Q: My sister just gave me an African violet. It has two long stalks that the leaves grow from. Can these be cut off and rooted in water?
A: It’s common for the lower leaves on an African violet to gradually shrivel and drop off. When this happens for more than a year, the lower main stem of the plant becomes bare. African violet experts recommend repotting a plant every six months: removing a half-inch of soil off the bottom of the root ball, putting the root ball back in the pot and adding soil around the stem beneath the lowest leaves. Your plant is much further gone; it needs a radical re-rooting. For this, simply cut the stem so that you have two inches of it beneath the lowest leaves. Fill a three-inch wide plastic pot with fresh potting soil and insert the bare stem in the middle. Moisten the soil and put the potted plant in a gallon-sized, re-sealable plastic bag. Put the bag in a very sunny window in a warm room. The stem should make new roots in the pot after six weeks.