker, not an oncoming flower), before cutting them away with a pen-knife. Roots attached or not, plant them in 2-inch pots.

When you have a great number of rootless suckers and divisions, it pays to create a little nursery for their convalescence. I find the hinged, plastic container that hydroponically-grown Boston lettuce comes in makes an ideal hospital (above). I fill the container’s shallow, bottom portion with slightly damp soil, insert the rootless plants, and then close the lid. Divisions and suckers revel in the humidity this container affords, and soon produce roots. When new foliage is evident, the plants are withdrawn for separate potting.

Such is the surgical procedure that turns one plant into many. And each one of these, with good care, will exhibit the kind of “show-quality” we all want: a symmetrical rosette of leaves, topped with a full, and continuous, bouquet of blooms.

Incidentally, the surgery on my one African violet returned a total of 8 plants. Where will they go? Why, on my list of gift-plants for unsuspecting friends!

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Related Posts:
African Violets: How I Achieve Constant Bloom
How to Set Up a Window Garden
Flowering Bulbs for Winter Windows


  1. Gardenlady says:

    Kevin, thanks for explaining this procedure. I have several old AVs that are filled with suckers. Guess it's time to get out the knife!

  2. I have a beautiful pink violet that is loaded with flowers. But it is loaded with something else, as well: Aphids! At least, I think they are aphids. Little white specks that look like pollen, until I poke one, and it moves! How do I get rid of them? A friend suggested a systemic insecticide intended for roses. She said to use only a small amount. Is this safe?

  3. Thank you for sharing all this detailed information. I am just getting into African Violets and can use all the help I can get. Sharon

  4. Elizabeth – Thanks for stopping by. The little white specks sound like aphids to me. Personally, I would never use a systemic insecticide indoors. Aphids are easily dislodged with a FIRM spray of warm water on both tops and bottoms of leaves. Do this every other day until symptoms disappear; then shower weekly. In the meantime, put your pink AV under quarantine. You don't want it to infest your other cherished houseplants!

  5. Gardenlady – go for it!

    Sharon – you might want to click on the link above, “African Violets: My Easy, Always-In-Bloom Program.” This post explores all the basics – light, soil, pots, fertilizer, etc., for a successful and utterly enjoyable experience with saintpaulias.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks, Kevin. I will take the firm-blast-of-water-route.

  7. I'd always heard that when you divide or propagate a plant, you should remove its flower buds. But in the third photo, the pot on the left has two flowering stems. Is it OK with African violets to leave them on? It won't slow the recovery period?

  8. Carol – You are absolutely correct. Flowers should always be removed when dividing or propagating a plant, so that energy is concentrated on root-formation. But because the division you referred to already had a fairly good root system, I decided to keep the budding stems intact. I didn't have the heart to remove them. And so far so good — one of the buds has opened, and the plant has shown no setback whatsoever.

  9. Kevin, do you ever propagate your AVs from leaves?

  10. This is a fantastic blog! I will tell all of my friends who garden about it.

  11. Samantha – I certainly do propagate violets from leaves. But I thought the topic was “TMI” for this particular post. I'll blog about “putting down a leaf” in the very near future.

    Anonymous – Why, thank you!

  12. Gib McCurdy says:

    Hi Kevin, Hope all is well. Please say hello to Lilly!! I have a couple of African Violets that are getting big and are not flowering as frequently. There are no suckers. They each have one crown and gradually grow new sets leaves. I don't think there is anything to divide. I am wondering if there is a way to curtail them from growing any bigger. I don't want to transplant them.

    The last time this happened the stalk became so long that it broke. I took it to the Chelsea garden center and she had me take the leaves and get them spouting in water and then replant them once they rooted. it worked. I don't think it is time for that, but any suggestions? Thanks!!

  13. Hi, Gib! Your violet has developed a “long neck.” To remedy the situation, first knock the plant from its pot, and remove all but the top ring of leaves. Next, remove enough of the root system to permit planting in a 2.5- or 3-inch pot. Finally, replant deeply enough so that the neck is buried. This will rejuvenate the plant to its former flowering beauty.

  14. Gib McCurdy says:

    Thanks Kevin!! I would have never thought of this. Happy Thanksgiving!

  15. Layne Barraco says:

    Thank you for the info on re-potting a violet. I have an old one with a trunk about 3″ tall. Not sure it would fit in a 3″ pot. Can I cut the trunk and re-start the root system without losing the plant?

