Ask the master gardeners
Q: My African violet stands on a thin ugly stem. Can the missing leaves at the bottom be made to regrow?
A: African violets (Saintpaulia ionantha) are a group of plants that lose their bottom leaves as they grow taller and do not regrow them. Having said that, do not despair because there are easy ways to fix this.
One way is to plant many plants in a large pot. As the plants grow taller they will eventually also lose their bottom leaves, but because each plant is surrounded by others, these will also grow and spill over the rim of the pot. As all the plants grow, they will hide the individual stems of their neighbors.
To make a new plant, remove the bottom half of the leaves from the plant. Cut the stem 3 inches below the leaves. Replant in soil, making certain that the entire bare stem is covered. Water well. New roots should grow after a number of weeks.
If you are afraid that you will lose the plant entirely, do not cut the stem. Remove the leaves as above. Now loosen the soil of the root ball and replant it in fresh soil in a pot of the same diameter but one that is deep enough to permit the submersion of the entire bare stem in soil. Over several months, new roots should grow on the old stem.
Krys Mernyk, Sleepy Hollow, master gardener, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester