What Causes Brown Spots on African Violet Leaves? (Prevention)

In this article, we’ll explore the 6 most common causes of brown spots on African violet leaves. Our aim is to help gardeners better understand the issue and provide actionable solutions to ensure healthy, thriving plants.

causes of brown spots on the leaves of african violets

Brown spots on African violet leaves are irregular or circular discolored areas that appear on the foliage. These spots can vary in size, shape, and even color, ranging from pale brown to dark brown or black.

The presence of brown spots is an indication that your African violet is experiencing some form of stress or damage. Paying attention to these signs and addressing the causes promptly can prevent long-lasting damage to your plant and ensure its continued growth.

Brown spots are commonly a result of one or more factors affecting the health of the plant. These factors can include excessive sunlight, poor water management, incorrect temperatures, pests, and certain diseases. Each of these can harm the leaves in different ways, causing them to develop unsightly brown spots.

As an owner of African violets, it’s important to be vigilant and keep a close eye on your plants. Inspect the brown spots to determine the underlying cause, and then take appropriate actions to remedy the situation.

Addressing the cause of the brown spots promptly increases the likelihood of your African violet returning to full health. In contrast, neglecting to address the issue can lead to further deterioration and potentially the death of your beloved plant.

Remember, providing the proper care and maintenance is key to preventing problems such as brown spots on African violet leaves. Regularly check for any signs of stress or damage and make adjustments to your African violet care routine as needed. This way, you can ensure that your African violets stay vibrant and healthy, providing you with beautiful flowers throughout the year.

What are the Main Causes of Brown Spots on the Leaves of African Violets?

There are 6 main causes of brown spots on African violet leaves such as watering issues, sunburns, diseases, nutrients, pests, or chemical damage.

  1. Watering: Providing too much water or not letting the soil dry out between waterings can lead to root rot, which manifests as brown spots on the leaves.
  2. Sunburn: Direct sunlight or harsh lighting can scorch African violet leaves, causing sunburn-like brown spots to appear on the foliage. Place your plants in an area where they receive indirect sunlight or use sheer curtains to diffuse the light.
  3. Fungal or bacterial disease: Two common diseases, Botrytis and Pythium blight, can cause brown spots on the leaves. Ensure good air circulation around your plants and use fungicides if necessary.
  4. Nutrients: A lack of essential nutrients, especially calcium, can lead to brown spots. To address nutrient deficiencies, use a complete fertilizer specifically formulated for African violets.
  5. Pests: Infestations of mealybugs, aphids, or other insects can cause visible damage to leaves, including brown spots. Inspect your plants regularly and treat any pest problems promptly with insecticidal soap or other appropriate methods.
  6. Chemical damage: Accidental contact with household chemicals, such as bleach or cleaning solutions, can damage the leaves, leading to brown spots. Keep African violets away from areas where chemicals are used or stored and be cautious when handling such products around your plants.

Watering Issue

A common cause of brown spots on African violet leaves is improper watering. Overwatering or not allowing the soil to dry between waterings can result in root rot, which in turn causes damage to the leaves in the form of brown spots. African violets require a well-draining soil mix to avoid having their roots sitting in constant moisture.

To avoid overwatering, check the moisture level of the soil before watering by sticking your finger about an inch into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water; if it still feels moist, wait another day or two. When watering, ensure that you water the soil directly and avoid getting water on the leaves, as this can cause leaf spots.

Underwatering can also cause brown spots due to the plant not receiving enough moisture to properly sustain itself. If the soil dries out too much, the roots can become damaged and the plant will be unable to take up water and nutrients effectively. This stress can manifest as brown spots on the foliage.

To properly water your African violets, use room temperature water, and aim to keep the soil moist, not wet. A self-watering pot or wicking system can help ensure that your African violets receive consistent moisture without the risk of overwatering.

In conclusion, being mindful of your watering practices and tailoring them to meet the needs of your African violets can help prevent brown spots on the leaves. Regularly monitoring the moisture level of the soil and avoiding over- or underwatering can go a long way in maintaining the health and beauty of your plants.


African violets are delicate houseplants that require a proper balance of light in order to thrive. Brown spots on the leaves can often be a sign of sunburn, which occurs when the plant is exposed to excessive direct sunlight or harsh artificial lighting. Sunburned leaves can exhibit pale to dark brown spots, and in severe cases, the leaves can turn completely brown and crispy.

To avoid sunburn, it’s essential to find the right spot for your African violets, where they receive adequate, but not excessive, light. Ideally, African violets should receive bright, indirect sunlight.

You can achieve this by placing them near an east- or north-facing window, or by using sheer curtains to diffuse the sunlight. South- and west-facing windows tend to provide more intense sunlight and may require additional measures to protect your plants.

