‘VIOLETS GALORE’ Mary Booth Cabot’s babies…
I have been growing violets for 44 years and thoroughly enjoying them. Now, I would love to share them with you!
3961 Loch Highland Pass, Roswell, GA 30075, e-mail: email@example.com. To see and enjoy the entire African Violet and Gesneriad (African violet family plants) collection that I have please see www.dancinginthegarden.com. To order please call (cell)770-329-3380, or use the e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please Ddo come by the house and art studio to see the ‘pretties’… and take one home.
This brochure is made up of information I have from growing for years plus things off of 3 other websites.
African Violets need 10-12 hours of light to keep blooming continuously.
African violets grow well in sunlight (but not direct) and flourscent or LED lighting.
Violets do not like “wet feet” so do not let them stand in water more than 30 minutes.
African Violets need to be repotted every 6 months (semi miniatures and miniatures), every 8-12 months (larger ones, standards).
African Violets like to be crammed-full into their pots so when you repot only go as large as a 4″ pot.
IN-DEPTH TIPS FOR SUCCESS WITH AFRICAN VIOLETS
African violets need sufficient light and water, a proper sized pot, and periodic fresh potting soil. They have an un-deserved reputation for being difficult to grow, but if you can meet these basic needs your violet can live and bloom for many years.
Light is the most important factor in bringing violets into bloom and keeping them blooming. It is more important than fertilizer, pot size, or soil. If the light isn’t bright enough for a long enough time each day violets can’t produce flowers. Within 18″ of an East, South, or North window can be successful. Usually if your plants are across the room from a window the light will not be bright enough to cause blooming although low light will at least keep a violet alive. To decide if your window has bright enough light to keep your violet growing flat (not reaching for more light) and flowering regularly, place a piece of white paper where the plant will be grown. With your hand 4″ from the paper, cast a shadow on the paper. Ideally this shadow should be only slightly blurred. The longer the light is bright enough to cast such a shadow the more bloom your violet is likely to have. Avoid direct sun for more than one-half hour between 10 AM and 4 PM as it may bum or bleach the foliage. One good clue as to whether or not the plant is getting sufficient light is to observe the leaves and stems of the plant. If the light is too weak, the stems will be long and reaching upwards for the light. If it’s too strong the stems will be short and the leaves will grow down around the pot. With most plants correct light levels keep the stems approximately horizontal. Be aware that not all violets react the same to the same growing conditions. Some require brighter light, some lower levels
Window light will not produce plants of such perfect symmetry and abundant bloom as fluorescent grow lights because these lights provide more perfect light for longer periods of time each day than even the best window. Fluorescent lights should be positioned 10-12″ above the top of the violets and left on for 12 -14 hours per 24 hour period. The plants do need at least 8 hours of darkness each day. Many experienced growers find that a combination of 1 Gro-Lux Standard and 1 Gro-Lux Wide Spectrum tube (by Sylvania) in each fixture give very good results. The technology of the lighting industry continues to evolve. New types of fluorescent lamps are much thinner, brighter, and more. These new lamps are identified by the part of the light spectrum they emit. Use of lamps rated as 6400 K work well for growing African violets. Some growers prefer a combination of lamps and find that 5000K lamps with 6400K lamps work well. LED lights are also beginning to be used as grow lights and growers report success.
Over-watering is the most common reason for failure with violets. They die within a short time with the leaves turning jelly like and drooping over the pot rim row by row until even the central core of the plant rots away. If violets just die on you the problem is probably over-watering. If they live, but just won’t bloom the light is probably too dim for too much of the day. Not watering enough or on an erratic schedule rather than when the plants need it will cause violets to grow slowly and irregularly, but it usually won’t kill them.
Wick watering is a growing method that provides plants with proper water, fertilizer, and humidity. It is by no means fool-proof, but is a great improvement over traditional top or bottom watering. Start slowly and be sure that you are doing it properly. The wrong soil, too large a pot, or too much wick cord can kill a violet.
