I thought I'd include a page on how I grow my African Violets,
and tips I've picked up along the way. But, before I begin...This is just
what works for me! There isn't one right way to grow African
Violets. If you have a method that works then fantastic. Remember...If
it ain't broke, don't fix it!
Growing African Violets Miniviolet's
Soil and Repotting
I make my own soil mix. I use one part perlite, one part
vermiculite, and one part peat. I buy equal bags of the 3, dump them into
a large trash bag, and roll it around to mix! This mix works well for wick
watering which is what I use. If you water each plant individually without
wicks then you may need a mix a little heavier with peat. Traditional
store bought mixes have too much peat in them. This makes the soil too
heavy and retain too much water and drowns the plant.
In the perfect world: AV's should be repotted every 6
months. Take this time to carefully inspect the rootball of your plant for
any "critters". If the plant is getting necky, then gently
scrape the neck with a knife to remove the dry brown "scars" until you
see the green underneath. Repot your plant lower in the pot so that the
bottom row of leaves are just above the pot rim. You may need to trim off
part of the rootball so that it will fit. Don't be afraid! Just take
a knife and chop off what you need to. New roots will grow from the
scraped off neck. The "rule" for choosing pot size is that the
diameter of the pot should be 1/3 the diameter of the plant. Move up to a
3 or 4 inch pot with the plant is 9-12 inches in diameter. They like to be
slightly root bound.
In my world: If I'm really doing good then my plants get
repotted about once a year.
I use the wick watering method for all my violets and gesneriads.
My wick is a piece of 100% acrylic 3-ply yarn. When I pot up a plant, I
run the piece of yarn up through one of the drain holes and circle it around the
bottom of the pot, then run it up the side to the top. I put a small layer
of perlite over the ring of yarn, then fill the rest of the way with my potting
mix. TA DA! Pretty easy!
In the perfect world: The most common cause of
"death" for an AV is over-watering. As long as you keep it on
the wick and keep the reservoir full you shouldn't have a problem with
that. The soil is constantly wet, but since it is a light soil mix, it is
OK. If you don't use a wick you can water 2 ways. Place the pot in a
saucer or room temp water for about 30 minutes and let it take up what it
wants. This should be done whenever you can stick your finger in about 1/3
and the plant is dry. If it is wet, don't water. The second way is
to water from the top with room temp water, being careful not to get the center
of the plant wet. Water until it starts to flow through the bottom of the
In my world: If the reservoir and wick are allowed to get
completely dry it won't take up water again the next time you fill the
reservoir. Water from the top once until the water runs through the bottom
and gets the wick wet, then it will take up water again.
My plants stands are home-made by my husband (isn't he
sweet!). The are 3 shelves each made of wood and trimmed and stained to
look a little more like furniture than a plant stand. They are not nearly
as big and wide as a true plant stand like you see in the catalogs, but it helps
me keep my collection a little more in check! Each shelf has a shop light
mounted over it with one warm and one cool white flourescent light. They
stay on about 12 hours a day, controlled with a timer.
I am currently using Hill Country African Violet's
Fertilizer. I am very happy with it. I occasionally use a bloom
booster close to show time.
In the perfect world: Feed your plants with 1/4 strength
fertilizer at every watering if you are wick watering. If you water
individually into the pot, then use 1/2 strength. The fertilizer salts
will build up in the plants over time, so about once a month you should flush
your plants. Just hold the plant over the sink and run plain room temp
water through it until the water running out the bottom of the pot is
clear. Another good thing to do while you are at the sink with your plant
is give it a bath. Yes! They love to have their leaves
cleaned. Make sure the water is room temp and gently wash the leaves to
remove the dust and grime that builds up. Be careful not to let any water
pool up in the center of the plant. When you are done use a paper towel to
blot off any accumulated water on the plant and let them dry before placing
them back under the lights. If you put them back in bright light while
they still have water on the leaves it could burn them.
