Asked on Feb 09, 2017

My African Violets have tiny white pest, any ideas how to cure?

by Cheryl
One has wilted leaves and no amount of water is perking them up. Other looks healthy but large numbers of white pests. Sprayed with soapy water solutions but no cure. Ideas or should I toss?
Drooping leaves and white pests
  29 answers
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Feb 09, 2017

    Start by re-potting in fresh african potting mix,trim the infected leaves as well. It appears there has been improper watering as the spots on the leaves are an indication. Second when watering place the plant on top of a try and water from the bottom up.As for the insects since those leaves are not supposed to get wet hopefully repotting will be enough.

  • Carol Phillips Carol Phillips on Feb 09, 2017

    These are spider mites. Use a mixture of water and dish detergent (just a little) and spritz the leaves under and on top. This will kill the spider mites. This works for all kinds of pests and is harmless to the plants. I even use this outside on my plants that show pest problems.

  • Cheryl Cheryl on Feb 09, 2017

    I've been spraying with dawn/H2O mixture and they don't die off. What if I added glycerin?

  • Des20415622 Des20415622 on Feb 11, 2017

    I would be so upset that I would throw the plant out. I know that you are suppose to water from the bottom and not get the leaves wet. Good luck to you.

  • Darlenestrenn Darlenestrenn on Feb 11, 2017

    sounds like aphids. get proper bug spray & follow directions. do not get leaves wet & water from the bottom

  • Suellen Hintz Suellen Hintz on Feb 11, 2017

    A light dusting of Sevin Dust or other pesticide will clear up this problem.

  • Sheila Illes Sheila Illes on Feb 11, 2017

    Once you have the plant repotted and done pest control feed the plant cold coffee and it will bring it back to a nice dark green healthy plant. Coffee is the only thing I give my African violets's amazing.

  • Sheila Illes Sheila Illes on Feb 12, 2017

    Be sure it is straight black coffee, no additives. Good luck

  • Claude Claude on Feb 12, 2017

    You are not saposto get the leaves wet. True. *But more like constant watering in that fashion more than cleaning the plant. I took my av when it was dry and needed watering and swished it in a bowl of soapy water, quite vigorously...sat it up to drain beneath a grow light...the coffee drink provides necessary nitrogen😄 I water mine by sitting in a bowl of tepid water, for about 10 min then putting it in a place to drain excess water out. (*think of the plant in it's natural habitat...the leaves get wet there don't they?)

  • Marina Abbott Marina Abbott on Feb 13, 2017

    Looking at the droopy plant I would say there is something wrong on the stem. Inspect the stem and make sure there is not a spot where the stem is soft and mushy. If there is a spot like this remove it from the pot and cut the stem above the soft part and replant in new african violet soil. It will not perk up immediately but it should after a few days. As far as the white fly goes I will tell you about the way my Mom used to get rid of them and no harm to the plant. She would get my Dad to lite a cigar and blow the smoke on the white fly. Hopefully you have a smoker in your house, this is the only way she would get rid of the white fly on any of her plants and she had a house full of them. Fortunately my plants have never been troubled with white fly. Good Luck.

  • Cindy1955 Cindy1955 on Feb 13, 2017

    Yes, sounds like white fly. You can get spray for it.

  • Cheryl Cheryl on Feb 13, 2017

    No smoker but I know some. And I will look st the stem. I am thinking some thin is preventing roots from working.

  • Cwa9001601 Cwa9001601 on Feb 13, 2017

    white bugs are aphids. water from bottom try putting aluinum foil around pot and top rim. stem probaby water logged and rotting

  • Cheryl Cheryl on Feb 13, 2017

    Found that stem had strangled so cut it and now will try to root. Interested in trying the foil. Thanks!

