How to Foliar Feed?
Foliar feeding involves gently spraying the African Violet leaves with a diluted mixture of plant fertilizer.
a) Preparing the fertilizer mix for foliar feeding:
- First fill a watering can/container with warm-hot water. Add balanced fertilizer (14-14-14) according to package instructions (usually 1/4tsp fertilizer in a gallon of water). Mix/Shake well. I would recommend optimara fertilizer (https://amzn.to/3oXUvCB).
- Further dilute this fertilizer mixture 1:3 in a spray bottle. For e.g add 1 cup of above fertilizer-water mixture in a spray bottle. To this further add 3 cups of warm-hot plain water in spray bottle. Mix /Shake well.
- You will now have 4 cups of diluted fertilizer mix ready in a spray bottle.
b) How to apply fertilizer mix to African violet leaves?
- Hold the spray bottle 12 inches away from the African Violet plant, press the sprayer and allow the spray mist to gently fall on the leaves
- Do not soak the leaves completely; just a light mist will be enough.
- Can apply to the underside of the leaves too, if possible. Gently lift leaves with one hand and spray mist with other.
- Allow leaves to completely dry.
- Can foliar feed once a month if feeding adult plants or every 2 weeks for newly potted up babies.
- Do not use foliar feeding too frequently, it can be done as a supplemental fertilizer to induce African Violet plants to bloom or help newly potted up babies to grow.
- For more information on growing African Violet leaf babies, visit blog post, “African Violet Leaf Propagation: How To Produce Baby Plantlets“.
Why Do We Need to Dilute the Foliar Feeding Fertilizer?
- During regular fertilizer feeding with water soluble fertilizer, when the African Violet plant is watered from the bottom, the plant roots will absorb the fertilizer from the bottom of the plant.
- When bottom watered the fertilizer will be distributed throughout the whole plant from stem, leaves and flowers/buds.
- Through bottom watering, only 10% of nutrients are absorbed by the roots.
- For more information on how to fertilize African Violet plants, visit blog post, “Fertilizer for African Violet Plants“.
- However when we foliar feed, the diluted fertilizer is applied directly to the leaves, this results in about 95% of the fertilizer to be absorbed by the leaves.
- As a result if the fertilizer is directly applied without diluting, then it can be toxic to the leaves and can lead to over-fertilization.
- This over-fertilization can turn the leaves brown due to foliage burning.
- For more information about why & how African Violet leaves turn brown, visit blog post, “Brown Leaves on African Violet Plants“.
- Development of orange crystals /rust color on the leaves is also a sign of over-fertilization.
- If this happens, you can clean /wash the leaves by heavily spraying with plain water.
- To be on the safer side, when you first try foliar feeding you can experiment on a few leaves, wait 2-3 days and if the leaves look fine then continue with the rest of the plant.
- If leaves start to curl or look brown, then increase the dilution amount by 50% until you reach an optimum dilution and see no damaged leaves.
What Kind of Water to Use for Foliar Feeding?
- Always use warm-hot water. Do not use cold water. Cold water can cause spots on the leaves.
- If you live in a warmer climate, you can fill a bottle of water and leave in your plant room area. If your plant area is warm. This room-temperature water should be ok to use for preparing the diluted fertilizer mix.
- This way the filled water will be in the same temperature environment as the plant room area.
Why to Foliar Feed?
- Foliar feeding can result in higher absorption of nutrients through the African Violet leaves compared to the fertilizer absorption through the roots.
- Foliar feeing can increase the African Violets nutrient absorption.
- Foliar feed can work for adult plants, but can also be used for new African Violet transplants.
- If you have just transplanted an African Violet plant, foliar feeding can help during this growth stage. The roots of the transplanted plant may be still weak to absorb fertilizer nutrients, so foliar feeding may be a suitable alternative.
- Foliar feeding can also work for newly propagated plantlets too, as there root system is also still developing and may not be able to completely absorb the nutrients.
- If these new plantlets are fertilized with bottom feeding fertilizer, there is a chance they may be over-fertilized which can result in fertilizer salt accumulation in the soil.
Examples of commercially available African Violet fertilizers below:
- If your African Violet plants have not been blooming, you can try foliar feeding, it may just boost the plants to develop flower buds.
- Fertilizer absorption through the African Violet leaves can be enhanced when the temperatures are below 80F and the plant area is in a humid environment. These temperatures result in the opening of the stomata, which are the responsible for the transportation of the fertilizer.
- The stomata are located on the underside of the leaf, so it’s a good idea to also gently mist the underside of the African Violet leaf too.
- To allow the foliar fertilizer the best chance of sticking to the leaves, you can add one small drop of dishwashing liquid to the spray bottle. This will minimize the fertilizer overspill and allow for maximum absorption.
- Foliar feeding may also prevent disease damage to leaves. The foliar fertilizer spray forms a thin coating/layer on the surface of the leaf, which can prevent plant leaves from being susceptible to disease.
Can You Still Use Regular Fertilizer Along with Foliar Feeding?
- For adult plants, its ok to use regular bottom feeding fertilizer along with foliar feeding.
- For newly transplanted plants or newly potted up babies use foliar feeding for 1-2 months as needed with plain bottom watering.
- After 1-2 months of foliar feeding switch over to bottom feeding fertilizer only.
Important Points to Remember When Foliar Feeding
- Only use warm-hot water to prepare the diluted fertilizer mix.
- Do not spray the flowers, if you are preparing your plant for show, this may damage the flowers.
- Remember to hold the spray bottle at least 12 inches away.
- Allow a fine mist of diluted liquid fertilizer to fall on the leaves.
- Do not apply too much fertilizer. It is very easy to over-fertilize with foliar feeding.
- Remember to apply to the underside of the leaves.
- Temperatures should be 80F or below.
- Can foliar feed in the morning, which will allow enough time for the leaves to dry.
- If you are growing under lights, can foliar feed, just before the light timers go off, this way the leaves can dry off in the dark before the lights come on again.
- Do not substitute foliar feeding for bottom soil feeding. Foliar feeding should only be used as an occasional supplemental fertilizer feeding for African Violet plants.
Below are examples of temperature and humidity meters, useful to keep in your growing area, especially when monitoring temperature in your growing area:
Foliar Feeding With Fish Emulsion?
- Fish emulsion contains trace elements that plants can easily absorb through suspension/liquid compared to absorption through the soil.
- Fish emulsion has a strong smell, so it’s best to apply the spray in a well ventilated area. The smell can linger for a couple of hours.
- To prepare the fish emulsion mixture for foliar feeding, add 1/3rd tsp of fish emulsion powder or few drops of fish emulsion liquid into a spray bottle containing warm water.
- Once the mixture is ready spray as described above.
Examples of commercially available fish emulsion fertilizers for African Violet plants:
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