When using artificial lighting, such as fluorescent or LED grow lights, it’s important to maintain an appropriate distance between the light source and the plant. Keeping the light too close can cause the leaves to become scorched, resulting in brown spots. Adjust the height of the lights or the duration they are on to find the optimal level for your African violets.

Regularly rotating your African violets can also help prevent sunburn and encourage even growth. By turning the plants every couple of weeks, you can ensure that all sides of the plant receive equal amounts of light.

Protecting your African violets from sunburn involves providing the right balance of light, and taking care to avoid direct sunlight or harsh artificial lighting. By monitoring and adjusting the lighting conditions, you can prevent brown spots on the leaves and maintain a healthy, beautiful plant.

Fungal or Bacterial Diseases

Fungal and bacterial diseases can also lead to the appearance of brown spots on African violet leaves. Two common diseases that affect African violets are Botrytis and Pythium blight.

Botrytis, also known as gray mold, presents as brown patches with a gray or fuzzy texture on the leaves. It commonly occurs in high humidity and poor air circulation conditions. To prevent Botrytis, keep humidity levels between 40% and 70%, and ensure adequate air circulation around your plants.

If you notice signs of the disease, remove the affected leaves and apply a fungicide specifically labeled for use on African violets.

Pythium blight, on the other hand, causes water-soaked or dark brown to black spots on the leaves. Over time, these spots can spread and cause significant damage to the plant. Pythium blight thrives in wet, warm conditions, so make sure your African violets are not receiving excessive water. Improve drainage and airflow, and use a fungicide with pythium control if needed.

To prevent fungal and bacterial diseases in your African violets, follow these general guidelines:

  • Provide proper air circulation around your plants by giving them enough space and using a fan.
  • Maintain optimal humidity levels.
  • Avoid getting water on the leaves, as lingering moisture promotes fungal growth.
  • Keep your plants and growing area clean and free of debris.
  • Monitor your plants for signs of disease and act promptly by removing affected leaves and applying required treatments.

By closely adhering to these preventative measures, you can minimize the risk of fungal or bacterial diseases causing brown spots on your African violets and help them grow to their full potential.

Nutrient Deficiency or Excess Fertilization

Nutrient deficiency, particularly a lack of calcium, can result in brown spots on African violet leaves. Calcium plays a crucial role in cell wall formation and overall plant health. Conversely, excess fertilizer can also negatively impact leaf health, causing brown spots due to fertilizer burn.

To address nutrient deficiencies in your African violets, use a complete fertilizer specifically formulated for African violets. A balanced formula containing equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K), along with essential micronutrients, should be used. Follow the recommended dosage and application frequency on the fertilizer instructions. In the case of calcium deficiency, consider adding a calcium supplement to the plant’s regular feeding schedule.

When fertilizing African violets, be cautious not to over-fertilize as it can lead to fertilizer burn. This can cause leaf edges to become brown and discolored. Over-fertilization is also harmful to your plant’s root system. Using a well-balanced, water-soluble fertilizer at a quarter to half strength is a safe approach to provide nutrients without the risk of over-fertilization.

To prevent nutrient deficiency or excess fertilization:

  • Use a complete African violet-specific fertilizer.
  • Follow recommended dosage and frequency guidelines on the fertilizer packaging.
  • Monitor your plant’s appearance for signs of nutrient deficiency or over-fertilization.

By ensuring proper nutrition for your African violets and avoiding over-fertilization, you can prevent brown spots caused by nutrient issues. This vigilance, along with a carefully planned fertilization schedule, will contribute to the overall well-being of your plants.

Pests Damage

Pest infestations can cause damage to African violet leaves, leading to the appearance of brown spots. Common pests that afflict African violets include mealybugs, aphids, spider mites, and thrips. These pests feed on the plant’s sap, causing visible damage, including brown spots and an overall decline in the plant’s health.

To prevent and treat pest infestations:

  1. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of pests. Checking the undersides of leaves and at the base of the plant can help spot any potential issues early on.
  2. If you identify pests, isolate the affected plant from others to prevent the infestation from spreading.
  3. Use an insecticidal soap or a solution of water and mild dish soap to clean the leaves. Gently rub the leaves with a soft cloth or cotton swab dipped in the solution.
  4. Apply a horticultural oil or neem oil spray to the leaves of the African violet, making sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for use. These oils can help control pests without causing damage to the plant.
  5. Release beneficial insects, such as ladybugs or lacewings, which can help control pest populations through natural predation.

It’s important to check your plants regularly and react swiftly when signs of pests are detected. Being proactive about pest control can make all the difference in maintaining the health and beauty of your African violets.

By diligently managing pests that can harm your African violets and maintaining a watchful eye for early signs of infestations, you can prevent pests from causing brown spots and damage to your plants. This vigilance will help ensure your African violets remain vibrant, healthy, and thriving.