  • Liz Sanchez Liz Sanchez on Feb 13, 2017

    First isolate the plant from other plants , sounds to me like aphids, they can attack other plants, Av's are also susceptible to clyclamen mites, mealy bugs and root mealy bugs. I love African violets and presently have five, which are doing magnificent... but, I have had this problem before. You want to pinch off as close to the main stem the bottom leaves, including the ones that have wilted, from what I see in your photo, all those that look burnt and those that the tips are starting to curl, take them out, it's not going to look pretty... but it'll thank you for it. Next, get a cotton swab or for closer spots like the stem you will need a toothpick, dip it in alcohol or an insecticide if available... I use alcohol. Remove all visible bugs, including their woolly water-resistant nest, they tend to congregate on the stems, leaves and in leaf axils, and especially on the underside of the leaves. It looks like you re-potted the plant, does it have a hole for drainage? If not, this may have also caused the problem, water logged roots. I have left my Av's in the same double pot that they came in for years, I only added ½ a hand-full of river rocks to each, to make it easier to lift them out to water. I only water them once a week, since they retain water in their stems, over watering is a no, no! I fill the outer pot ¾ with water, then sit the potted plant in it, they drink up the water from the bottom. Unless the plant when you bought it, had lots of roots sticking out of the bottom, there is no need to re-pot it, they like to be pot bound. If you have to re-pot it, just re-pot in one size bigger than the original pot it came in. Otherwise, they get root happy, and don't really produce healthy beautiful flowers, they may be smaller in size. Av's don't like full sun, filtered sun is best. And yes, they love the cold coffee/grounds since they are acid loving plants, I rather give them Av's plant food in early spring and occasionally Multi-Purpose Epson salt, 1 tspn to 1 gal of water, which I found a 4 lb. bag at Walmart, I give it to all my plants, they love it, best fertilizer there is. Make sure you watch it and keep your Av isolated till all danger of bugs have passed, if it continues, I suggest you re-pot it, make sure if you do, wash the roots before you re-pot it. If all fails, then it's time to get rid of it, and start with a new one... just don't for the sake of the plant re-pot it. Hope this helps, good luck!

    • Liz Sanchez Liz Sanchez on Feb 13, 2017

      I don't know where this site got that I am from Castleton On Hudson, I'm in Albany, NY

  • Cl.ebbing66 Cl.ebbing66 on Feb 13, 2017

    I'd re-pot it, but, be very gentle as African Violets are delicate. Have your NEW POT with drainage, washed and dried. Add about 2 teaspoons of charcoal in the bottom. (You can find it in the pet area of Walmart). It will fight off bacteria. Do this BEFORE you take your violet out of it's old pot. Gently remove the plant from the old pot. Quickly as to not let the roots be exposed to too much air, place the plant into the new pot being careful NOT to let the leaves touch the side of the pot as this will over time cause the leaf to go limp and die. Using a spoon, dip new AFRICAN VIOLET POTTING SOIL around the plant patting down ever so lightly as to not injure the stalk. We don't want any air pockets. Add enough water to moisten the soil without soaking it. Pat soil softly again. Let it drain well before putting it in it's draining dish, as Violets don't like wet feet. Water regularly, less is better than more. By all means DO NOT SPRAY or WATER FROM THE TOP. Your plant WILL DIE!

    If your having problems with flies and other six legged creatures you should quarantine the infected plants as to stop cross contamination, treating these plants for disease. We want a Happy Healthy Violet. Also, please keep those curious, ten fingered, two legged, walking talking creature's from pinching or petting. I know it's hard to resist petting, but it's a no no. Violet's only like to be admired from a distance, they will thanks you for it! At most stores that sell plants such as Walmart, Lowe's and other's you can find very good books on the name's of plant's and their care. You should wash, bleach and dry all used pots before using them again.

    I lost my African Violet, given to me by a dear friend. It was my pet dove...she loved my violet to. So much so that she decided it would make a nice nest. Her nails picked little hole's in the leaves and broke off the blooms, of course, not liking to be touched my violet passed on.

  • Cl.ebbing66 Cl.ebbing66 on Feb 13, 2017

    If you use a water softener be very careful of watering any of your plants with the tap water. I live in a senior retirement community and the water is treated. I began noticing my plants were kinda drooping. Then I noticed that there was a white, sticky crust around the filter of my aquarium, my face started stinging during my shower. Well, a light went off in my head. It had to be the salt in the water. Management was over doing the treatment. this was compounded by the city putting chlorine in the city water system. So now I run to the store every month to get water for both my plants and the fish.

  • Liz Sanchez Liz Sanchez on Feb 13, 2017

    I can't understand why some say not to touch the plants, do you realize plants love to be touched and stroked, especially the stem, they grow much bigger... check out some u tube videos on this. As for my African violet, heck yes, sometimes I may gently stroke their hairy leaves and I have had them for years, they know I am doing it out of love. And they reward me with the most fantastic flowers.

    • Cl.ebbing66 Cl.ebbing66 on Feb 13, 2017

      Yes, my friend, most plants thrive on our touch...they know their maker put us in charge of their care. Some of us are doing a very bad job. I play music for mine and if you look close enough your can see them swaying to the beat. I love when that happens. My brother thinks I'm crazy....crazy cat lady yes, but, crazy plant lady, no. I also do Reiki on them. You may have heard about it. That's a healing technique based on the principle that the therapist can channel energy into the patient (I say, plant) by means of touch, to activate the natural healing processes of the patient's body and restore physical and emotional well-being. While doing this I can feel the plants energy. You will know it, it's a very soft, warm energy. The definition say touch but actually you don't touch with this procedure. You cup your hands one on either side about one to two inches from the plant and slowly move your hands up to the top and flick your hands like your flipping water off your hands. I go from bottom to top and flick off the stagnant energy. You should try not to touch as it stops the energy flow. This removes the bad energy releasing good energy. I've done this to all my plants for quite some time. You should try it. Kinda like a Plant Whisperer. LOL! Anyhow good chatting with ya. Be safe.

  • Shele Shele on Feb 14, 2017

    I was told a long time ago to lightly spray the plants with buttermilk, and it worked. I do emphasize lightly, you may have to thin it a bit so you can get it to spray. Bugs of any kind seem not to appreciate buttermilk.

  • Rita Botha Rita Botha on Feb 15, 2017

    My late mum had the green thumb. She was well-renowned for her African Violets and was constantly propagating from her parent plants. Any leaves with slight discoloration was nipped off close to the main stem and suspended through plastic film into a container with water until strong root growth was visible. She then planted these into soil and it did not take long for the little baby plants to surface. The original leaf normally then died down completely and the new violet plant thrived. She spoke to her plants and she stroked and loved them and they rewarded her for the attention. There are a couple of lessons she taught be about them and it may not be scientific, but I also swear by it as my violets also appear to be healthy and happy.

    Firstly, never water from the top, always from the saucer at the bottom. Small amounts of water but regularly. Never allow the soil to be soggy.

    Mum believed that soggy soil below the leaves become the breeding ground for pests. If she spotted any pests, she inspected the soil and if she found any unusual activity in the soil, the plant was removed, soil tossed and repotted in a sterilized pot with new soil.

    Wetting the leaves for any reason was a no-no. She had a small, soft paintbrush which was exclusively used for her AV's leaves. They were regularly dusted to remove any dust from the atmosphere. This gave the necessary attention to the plant to spot potentially harmful pests or rot at the same time as keeping the leaves gleaming and the hairs spotlessly clean.

    The plants were positioned so that it had bright light all day long but never, ever did a direct ray of sunlight touch her plants. If they looked unhappy in any way, she would reposition it in the area until she could see the plant responding favourably.

    I know it sounds like a lot of fussing, but it all boils down to a couple of minutes' work regularly and she never needed to use artificial feed or pest control.

    Your plants look sad at the moment, but they should survive. The advice given by other readers above are all good and I believe that you should just find the right regimen which will suit you to care for them so it does not become a "chore". If your plants sense the happiness it gives you to tend to them, they will reward you with their own happiness. If it is a chore, they will be sad and not flourish.

    I wish you great success with your AV's and much joy from their thankful recovery.

    • Cheryl Cheryl on Feb 15, 2017

      What wonderful memories of your mum. I have had these for over 10 years for one and the other may be from about 1996. I do love them and get such enjoyment from them. Every time they bloom is wonderful. I am hoping I can get these 2 healthy and look forward to many more years.

  • Nina Nina on Feb 18, 2017

    These white cotton balls are Mealybugs. Violets are a favorite plant. Wipe off with cotton swap in alcohol or spray with plant insect killer but hard to get them all...!

