– Ruth Coulson
(Ruth is with the Australian African Violet Association and lives on the Central North Coast of NSW)
(Originally published on the African Violets Down Under Facebook page.(www.facebook.com/groups/241227626277942/?fref=nf)
What are baby leaves on a violet and why should they be removed?
First it is important to know what baby leaves are not.
They are not the tiny immature leaves in the centre of the plant. They are called baby, not so much because of their size as because they were the leaves first formed on the plant when it was a plantlet.
Even when the plant is large and mature and likely in flower, these baby leaves can still be present. They are on the very outside of the plant, or possibly underneath the outermost leaves. Typically they are smaller than the leaves formed after them; they can be lighter in colour and have weaker and paler petioles (leaf stems). As I said they are often overcome in size by the next layer of leaves and frequently are hardly seen because they are underneath.
So why should they be taken off the plant? For a start they contribute little to the health of the plant and really contribute nothing to its beauty either. Flowers do not normally form in the axils of baby leaves. So it is best not to keep them. They are just using water and fertiliser for no benefit.
The same thing applies to any outside leaves that are smaller than the succeeding leaves. In fact they are conventionally called “baby leaves” also. When leaves are removed there will often be a little bit of a stem under the remaining leaves. This can usually be covered with some extra potting mix. Make sure there are no leaf stubs left on the stem and the plant should happily put out roots into the new mix.
You will most frequently hear this being discussed as an important step in preparing plants for show. In showing African violets we lose a point for each baby leaf left on the plant. So it is an easy way to earn points – just take off the offending leaves.
It is not just for showing though. Any time you remove such leaves you are redirecting the growth of the plant into the leaves you want to keep and that will flower. Just a good way of making sure your plants are as healthy as they can be and look as good as they can.
In the first part of the attached photograph you can easily see the leaves that are less developed than the succeeding rows. The next row of leaves has also been removed in the second part of the photo because they also were smaller. The plant without these leaves doesn’t look all that good immediately, but it is all set to grow stronger and better than ever before.
Before and after removing Baby Leaves