In my world: I do fertilize at almost every
watering. But many days I'm doing good just to pour any water into the
reservoirs! And of course on these kind of days they are all dried out and
I have to pour the water through the pot to re-wet the wick! I figure this
counts as flushing in my book!! I maybe do a real honest to goodness
flushing about once a year. Ditto on the bath.
Vendors I have used and highly
Violet Venture (Fay Wagman)--A
great collection of minis and semis, also some standards and other gesneriads.
Email at FayW@aol.com. She has a
fantastic collection of "different" leaf and blossom types.
(girl, clacamas, bustle back, wasp, bell, etc, etc!) Terrific service and
service. I will definitely order from them again if I ever have room for
more violets! www.violetgallery.com.
Over time I have collected interesting notes on "how
to". Some of them I've tried, some I haven't. Maybe they'll
work for you! These are just notes and parts of discussions on different
forums. They are not in a particular form. I've
put my comments about each one in green before the note.
We're talking birth controls pills
here! If you can find a lady willing to give up some pills give it a
try! Supposed to make some really nice plants.
"I read that you dissolve one pill in a quart of water
and use 4-5 drops of that in each gallon of fertilizer mix. Since I have to make
things easier, I found that the eye-dropper from the pet Amoxicillin holds 8-10
drops and I had a 1/2 gallon jug rather than a quart jug, so I used one pill in
a half gallon of water and put one spurt of that 1/2 gallon in each gallon of
fertilizer. One pill goes a very long way."
A home remedy for treating
thrips. I've used it with great results!
"I use 1/2 Teaspoon of RID's "Maximum
Strength" shampoo for treating head lice, added to 1 quart of warm water in
a spray bottle. Add the RID to the water, not the water to the RID, in order to
reduce foaming. After you've secured the top to the spray bottle, mix it by
turning the bottle upside down several times. Then, after fully disbudding your
plants (this means removing ALL of the bloomstalks), spray the entire plant
thoroughly and be sure to spray the undersides of the leaves.
Wear gloves, even dishwashing gloves, when using any kind
of insecticide. Avoid inhaling the RID water mist. Keep the plant tilted while
you spray so excess water runs off freely. Then leave the sprayed plants in the
bathtub overnight to dry completely. Remove water that has collected in the
crown (center) of the plant with a tissue; this helps prevent crown rot."
Part of an AVSA article for
determining the cause of tight centers.
"The second article was a simple checklist for tight
centers. Here is what it said:
- Place a piece of toilet tissue over the center of the
plant for one week. If the center opens up your problem is light intensity.
- If center is still tight after a week it could be a pest
or fertilizer problem. If leaves are curved up or down on the leaf margins and
distorted, it is likely a mite problem.
- If there are no twisted or distorted leaves in the
center, it is usually a fertilizer problem. Cut back on fertilizer for a month
and you will see a marked improvement.
- If there is not change, consider when the plant was last
repotted. the more rootbound a plant becomes, the tighter the center will grow.
If this is the case, simply repotting will solve the problem."
My original post when I first
switched to wick watering. I was petrified of drowning them!
"Over the last week I have finally started changing
my AVs over to wick watering. I guess I'm just looking for a little reassuring
that I did things ok. I lightened my soil mix to 1/3 peat, 1/3 perlite, 1/3
vermiculite. I fed the wick up through the bottom of the pot and circled it
around the bottom. I put a small layer of perlite on top of the
"circle" of wick, and then used the potting mixture to fill the rest
of the pot. The remainder of the wick continues up the side of the pot to the
top. I normally fertilize with every watering, so I cut the normal amount of
fertilizer to water in half. So far everyone looks ok, but it's only been a few
days since the first ones were repotted. The majority of them weren't finished
until last night. The soil will stay constantly moist with the wicks, right?
Should I worry about them getting waterlogged? I guess this is my biggest
concern since I'm just not used to my plants staying wet all the time, I always
let them get slightly dry between waterings. I'd appreciate any advice,
reassuring, or criticisms! If all goes well I'll start to transfer the rest of
my collection to wicks.
