Wednesday, October 26, 2016

21 Varieties . . .

We're going to have another African violet lesson today.  A hard lesson.

After sharing the blossom photos with you last week, I figured I should spend a little more time with the plants, so I started to disbud them all, one at a time, so I can still enjoy some blossoms for awhile to come..

Much to my great sadness, the beautiful K's Tipsy Spritzer (dark lavender blossom, darker smoky edge) that you saw in that previous post has gone to its Great Reward.



It suckered at the crown.

What does that mean?

Well, unless an African violet is a trailer - which is by its nature a multi-crowned plant - it's supposed to have a single crown.  We remove suckers that pop up so as not to damage the symmetry of the plant, and if you inadvertently leave one on a show plant and a judge finds it, the plant will not be judged.

I definitely have had suckers on many of my plants.  It happens particularly when a plant is stressed, which happens when you put it on a pre-show schedule, or keep it disbudded over a long period of time.  But you look for those - they generally happen somewhere on the neck of the plant or near the soil line.  You especially look right before show so that you've removed anything that shouldn't be there - like a sucker.  You pop it off and move on.

But when a plant suckers at the crown, it has, essentially, split into two plants and that's a different story altogether.

Let's take a look . . .

Here is a trailer you've seen before - there are a TON of crowns on this plant of Cajun's McKenna Trail.

This next photos is of a trailer called Lituanika.

As their descriptions state, they trail. In order to trail, they have to have multiple crowns.  This plant is very much a baby - obviously - and so far it's been a PITA.  It's growing really, really slowly.  So slowly that it showed no signs of trailing on its own.  So I pinched out its center leaves - its crown - to force it to sucker (i.e., trail).

Not all trailers need this "help" to trail.  Cajun's McKenna Trail trails wildly all on its own and it grows like a snowball :-) You can see that the main center crown has been pinched out and see the multiple new crowns on Lituanika starting in this photo.

And here is a single-crown standard violet.  One crown, in the center, where it's supposed to be.  This is Jersey Snow Flakes. 

 Here is another from a better angle - one you've seen before, Knight Rider.  See that center?  It's a single crown - three good size leaves with another set of three just starting there at about 10 and 2 o'clock.

And here is the crown of K's Tipsy Spritzer, which should be a single-crown plant and look very similar to the photo of Knight Rider, above.  It doesn't.  :-S

You can see that there are way too many leaves in that crown.  In fact, you can't really tell where the original crown actually is.  That's because it's splitting there and forming a second one.

There are a couple of options, but neither one of them is good:
  1. You could try to figure out which one is the main one and pull off the other; but I think you can clearly see that that's very difficult to do.  And even if you could figure it out, the plant would never be properly centered afterward.  Plus, the removed crown will want to grow back - and it will bring friends along - even more crowns, the way a trailer does when you pinch out the center leaves to force it to trail (see the photo of Lituanika, above).  The crown is the active growing center of the plant - if you remove something there, it's going to come back.  In spades.
  2. You would also think that you could start again and regrow a new plant from a leaf of this one, but this type of problem is usually a genetic issue, which means that taking a leaf of the plant will likely produce another that will also sucker at the crown - after months of care.  
To confirm my own knowledge, I checked with my friend, Joyce, who was a frequent guest on my former podcast and is a true expert.  She said, "toss it."  I knew she would, but still, I'm kinda bummed because I grew this one from leaf that was gifted to me by the hybridizer, and I've nurtured this plant for well over a year.  It was well on its way to becoming a show-worthy standard.

So it goes in the life of a show grower.

I'm down to 21 varieties.


Anonymous said...

I can sympathize with you about K's Tipsy Spritzer. I've had a couple un-named violets do the same thing --- growing a second or even third crown when only one would do. I ended up tossing them, too. It is quite frustrating when you pop off the sucker only to find it growing back. And those are the days I ask myself why do I grow violets?! :)

My Jolie Concerto [a mini-trailer] has finally made a comeback and is blooming it's heart out. I had asked you about it when it was doing poorly on your AV podcast. You and Joyce Stork had suggested that I try the Japanese method of growing it. Well, there wasn't much to it, so I repotted it into a smaller 2-1/2" pot [down from the 5" pan pot]. Had to wait for months before it decided to put out new growth. Now it's grown past the edges of the pot, but I'm afraid to pot it into the pan pot again.