A very simple way to try out wick watering is to cut a hole the size of a dime in the lid of an empty, clean margarine container. Fill the margarine tub with water, snap the lid on and set the violet on the lid with the wick extending down into the water. If you dissolve some plant food in the water the plant can water and feed itself at the same time. When the plant has used up all of the water in the wicking container do not refill it right away. Let the violet sit on the empty container for 3 or 4 days so that the soil can dry out a bit, and then refill the container. Never let the bottom of the pot sit in the water as this will over-water the plant and may cause the roots to begin to rot. Every 6 to 8 weeks when the soil happens to be nearing dryness (and the reservoir is dry) top water the violet with warm water until it drains out of the holes in the bottom of the pot. Leave the violet sit over the empty reservoir until the soil begins to dry out again. Then resume wick watering. This top watering with plain water is called flushing. It rids the root system of the gradual build up of fertilizer salts which can be harmful. For wick watering to be successful it is best to use a soil-less potting mix such as Violet Showcase Potting Medium which is a mixture of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, and charcoal. Ordinary violet soil, no matter how well it may work for you by traditional watering methods, is usually too heavy for wick watering. Also, you must not grow your wick watered plants in too large a pot due to the risk of over-watering. Wicking cord comes in two sizes: thin and heavy. The thin wick is suitable for any size pot simply by increasing the number of pieces used according to the size of the pot. To determine how many pieces of the thin wick to use with a pot measure the mouth of the pot (round down fractions). Subtract 1 from that number that is how many pieces of the thin wick to use. For example. for a 3″ pot use 2 pieces of wick, for a 3 1/2″ pot. also use 2 pieces. For a 4″ pot use 3 pieces. The heavy wick is the equivalent of three pieces of the thin wick and is therefore good for 4″ or 4 1/2″ pots, but not used for pots smaller than that. Don’t expect a wick to work forever. After 6 -8 months wicks can get clogged with minerals in the water, fertilizer residue, and soil particles and may need replacing. It is also wise to replace the soil at that time. You may get a wick to last for a year, but rarely longer. It is best to put a wick in a pot at the same time that the violet is reported rather than trying to put one in after the plant is already potted. Make each length of (thin) wick 6″ or 9″ long (depending on size of plant). Cut as many lengths as the pot size requires. Remember, pot diameter minus one equals number of lengths of wick. Insert the wick(s) up through one of the drainage holes in the empty pot and hold it up at the top rim of the pot. Put 1/2″ of moist Potting Medium in the bottom of the pot and lay the wick(s) down on the soil. Next, pot the plant on top of the wick. Unraveling or fancy placement of the wick(s) on the bottom 1/2″ of soil is unnecessary. The wick will bring the water up to thoroughly wet the bottom 1/2″ of soil. The soil is so sponge-like that it will distribute the water throughout itself. If you find that the wick just won’t pull water (for example, the wick is in water, but the soil remains dry) check out the following: How old is the wick? They are useful for 6 -12 months only. Is the soil lightly compacted so as to be in good contact with the wick? Is algae present in the water clogging up the wick? Physan 20 is an algicide that will prevent algae from forming. It can be safely used at each watering. Is the pot sitting on the wick pinching it and restricting the flow of water up into the soil? The wick must pass freely into the water reservoir below. Is the wick crusted with fertilizer salts? After months of constant fertilization the wick can become clogged with fertilizer residue. It is time for fresh soil in a clean pot and for new wick cord.
African Violets respond best to a method of feeding where you give them a small amount of plant food at each watering. This is called the constant feed method. It eliminates the need to remember whether or not it is time to fertilize since it is always time. Whatever brand of plant food you use it can be used as a constant feed fertilizer. Just read the instructions then cut the recommended amount in half and use the plant food at that strength at each watering. This is true whether you choose to wick water or water traditionally either from the top or bottom. The middle number of the three that tell the analysis of your fertilizer is the important one. It tells you the percentage of phosphorus, which is important to heavy blooming plants such as violets. A fertilizer which has a middle number lower than either the first or last of the three numbers in the analysis is not going to help your violet produce as much bloom as a fertilizer that does have a higher middle number Two popular brands of fertilizer are the Dyna-Gro brand line and the Jack’s Classic brand lines of fertilizers. Dyna-Gro products are liquid fertilizers Jack’s Classic products are powders. Both brands make solutions that can be poured into wicking reservoirs or wlcking trays.
