Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter - and Plants, Part III

Happy Easter! It's a beautiful (but cold) day here in Chicagoland. Still, things are trying to bud and grow, and I'm hopeful that snow is behind us.

Being an indoor gardener here in the Midwest has its own set of joys - and African violets and their cousins, the "other gesneriads" are wonderful plants to have when you want to have some color pretty much year round. Before I get back into the dirt with you, I wanted to share some of my resources, because it occurred to me that you might not know where to get some of this stuff I've been talking about.

So - Dirt. You might have noticed that I haven't called it dirt until now. That's because it's not dirt :-D African violet potting mix is generally referred to as "soilless mix" and usually contains peat with some perlite. Depending on where you get it, it can have all manner of other stuff in it, too, none of which is bad, just for a show grower, not necessarily what you might want. I usually use professional mixes, but I have used commercial mix. And of the commercial mixes, I prefer Scotts.

Perlite. Any old perlite will do and you can get it at any garden center - I get mine at Ace Hardware, actually :-D

Tools. Most of the tools I have I got from The Violet Showcase, in Denver (Englewood, actually), Colorado. I have also gotten plants from them. A few of the tools I have are dental tools and I got them from a commercial grower in Southern California, but I'm reasonably sure that she got them at a flea market :-D They are not particularly necessary so you don't really need them.

Pots. I have also gotten pots from The Violet Showcase, but more recently I get pots from Cape Cod Violetry in Massachusetts. They do not have a website.

So - how do you "put down" a leaf? And why would you want to?!Most violets will propagate and come true through a leaf. Chimeras and some fantasies will not (these are types of blossoms) and must be grown from a sucker or crown. When I say "come true," I mean that the plant will grow and bloom according to its registered description - again, this is something more important to show growers :-)

But let's say that your Great Aunt Mathilda has an African violet and she is your favorite Aunt and you would love to grow that same plant, but since you can't very well ask her to give up her treasured plant, how can you grow the same one? Ask her for a leaf!

Here's are the steps:

1. Take a good looking leaf - one that's not too old and not too young. If you're getting a leaf from a variegated plant, get one with as much green as possible. There's the leaf I chose from Gail - one of the ones I removed when repotting. And there's the little pot, all ready to go!

2. Wash it! This is not quite so important if it's one of your own leaves (I washed because I just sprayed last week with fungicide), but when you're bringing a leaf in from some someplace else, WASH IT. I use whatever dish soap I have around. Sorry this is a bit fuzzy (using the camera with one hand, I'm afraid), but you get the idea. Blot it dry. BLOT not rub. It's OK if it's not all the way dry.

3. Make a sharp, fresh cut at a 45 degree angle on the stem, leaving yourself at least an inch and a half if at all possible. Use your Xacto knife, please, or a single-edged razor blade. It's important that this cut is sharp. If it's not, the leaf stem will just rot away.

4. Slice off the top of the leaf. Why??! Use your Xacto knife please (same reason). This stops the leaf from expending energy to keep growing and forces the energy into making roots and and plantlets, which is what you want :-)

5. Prepare a small pot - I use 3 oz. plastic Solo cups, which you can usually get at the grocery store - check the paper products aisle or the bathroom cup dispenser section. I use a solder gun to burn three holes in the bottom so there is drainage. Prepare this just as you would a regular pot - for me, that's a wick, some lava rock and then fill with your potting mix.

6. Make a hole in the center - I use the bottom end of my flat dental tool, but a pencil will work just as well :-)

7. Put the leaf in. Don't press/tamp the potting mix down, water it in with a a squirt bottle.

8. Put it in a domed tray (you can see some of the crowns I restarted yesterday - the leaves are over on the right side), or cover with a baggie and use some toothpicks to hold it away from the leaf to make a mini-greenhouse, and let it do its thing. Pretty soon we'll have some plantlets poking up! and I'll take pictures so you'll see them :-)

It's very easy to get carried away with putting leaves down - I know people who put down every single leaf that they pull from a plant. I would encourage you not to do this - unless, of course, you have unlimited time and space - or you're going to have zillions of baby plantlets that you're not going to know what to do with! Be choosy - be selective. I put down leaves yesterday of varieties that I have that are not particularly common or that are tried and true growers (the ones that everyone always wants).

Next time - restarting a crown. :-)

1 comment:

candy t said...

Happy Easter! I love your tutorial.