This is the only violet that I have that is growing well. All of the others are making snail progress in growth. I am really frustrated with growing violets, which makes me wonder so many things. I've changed the potting soil, fertilize lightly and grow them under lights for about 10-12 hours a day. They are such divas! But once I get everything in line again, they will be worth all the trouble with the beautiful blooms.

Your violets are doing so well. You certainly know what you are doing!

Janice H.

candy said...

I think Jersey Snow Flakes has been one of your favorites for a long time, right? Anyway, yes, I had one grow a double crown. I think I tried to separate it with a razor blade, a lesson in futility.

A :-) said...

Janice - a smaller pot is always a better choice than a larger one. If you have a 3" pot, you might pot up to that before switching over to a pan pot.

I can absolutely understand your frustration when things aren't growing well. Since you have tried a lot of things with your soil and lights, have you checked the pH of your water? pH is often responsible for poor growth when you've tried everything else.

Here is a link to the FAQ on the AVSA website:

Scroll down and you'll see a question answered by Joyce. More simply than she describes, you can get an aquarium pH test kit, and test the water you are using - before you add fertilizer and then after to see what your pH is. If it's high, like most tap water is, you can bring it down with a product called pH Down, which is available at any aquarium store or the local PetCo or PetsMart :-)

A :-) said...

Candy - yes. I'm quite fond of Jersey Snow Flakes :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Annie!
I finally was able to get out to the pet store to pick up the pH test strips. My water is 6.5 on the scale. I'm not sure what AV's require. I bought pH Up and pH Down, also, so I wouldn't have to make another trip to the store. What level of pH in the water is acceptable for AV's? My AV books refer to the pH of the soil more than the water.

Janice H.

A :-) said...

6.5 is pretty much spot on. Anywhere from 6.5 to 6.8 is what African violets prefer. I guess I'm not much help after all :-( I'm sorry.

A :-) said...

Janice - if you can email me some photos of your plants I will take a look. Annie97vATgmailDOTcom make the replacements and send me some photos and I will take a look.

Anonymous said...

Annie, I will send some photos today. Thank you for taking the time to do this. I am at a loss as to what to do next. Nothing seems to be working. About a year ago I had about 100 violets and they grew and bloomed beautifully. Last spring I had thrips on a couple plants which I tossed. I had tried spraying with the hope of saving the plants, but it just didn't seem to help. They were isolated from the other plants, but since the thrip invasion none of my violets have done well. Possibly I may have the disease that thrips bring with them. I bought some leaves from a vendor this spring and they aren't doing well. I also bought a violet from the grocery store and it is now doing poorly. So it is definitely my conditions. I keep my house at 72 during the day and 68 at night. The violets are grown in the basement and the temp stays about 68/70 since I've been running the dehumidifier all year long. I use the dehumidifier water for the plants, but do use tap water sometimes, but only after it has sat for a while. I use Peter's African violet fertilizer [I guess it's now called Jack's] The lights are on for 10-12 hours a day. I took off the humidity tents for the summer. After cleaning them, they will be put back on the shelves. I even joined an on-line African violet forum in search of help. I did receive a lot of information about thrips and that cool/cold basements and watering violets sometimes doesn't work well. I even brought a few violets upstairs, but they all died, too. I'm down to 8 violets that had been full-sized plants and have about 20 plantlets in solo cups. I recently changed up my potting soil mix to using bagged Espoma organic African violet soil and add extra perlite [a 1:1 ratio] where previously I had added vermiculite to the mix.

I hope that I've given you enough information about my conditions and what I have tried. Any insight you may have will be greatly appreciated. If there is something else you need to know, please ask. And again, I thank you for taking time to help.

Janice H.