Carol--who keeps sticking her fingers in the dirt to see
how wet it is!"
Something to try for powdery
mildew. I haven't tried this yet. (I've also heard to spray them
with Lysol, I've tried this with limited success. Make sure the Lysol
spray isn't too close to the plant or it will be too cold)
"list friends- aside from good air circulation , i
use physan 20-in my fertilizer water at each watering-1/2 teaspoon to one gallon
of water- this time of year when 2 or 3 days are very warm[radical season
changes] i set my furnance to 70 in case the night air drops down encouraging
the dampnes to cause mildew- i run oscillating fans 24 hours daily blowing the
air AWAY from the plants- i think prevention is best to discourage mildew-
initially i spray the plants with physan 20 1 teaspoon to one gallon of water 3
times 10 days apart- the blooms will be spoilled ,no mildew- i did see a little
powder on 1 bloom stalk last year for my first time in many years, i sprayed all
hope to not see anymore-- physan can be ordered from. the violet showcase-
volkmanns- cape cod vilotery-- tertius"
Haven't tried this one
RE: Soil mealies
Posted by: Ron Myers (granny_grampa@...) on Mon, Apr 3, 00 at 2:16
Mealies both folage and soil can be stopped with a mixture
of 1/3 each rubbing alcohol, ammonia, warm water. Submerge the plants pot and
all into this solution. Keep it in until the bubbles stop. Remove and let drain
freely for about 30 min. Thoroughly rinse the entire planting with fresh water
and let drain again. After the water stops I like to tip the pot to about 45
degrees to encourage as much water out as is possible. I have even removed the
plant from the pot and dried the root ball with an old dish towel. I have never
lost a plant of any kind to this treatment but I am sure there will be a time
when that will happen as the plants are usualy not in top form when you do this.
The alcohol seems to evaporate quickly and the remaining ammonia becomes
fertlizer for the plant. Keep a wide eye on the planting looking out for any
sign of the infestation reestablishing. You can retreat but take care not to
over water the plant. The towel drying helps this allot. Good luck and O you
might need a clothes pin for your nose.
Another one I haven't tried
Posted by: Nancy - Colorado on Fri, Jul 14, 00 at 20:18
I just read in Organic Gardening about using milk to
combat mildew. Mix one part milk to nine parts water and spray your plants. I
haven't tried this, but it couldn't hurt and it would be a non-toxic solution
for those of us who don't like to use chemicals. If you try this, let me know if
Haven't done this either, but I'm
going to if those *@$! mealies come back again!! Following the first post
are several more related on critters and other nasties. Good reading!
For soil mealies:
Bill, get some Marathon, sprinkle about 1/2 to 1 teasp,
depending on the
pot size, over the top of the soil, then VERY LIGHTLY water it in. If
you wick water it will continue to dissolve and the roots take it up and
kill the smb, they also die on contact. If you don't wick water you need
to keep the soil moist at all times. That's the easiest and most
painless method to get rid of smb. Good luck and Happy New year to you!
Soil Mealy Bugs
Soil Mealy bugs can go undetected for a great time if you don't repot your
plant. Severly of the insect depends on the bigness of the colonials.
Detection of Soil Mealy bugs can be seen by dupely leaves whether or not if the
soil is wet or not.
Description of Pest:
Soil Mealy Bugs are soft-shelled insects, about the 1/32th of an inch long.
You need a 3X magnifying glass to view them. The soil mealy bug is a furry
white color. They can be mist taken for perlite. They colonize in
the soil and move very
slowly. If you don't change soil frequently you might not know you have
the pest until you have a major problem.
Identifying of Problem:
To be sure you are looking at soil mealy bugs, lift the African violet plant out
of the pot and search for tiny white spots that move very slowly. You have an
infestation of soil mealy bugs if you notice patches of white waxy webbing on
of the pot, on the roots or are even on the wicking material you use. With
a fine hand held magnifying glass, you will be ability to see the parallel
ridges or lines on the back of the pest. A very large infestation of soil
mealy bugs will cause
a plant to wilt even if the soil is damp.