  16. Layne – Yes, you can re-start the plant by severing the “neck” or “trunk” from the roots. Then reduce the foliage, as described and pictured in the fourth paragraph above. Plant the neck with its tiny rosette of leaves in a 2-inch pot, or place it in a little nursery as described above. I’ve rejuvenated many African violets this way.

  17. Thank you for your excellent posts on AV’s! I am wondering what are all the colours that these lovely plants can be? I do have a red one that. Is being propagated as we speak. Thanks again!

  18. Sandi Hart says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE my AV’s. They have been doing well for the past year or so in self watering pots. However, one had gotten so big I had to re-pot in a larger non self watering container a few weeks ago. It has just bloomed beautifully but is looking very droopy. I am afraid It will die. Suggestions will be appreciated.

  19. Helen Langshaw says:

    I have an African violet that I bought and it flowered with single pink blooms. It then stopped for awhile, and when it started again it now has double white edged blooms. How did this happen? I have also made new plant from growing leaves, one of the plants is now flowering, it has a single white flower and a new flower just opening is purple or pink inside and white edging. It also has frilly leaves as well as flat. I did this once before and only got clones of the parent plant. How did all this happen?

  20. Emily Stubbs says:

    Hi, I posted a “thank you” on the other page about violets. But after reading this page, as well as the comments, I have a question. I’ve got an older Violet my mom gave me. Its a little bigger thanthe ones you see in the stores. And today, sadly I noticed that 4 of its largest leaves on the very bottom row, have died or are so droopy that I need to cut them off. I also found 2 leaves like that on one of my other violets. And that one is actually blooming.
    What does this mean? What’s causing it, or what could I be doing wrong????????
    OH! And is there a “norm” for what direction the leaves should be going? Most of mine all go slightly up, out & down. But on one of the plants (that lost some leaves), they were mostly all going just out and up. Except for some on the bottom row, which were going out and down….but those are the ones that died 🙁

  21. Yamíl Torres says:

    ‘Hola’ from Mexico Kevin!

    Just stopping by to say hello and congratulate you for this site. I have a ‘young’ AV (which I named ‘Camila’) that a friend of mine gave to me, and I am really excited about seeing her grow.

    I brought it to my office and she likes it! I am sure that it will give beautiful flowers.

    Thank you for your posts!!!

  22. Christine says:

    When buying AVs is there any way “one” can tell what color it will be?

    You have an excellent site!!



  23. Hi Kevin,
    I am AMAZED & ASTONISHED! Not to mention HaPpY! i have a black thumb for African Violets. I never ever knew that the dreaded spots from water are only from chilliness…….and i never dreamed or imagined that violets can be separated. -Or especially that they can be started from a single leaf of an existing plant….I am THRILLED beyond description! I have clobbered my sweet AF plant, but i believe enough root-stump is left that it may rally. So far i have done everything possible Wrong, while trying to do right, so i am beginning anew.
    THANK YOU a MILLION for this info and all other wonderful stuff on your Site!

  24. Garden man says:

    My African violet has went completely crazy its much larger then when I bought it and there’s stems going every were not sure what to do I wish I could send you I picture of what I have to work with here so you could give me pointers

  25. Hi Garden man – Sounds like your African violet is loaded with offshoots, or suckers. Proceed as described in the article above. You’ll end up with a much more attractive plant — plus lots of new plants.

  26. Quality articles or reviews is the key to invite the visitors to
    pay a visit the web site, that’s what this website is providing.

  27. My husband gave me the desired flower I wanted for Valentine’s day – White African Violets. Now it’s October and the blooms are coming back pink and white variegated. Please tell me how to keep white African Violets white. Thanks.

  28. mrs.rabbit says:

    Is it me or do AVs just look happy after you do this? Thanks for the encouraging step by step Kevin. I have a 5 year old AV from my deceased MIL and was petrified to touch it for fear I would damage it. Now I have 2 new ones from it!

  29. Africa Jackson says:

    I have fallen in love with African violets. I just can’t figure out how to make them bloom. I have 15 violets that were started from leaves and some I bought. A few have bloomed once or twice and some have never bloomed. The ones I started from leaves have yet to bloom. . What I need to do to make mine bloom? Help:)

  30. Ruth Many says:

    I thought AV’s had to rest a month or so with very little water and no fertilizer. Mine are under lights but now I’m wondering if that is a contradiction to their resting, that it would be pushing them before they are ready. ( ? )

  31. should you dead head blooms?

