Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Restarting a Crown - Plants IV

So - back to plants today :-) But first, here are some more resources for information and growing.

If you haven't already, you'll want to check out the African Violet Society of America. They publish a great magazine that is chock full of info on violets and activities surrounding them. They are on the web at: http://www.avsa.org/

Three books that I would not be without:

Handbook for Judges, Exhibitors and Growers. Commonly referred to as "the judges' handbook," this is the greatest reference available for growers of African violets. And it's not just for judges!

Growing to Show, by Pauline Bartholomew. Published originally many years ago and updated just last year by the AVSA, this is really my bible of growing. I follow Pauline's pre-show schedule, and have used this book for every area of growing and showing. My original copy is quite wibbly-wobbly looking for all the time it's spent on my potting bench, getting dirty and wet over and over as I look through it.

YOU CAN Grow African Violets, by Kent and Joyce Stork. Based on the columns they wrote over a 13-year period of time for African Violet Magazine, this is a great book and should be in your library. I highly recommend it.

All these books are available on the AVSA website store. It's not the easiest web store to navigate, but I'm sure you can figure it out :-)

So - let's talk about restarting the crown of a plant.

Why would you even want to restart a crown?? Well, restarting a crown is a measure of last resort. If you have been giving your plants consistent care, you would have repotted long before restarting a crown became necessary. I, on the other hand, went through a period of substantial neglect and my plants clearly show the type of care they were getting for an extended period of time :-(

Thankfully, most violets are very forgiving of neglect, and once you get back on the stick to provide consistent care, they will reward you with renewed vigor and growth, and eventually masses of beautiful blooms :-)

Here is Optimara Annabelle. This plant has a beautiful bell blossom, but it's been too cold in my sunroom over the winter. Although the leaves are in pretty good shape, they are curling down to hug the pot - often a sign of temperature problems. Actually, each individual leaf is also curling/cupping under. This is clearly visible in the photo on the right - as is a pretty substantial neck.

As I prepared to pot this plant down, it quickly became apparent that there was too much neck to successfully slice a bit of the root ball off and reseat the plant in the same size pot. How did it become apparent?

Voila! AV a la Palm Tree. :-S

I suppose if I was growing topiary shrubs outside, this might not be so bad. But I'm not. And it is. Bad, I mean. You can see that it's also leaning to the left - because it was reaching toward the light and I didn't turn it often enough. So - what to do now?

Another photo not for the faint of heart . . .

Cut it off at the knees. Make a sharp cut - use your Xacto knife (same reasons as before - you don't want rot). I've taken this crown down to around 6 leaves and I've removed all blossoms and emerging buds (called disbudding).

In fact, I probably should have mentioned this before, but when you are repotting, you should disbud in addition to removing usually the bottom row of leaves. You want the plant to be concerned with making new roots and growing strong and beautiful foliage rather than trying to bloom at this time. Once the plant is stable again and is growing (you'll be able to tell :-) ), then you can let it bloom as you like.

Once you have cut the crown and removed the majority of the leaves, you're going to prepare a small (SMALL!!!) pot. I use the same Solo cups that I use for putting leaves down (see Part III, below). After you have scraped the neck, if necessary, to remove any old scabbing, make a hole in the dirt with your tool of choice, in the CENTER of the pot, and drop the crown in. Then the directions are the same as for putting down a leaf. Water it in, and put in a domed tray or cover with a baggie to create a little micro climate where it can get busy making new roots.

This is also a great way to travel with your plants, i.e., if you have to move, it's not easy to take 30 or 40 potted plants, but a couple of gallon ziploc bags with smaller bags of crowns ready to restart when you get where you're going, is really easy :-)

There is one last thing I would like to talk about because I have mentioned it throughout all the recent "Plant" posts, and that is: Consistent Care. I'll be talking about that in the next post.

So. Now the major cleanup of most of the plants on my stands is complete. Crowns have been restarted, plants potted down, leaves put down to propagate. I'll check in with a plant update from time to time in the coming weeks and let you know how things are going.

1 comment:

The Knitted Squirrel said...

WOW! I can't believe how much I am learning about your plants. I used to have a few African Violets along time ago, in another life, but I never knew how to properly look after them. Which is probably why I no longer have them. LOL
I may have to give them another try in the near future!
Thanks for the lessons. They are really interesting!