Control and Cure:
There are several different ways to cure soil mealy bugs. The best way to
irradiate soil mealy bugs from your plants is soil drenching. Set up a
regular schedule that will give you 100 percent control of this pest. Several
chemicals that work
are Cygon, Diazinon, Di-Syston, Dursban, Dycarb, Enstar II, Insecticidal Soap,
Malathion, Marathon, Nictine, Orthene, Pinpoint, / Velocity, PT-1300, PT-1500,
PT-1600 X-Clude, Schultz Insect Spray, and Sevin.
1. In his book, Dr. Cole states that a drenching of pesticide of Thiodan will be
a sure all cure. A spray program every week to 10 day for 3 to 4 times should
cure the alignment. Use caution! This is a pesticide!
Pour over the entire soil area
and allow to drain. After 2 to 3 days repeat the trenching. Follow
up by placing Marathon granules in the soil mix. Place into soil as you
repot. Follow correct instructions, Marathon needs to be damp to dissolve
so that the roots can absorb
it because it's a systemic.
2. A second pesticide Knox-Out spray can be used. In some areas Knox-out
is banned. The pesticide is used as a drench or spray. The key here
is to I use 3.5 oz per gallon of distilled water. If you have individually
wicked your plants, treating
the problem becomes much easier. The active ingredients of Knox-out,
Diazinon, work on wet/dry basics. The chemical is not released until it is
completely dry. The secret to chemical control for soil mealy bugs is to
be sure the soil is 100%
saturated with the chemical.
3. Another good pesticide is Duraguard PT 1325. Either drench the soil or
spray the roots of the plant after rising off the soil. Repot the plant
into new mix. which is
4. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) kills soft-shelled insects such as soil mealy bugs as
they crawl across the DE. This product has a sharp edge and the insect scratches
itself and cuttings the underside and literally bleeds to death. The
earth also, absorbs the fluids of the insect. Mix the DE between ½ to 1 cup per
gallon of mixing soil. The use of the lesser amount for prevention and the
use of the greater amount for infestations. There are mixed reviews using
the DE for
control of soil mealy bugs. Diatomaceous Earth is a non-toxic and a white
5. Remove most of the leaves leaving just a small crown with a neck. Cut
the root ball off and throw away. Scrape the neck and wash with rubbing
alcohol just in case an unseen mealy bug is holding on. Pot the crown with
a small neck in new
moist potting mix. Enclose in a plastic bag till the roots are growing.
This usually takes about a month. Open bag and let the plant slowly adjust
to the room environment. After a week, remove the bag.
6. The final and most drastic solution is the throw the plant out.
In the preventing a reoccurrence of soil mealy bugs and any other soil bug you
should use Marathon, a granule systemic. Be sure you mix the systemic
(Marathon) and use what is mixed. The shelf life of the soil mix with the
Marathon in it then
activated, is short lived.
I'd like to remind the
group that there is another safe and effective method to deal with
soilborne critters (for example, fungus-gnat larvae, soil-dwelling life
stages of thrips, soil mealybugs)--predaceous nematodes. For those of you
who do not want or cannot use chemicals, biocontrol with predaceous
nematodes is an alternative. It's also a reasonably priced alternative
(about $25 delivered), especially if you partner with one or two friends as
I've done. It also ensures that we have fresh supplies of nematodes for
Consider using a several-species 'cocktail' of predaceous nematodes as a
biocontrol method (applied to plants as a soil drench). A 'double-death
mix' recommended/sold by Nature's Control (http://www.naturescontrol.com)
uses species in two genera, Steinernema and Heterorhabditis. These genera
partition the resources in your pot effectively since the Steinernema are
shallow soil-dwellers and the Heterorhabditis live more deeply in the soil.