  32. Thanks for all this great info. on AV’s. My plants are several years old, but have never bloomed. I was ready to give them away until I got an idea to google why my African Violets never bloom. I was so surprised to find so much information on this subject and to know I’m not alone. I have many of the problems mentioned by others, one is four rather large plants growing out of the same pot. Each has a rather thick stem and a couple of the stems are curled. The four stems for each plant all appear to come from below the soil line so I think I can remove them and give them their own pot. As for the depth of the pot, what is too deep? I wanted glazed clay pots because they were pretty, but I wasn’t able to buy the squatty kind. Instead, they are taller. Is this a problem as far as keeping the soil moist? Should I allow longer time for the water to absorb from the bottom? I only water from the bottom because every time I got so much as a drop of water on the leaves they would turn brown and die. I’m still trying to believe that I can run the plant under a lukewarm spray to clean the leaves. I live in the Northwest and temps may drop too low before the water has a chance to dry.

  33. RioRita says:

    Have a purple african violet, at least I think that was the color-it’s been so long since I got it as a gift-it was full of blooms and they never came back. You mention “multiple crown”, what does that mean and how to recognize it– and how are the suckers different from regular leaves?
    The leaves are green like your picture but then the leaves on the outside of the plant get faded later on almost brownish and center ones stay green. Thanks for the info.

  34. Hi Kevin.There are some brown spots on my AVs.Are there any other causes except the cold water?

  35. Hi Kevin.There are some brown and yellow spots on my AVs leaves and the leaves texture becom thin in those spots.Are there any other reason instead of cold water?

  36. Hello! This site is indeed very helpful! I followed the advice and just finished a major crown surgery separating a total of 5 plants from the parent plant!

    I have a question though, I was wondering roughly how long would you leave the sucker plant in the convalescing nursery? I was thinking about 1-2 months…would that be about right? What are your experiences?

    Many thanks indeed.

  37. Hi Gerad – You are right about the recovery period — 1 to 2 months.

  38. Miss Jodi says:

    Good afternoon!
    My mom has an AV that has gone crazy. It has grown so far out of the pot that it has a small cylinder in the pot to prop it up. It is probably about 5-6 inches long.
    So, after reading through this it obviously needs repotted. The new development now that has happened quite recently, is the neck is growing new tiny leaves! So it looks as though the neck is also going to town with new growth. How do we tackle that?! Oh, help!

  39. Hi Miss Jodi – When an African violet develops a long neck, a little surgery is required. First, knock the plant out of its pot. Then remove at least half the foliage and half the roots. (Be brutal here — the plant after surgery should look hopelessly small.) Finally, replant in a 3- or 4-inch pot, with the neck below soil level. With good care, the plant will quickly recover. And all the leaves you removed? These can be turned into new plants. See the how-to in this fun post.

  40. I bought a violet this summer and it is such a cluster you can’t see the dirt or even down the center. I really love it but are all these crowns? It has bloomed for me some, white and purple. I don’t want to separate it because the huge cluster was why I bought it.

  41. Sharon Sullivan says:

    Hi Kevin
    I have a violet that was my mothers. It is at least 20 years old. The leaves were beautiful but the last 6 months the leaves are tight, curled under and growing straight up. Very dark green with thick stems. Could I have over fertilized.? What should I do.?

    I have a 20 yr. old violet that was doing very well until about 6 mos ago. The leaves are now growing straight up and tightly curled under leaving it very deformed looking. Also very crowded at the top. Did I over fertilize? What should I do. I am new to this and want to keep this plant alive. It was my moms.
    Thank You.

  42. I recently propagated my AF leaves and have planted the new growth. As I noticed when the leaves were still developing in the water, many separate clusters developed. The entire group has been planted and I’ve been watching them grow for over a month, clearly a division will need to be made at some point(many plants at one time, from one leaf!Way!). But my question is, at what age should they get the dividing slice? Just be patient and wait until they mature for a better root system or…?

  43. Hi Erica – Rooted African violet leaves always produce multiple plants. I separate the babies right from the get-go. See this post: How to Separate and Pot African Violet Babies.

  44. I have cut my Violet’s with a long neck fairly close to the leaf base of the plant. I then wrap the base in a wet paper towel and put it in a ziplock. If you use a heated germinating mat, you’ll have roots in a week.

  45. I also have an older violet started from one of my mom’s plants. It does the same thing. Her plants ALWAYS develop a long neck. The blooms are not as spectacular as the newer violets. The lower leaves die as the neck grows. I assume it may be characteristic of an older variety.

  46. It would be nice if we could post pictures.


  1. […] African Violets: Divide & De-Sucker for Better Flowering – Hi Kevin, Hope all is well. Please say hello to Lilly!! I have a couple of African Violets that are getting big and are not flowering as frequently. […]

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