AIR, TEMPERATURE, AND HUMIDITY
Violets like high humidity, but the air must be fresh and kept moving gently. They do not like strong drafts, and especially dislike cold wind blowing on them. If you must take your violets outside even for a few minutes protect them from the cold air during such weather. Violets are tropical plants and should not be taken outdoors uncovered when the temperature is below 55 degrees F. Generally violets like temperatures ranging from 65 degrees F. at night to 75 degrees F. during the day, but they will accept temperatures between 55 degrees and 85 degrees. Since most homes do not have as high a humidity level as violets would like the wick watering method of growing is especially good because the plants are growing over water which slowly evaporates up around them providing sufficient humidity.
The two most common errors made with violets at repotting time are: (1) full grown plants are not repotted often enough, and (2) when plants are repotted they are planted into pots much too large for them. A baby (or starter) violet should grow in a 2″ (or 2.5″) pot until its diameter (leaf span) reaches approximately 4″, and then pot it on to a 3″ pot (or tub). Grow it in the 3″ pot until it has grown to approximately 12″ across, and then move it on into a 4″ pot. If you plan to grow it by wick watering the violet will need a new wick at each repot. Notice that at each stage of growth the violet is growing in a pot that is one third the diameter of the plant leaf span. Violets are shallow rooted plants compared to other houseplants and don’t need, and in fact, don’t do as well, when grown in large pots. To decide what size pot a violet should be growing in measure the diameter of the plant. Divide that measurement by 3. The result tells you the pot size to use. Most experienced growers prefer squatty shaped pots called tubs for violets. A full-grown African Violet rarely needs a pot larger than 4 or perhaps 4 1/2″. After having grown in such a pot for 8 -12 months the main stem of the plant will begin to be visible above the soil level. This is because the plant is continually growing new leaves out from the center and slowly, one by one; the older outer leaves die off thus exposing the neck or main stem of the plant. The appearance of the bare “neck” is a sign that it is time to repot the plant. Crumble off nearly all of the soil from the root system when it is almost completely dry. Do this by sliding the plant out of its pot and gently, but firmly, working your fingers in among the roots to remove the old soil, which will be compact and sour after 8 -12 months of use by the plant. Notice that there is a portion of the main stem of the plant from which neither roots nor leaves are growing. Using a clean knife scrape this section of the stem clean. It will be covered by a brown papery callus. You need to remove the callous so that the stem can grow new roots once you bury it under the soil. This is also a good time to remove any of the older leaves that don’t look as though they have enough vigor to last much longer. Measure the leaf span, and then divide by 3. and then plant the violet in that size pot. On especially old plants with especially long necks it may be necessary to cut off some of the roots or even the lower stem itself in order to be able to fit the plant down into a pot of the proper size so that the neck can be buried. (For a detailed explanation with photos of how to re-root an older violet go to www.violetshowcase.com and click on “Growing Advice”, then on “Rejuvenate Your Violet”. Now is the time for a new wick if you want to use wick watering. Do not reuse potting soil, Plant the violet deep enough that the leaf stems just graze the surface of the soil. Lightly compact the soil so that you are sure it is; contacting the section of the stem that you scraped clean. If, after a few days, you notice that some of the outer leaves are wilting a little, set the potted plant in a plastic bag large enough to accommodate It and close up the bag with a rubber band or twist-tie. Keep it in the bag as long as necessary until the roots have recovered and the plant shows signs of growing. Some condensation on the inside of the bag is okay. Most plants don’t need such bagging, but it is an easy way to give a plant some intensive care. By repeating this repotting procedure whenever you notice the neck showing (at least once a year) you can keep your violet producing vigorous new foliage and blooms for years to come. Your violets will grow more symmetrically and bloom more heavily if you allow only one rosette of leaves to grow on one root system. Keep all suckers (side shoots) groomed off of your plants (unless they are trailing types). A sucker is the beginning of a new plant which forms near the base of the main plant or in the axils (which is where the leaf stems join the central core of the violet). Some flower bud stems form small leaves, which you may mistake for suckers, however, by the time four leaves have developed without evidence of a flower bud you can be sure that it is a sucker. Remove suckers with a pencil point, nut pick, small knife, or tweezers. If the suckers are not removed you will eventually have a violet with 2 or 3 or more plants all crowded together in the pot. The root system works to keep all of these plants going and doesn’t have much energy to spare for flowers. A violet that needs to be divided is one that has never had the suckers removed and they have grown so large as to crowd the original plant. If you have such a violet with 2 or 3 or more plants in one pot it is best to separate them. Slide the plant out of its pot and gently crumble away the soil. Pull the plants apart from with a gentle downward motion. Sometimes the plants must be cut apart. Keep the roots attached to those plants which have a root system. Depending upon the age of the extra plants they may not have any roots. Scrape clean the bare neck of each plant if necessary, and pot each in an appropriately sized pot. Any that show signs of wilting may need tenting in plastic (put pot and plant into a zip lock bag, close it 90% and blow air/carbon dioxide into it to fill it with air ,and close it for a week (or perhaps as long as a month if they have no roots at all). As the plants begin growing again watch for suckers and remove them as soon as you notice them.