One of the benefits of using the predaceous nematodes routinely (as a
prophylactic treatment) is that they consume any living thing in your
pot--soil mealybugs, fungus-gnat larvae, and soil-dwelling stages of
thrips. I appreciate that some people are squeamish at the thought of
deliberately adding another organism to the mix. However, if there are no
organisms in the soil for the predaceous nematodes to eat, they do not
reproduce or persist (= die). So, what's not to love? This is true of any
organism used for biocontrol.
The predatory nematodes arrive living in a piece of sponge. Cut the sponge
into pieces. The entire piece contains about one million nematodes and is
good for about 2500 square feet of growing area. Obviously, these suppliers
are more used to dealing with outdoor gardeners and farmers with fields.
With that potential area, you could treat more than once (4- to 6-week
intervals)--or as we do here, share with friends! You rinse a piece with
nematodes into a gallon of water and use that as a concentrate to mix up a
number of gallons of nematodes. If your area is large or you water slowly,
only make up enough to apply in 1 to 2 hours. Longer than 2 hours and the
nematodes drown. These do have to be top watered in. This should be
compatible with wick or mat watering.
You can store the extra bits of sponge in the refrigerator for 2 to 3
months. My refrigerator cools unevenly, freezing lettuce if I don't put it
in one of the crisper drawers. My mother's always surprised when she sees
that one of those drawers has stratifying seeds, propagating bits of
dormant bulbs, and other strange things. That's where the nematodes live at
Commercial applicators use sprayers and it doesn't seem to do the nematodes
any harm. Perhaps you could use an inexpensive pump sprayer to give a good
spritz to the surface of the soil of each pot. It might go faster. I have a
1-quart, hand-held sprayer from KMart that I use to wash plants. You
wouldn't want to use one that ever had pesticides mixed in it. I'd also
use a volume that I could swirl periodically to keep the critters well
mixed in the water.
I don't see why you couldn't work at whatever speed you wish, if you're
mixing smaller batches. Also, it doesn't have to all be done on the same
day. The only major caveat is that you cannot let the soil mix dry out
completely once you've applied the nematodes.
For those interested in more information on predatory nematodes, here's an
interesting site as an FYI:
O dear me! The dreaded Pythium/Phytopthora...have I
The most immediate thing you need to do is take a plant to your Ag
Extension Office and have them do an analysis and MAKE CERTAIN that
is what you have. Next step, the DRP (dreaded ruthless pythium) is
in and around at all times in the soil and most of the time it
is 'off' and harmless. Until it decides to 'activate', usually from
stressful situations or other diseases/pests and then you can kiss
your babies goodbye one by one. Phyto is the same way...however, it
is not a 'present' disease, it has come from somewhere and spreads
like mad. They are so awful...just like those evil cyclamen mites
;-0 I lost most of my collection to DRP last summer, I would wake
up in the morning and my centers would have just collapsed into
mush. So very traumatic. I lost about 10 show plants. Trauma.
1) Remove all wells and lids and wash with clorox bath. Dry. Repeat
if you are as freaked as I was.
2) Let soil DRY and REPOT using new wicks. Have clorox drenched
rag handy and wipe hands between each potting (again freaky me), wash
hands often also. DRP and Phyto are made 'worse' by wet/continuously
damp soil. Catch-22, huh, when you are wicking?
3) Clean and wipe down ALL growing surfaces with heavy duty clorox
4) Ditch any and all plants that even remotely look mushy/brown. Be
ruthless. Sorry. Put down leaves in their own terrariums (plastic cup
with soil, holes in bottom, covered with plastic wrap on top), if you
think you have some that will make it. Wash/swish in very light
clorox bath first, then rinse and pat dry, though.
If you use a watering wand or any other 'thing' that comes in contact
with well water from well to well, dip in light mix of clorox/h20
between plant to plant well to well...no double dipping of soil or
h20. These steps should get rid of the DRP/P without chemicals.
I was able to procure some Subdue...it STINKS to high heaven and it
will make your plants SUCKER to higher heaven...avoid it!
Clorox and dry soil are your friend. A bundle of prayers will help