  • MikkiGirl MikkiGirl on Feb 18, 2017

    I have four African Violets that are doing extremely well. The largest is about 15" diagonal. Two of them are in "saucer pots" which are one piece. The other two are in plain terra-cotta pots which I sit on saucers. Neither works better than the other. Hint: to propagate pinch off one or more leaves; cover the vase, glass, whatever you're using with aluminum foil and put tiny slits in the foil and insert leaf stems through to the water. The foil prevents the leaves from getting wet. Plant when roots have formed.

  • Cl.ebbing66 Cl.ebbing66 on Feb 19, 2017

    Hi Rita.  Sorry for your loss of you Mum. Sounds like she knew her AV. Thanks for the tips.

  • Rita Botha Rita Botha on Feb 20, 2017

    Hey there! Thank you so much for your kind words.

    I have wanted to respond to your earlier comments as well but did not want to hijack the post, but now I will. :-)

    Your views on plant life and our interaction with them, resonates totally with me. I have seen growing plants dying down for no apparent reason when all they have been craving is interaction and attention. And then seen them thrive again when they feel the interaction and love. I've also been jokingly referred to as the crazy plant lady, and you know what, I'm proud of it! After a particularly ugly seperation and divorce, I left the communal home and left behind a gorgeous garden. Within two seasons nothing was left of it despite the regular tendings of a gardener. Due to divorce settlement circumstances, I repossessed the house and the first season I was back, my prize rose was back in bloom and after 3 years the garden's glory has been restored. I again have a passion fruit vine which I don't know where I'm next going to trail it, my grapes have broken the trellis this year and a pomegranate tree which was just a skeleton when I returned is green and alive again.

    I'm attaching a single picture of the rose in question - don't you just think the light of life is shining from it's heart?

  • Lee Lee on Jun 18, 2017

    Hi Group!

    I have 5 beautiful AV's that I have had for quite some time. All are newly repotted about 2 months ago. Three of them are from rootings that became about 4 inches in diameter before I got around to potting them. I bought new pots and new bags of AV soil from Home Depot but did not sterile the pots (bad me.)

    I water by placing the pots into larger bowls and fill 3/4 full and soak about 20 minutes, then drain. This is an every 10 day routine as we are very humid here.

    All to say, they are all of a sudden covered with small flying gnats, covered!!!

    In 20 years I have never seen these.

    Please help!

  • Lee Lee on Jun 18, 2017

    Hi, Me again-

    Is seven dust safe ??


  • Lydia Bee Lydia Bee on Aug 13, 2018

    Fly paper works so well for gnats. You can get it online in cute butterfly shapes, easy to handle. Sticky fly trap (paper) is also recommended for white fly which has stages of growth, so it's a crap shoot if you get them as kids, adults, etc. Handling the sticky paper is a challenge (except for the online butterfly type at Amazon). The sticky paper is non toxic but will stick to your everything! beware for you loving pets, i.e. cat/dog that sniffs plants. An old world remedy for bugs in the era of 2018.

    • Les50154743 Les50154743 on Nov 28, 2020

      Today I discovered what I think is whitefly on my very healthy looking violets. After reading these suggestions and not wanting to spray the leaves, I have removed all the bugs that I could see with ordinary scotch tape. I'll transplant the three different colours in one shallow pot, as they are now, and keep my eye on them in case there are more bugs. I plan to use the coffee idea too.

  • Pat Pat on Jul 20, 2019

    No one has mentioned using a systemic insect powder. It is a powder that you sprinkle on top of the dirt and then water. The powder goes into the soil and the roots take it up through the plant....any insects eating or biting into the plant will die. It may take up to two weeks. I use this all the time when bringing plants inside or whenever I buy new plants... These little white flies or insects can quickly spread to your other plants. I also do like your mom and use a little brush to keep the dust off the leaves. Most of my violet are in violet pots and only get watered from the bottom. Good luck. To use the systemic powder, you will need to water the soil.....not the plant. After this one watering, from then on water your AV from the bottom saucer. Earl May or any hardware store sells the product. Good luck.