Chemical Damage

Brown spots on African violet leaves can also be a result of chemical damage. Contact with household chemicals, such as cleaning solutions, bleach, or even some insecticides, can cause harm to your plant, resulting in brown spots or other forms of leaf damage.

To prevent chemical damage:

  1. Keep your African violets out of reach from household chemicals or areas where they are routinely used or stored. Ensure that cleaning sprays, solvents, or similar substances do not accidentally come in contact with your plants.
  2. Handle chemicals carefully when using them near your African violets. If you need to use a cleaning solution near your plants, consider covering them with a protective barrier, like a cloth or plastic sheet, until the area is clean and dry.
  3. When using insecticides or fungicides on your African violets, make sure to choose products that are safe for use on these delicate plants. Always follow label recommendations for dosages and application methods.

If you suspect that your African violet has been exposed to a harmful chemical, immediately remove any affected leaves and rinse the plant gently with water. Afterward, monitor the plant for any further signs of damage or distress.

It’s crucial to practice caution when handling chemicals around your African violets and to use products specifically designed for use with these plants. By keeping your African violets away from harmful chemicals and closely monitoring their overall condition, you can ensure healthy growth and prevent damage, such as brown spots on the leaves.

What are the Best Ways to Prevent Leaf Damage of African Violets?

To prevent leaf damage and maintain the health and appearance of your African violets, adhere to the following best practices:

  1. Watering: Water your African violets when the topsoil feels dry, ensuring that the soil remains moist but not wet. Use room temperature water to avoid shocking the plant.
  2. Light: Provide bright, indirect light by placing the plant near an east- or north-facing window or using sheer curtains to diffuse sunlight. Adjust artificial lighting to prevent sunburn.
  3. Temperature and humidity: Maintain temperatures between 65 and 75°F (18 and 24°C) and humidity levels between 40% and 70% for optimal growth conditions.
  4. Fertilizing: Feed your African violets with a balanced, specially formulated fertilizer for African violets and avoid over-fertilizing. Keep an eye out for signs of nutrient deficiency or excess.
  5. Pest control: Regularly check your African violets for signs of pests, and promptly treat any infestations using insecticidal soap or other recommended methods.
  6. Disease prevention: Provide proper air circulation, maintain optimal humidity levels, and promptly address any signs of fungal or bacterial diseases by removing affected leaves and applying appropriate treatments.
  7. Avoid chemical damage: Keep your African violets away from household chemicals and be mindful when using insecticides or fungicides specifically designed for African violets.

By consistently providing proper care and monitoring your African violets, you can effectively prevent leaf damage, including the formation of brown spots. This ongoing attention will help you maintain a beautiful collection of healthy, thriving African violets that will reward you with their stunning blooms year after year.

What are The Benefits of Removing Brown Leaves from African Violet?

Removing brown or damaged leaves from your African violets provides several benefits to the overall health and appearance of your plants:

  1. Aesthetics: Removing brown leaves can improve the overall appearance of your African violets, making them more visually appealing and better showcasing their vibrant blooms.
  2. Disease prevention: Brown leaves can be a sign of an underlying disease or pest infestation. Timely removal of affected leaves can help limit the spread of disease or pests to healthier parts of the plant.
  3. Resource allocation: Damaged leaves may no longer contribute to the plant’s photosynthesis, and the plant expends energy attempting to repair the leaf. Removing the brown leaves allows the plant to redirect its energy and resources toward healthy growth and new foliage.
  4. Improved air circulation: Removing damaged leaves can help improve air circulation around your plants, reducing the risk of fungal diseases and providing a healthier growing environment.
  5. Easier monitoring: By removing brown leaves, it becomes easier to monitor the health of your African violets and to spot any new issues that may arise, allowing for quicker intervention when necessary.

When removing brown leaves, ensure that you use a clean and sharp pair of scissors or pruning shears to make a clean cut close to the base of the leaf stem. This will minimize the risk of introducing infections and promote quicker healing for the plant.

By regularly removing brown or damaged leaves from your African violets, not only will your plants look more attractive, but they will also experience healthier growth and reduced risk of diseases and pest infestations. This proactive approach will create an environment where your African violets can continue to thrive.


Understanding the causes of brown spots on African violet leaves is essential for maintaining healthy and beautiful plants. By implementing proper care practices and addressing any problems promptly, your African violets will continue to reward you with stunning blooms. Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below!

African Violets   Updated: May 18, 2023
avatar Hi, I'm Amy, a devoted horticulturist and the creator of PlantIndex.com, where I use my expertise to help beginners foster their green thumbs. My blog is a vibrant community where I unravel the complexities of gardening and share my profound love for nature.
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