When full-grown these are only 6 -8″ across. They require the same treatment a standard sized violets, but indeed somewhat brighter light, more frequent repotting, and extra care to keep the suckers groomed off. Repot minis every 4 to 5 months, but don’t use a pot larger than 2 1/2″ in diameter. At repot time minis benefit from having an outer row or two of leaves removed, the soil replaced, and being set down in a clean pot with a new wick. This gives them the necessary boost to keep them almost always forming new buds.
PESTS AND PROBLEMS
Violets are not especially susceptible to insects, or problems. There are a few, however, that growers eventually encounter. Most pests are brought into a collection on a new plant. For this reason it is wise to isolate new additions to your otherwise clean collection until you are sure it has no hitchhikers. Prevention is easier than cure.
Three of the most common ailments violets may get are:
(1) Blossom Thrips – These are tiny, slender, fast moving, flying insects that chew on the pollen and the blossom petals. They are small enough to fly through windows screens!
(2) Mealy bugs: white cotton-like insects that don’t move. Sticky and stringy when touched. Q-TIps and alcohol are almost useless. The white masses are actually the egg sacs.
(3) Powdery Mildew: a whitish fuzzy mold-like growth on flowers and leaves. It develops where growing conditions are cool, moist, and still. Improve air circulation to prevent mildew from redeveloping.
A product that will treat all three of these common problems is Triple Action Plus, a spray by Ferli-Iome. The active ingredients are pryethrins and Neem Oil, both natural insecticides. To really clean the foliage on a violet gently spray the leaves with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar and 5 drops any brand hand wash dish detergent in 1 cup very warm water. Pat dry.
KNOW YOUR AFRICAN VIOLET TYPES OF PLANTS;
African Violets are as easy to grow as any others. but they cannot be propagated from leaves–only suckers can have flowers that are true to the original plant. If propagated from leaves, the plants that result will lack the central stripes on the petals. Chimera violets do not pass this characteristic to their seedlings. So, chimera violets cannot be bred for they were originally found as spontaneous mutations among other violets and them propagated vegetatively. Never buy a chimera violet unless it is in bloom, as all means of propagation for these plants can result in some plants that are not true. That is why they cost more.
Micro-miniature Violets are miniature varieties that happen to grow very small, typically a maximum diameter less than 3″. Under our conditions, with proper care and grooming, most barely will exceed the diameter of a 2″ pot. Though you can sometimes find plants that have been forced to grow small, these hybrids are genetically tiny. Because of their size, these smallest of miniatures can be a good choice for terrariums, dish gardens, or other miniature plantings where small size is important.
Miniature Violets grow to less than 6″in diameter when they are mature. Never use a pot larger than 2.5″.
Semi-miniature Violets grow to less than 8″ or smaller if given proper care. Never use a pot larger than 2.5″.
Standard Violets when mature, will grow to 10-12″ in diameter as houseplants, much larger when grown for exhibition. Repot young plants in 4″ pots at first bloom. Unless grown for show, a 4-5″ pot will be sufficient for most varieties; repot using fresh soil every 6 months.
Trailing Violets are violets that naturally branch and spread. Grow the either as hanging baskets or in shallow pots as ground covers. Feel free to pinch or prune, it will only encourage even more dense and lush growth. Their size and shape when mature, is entirely up to you. Because they are multi-crowned and spreading, they have the potential for producing large amounts of foliage and massive amounts of bloom on a single plant.
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