Soil Mix for a Terrarium

Question:  I use a seed-starting mix to make a terrarium.  It is extremely light without any fertilizer or moisture-retaining crystals.  Would this mix be appropriate for potting my violets too?

Answer:  If they are otherwise properly cared for, you could use almost any kind of mix, including this one.  However, this is likely not your best choice.  The problem with such “seed starting” mixes is that they are very fine, almost dust-like.  African violets (and most of the plants we grow) prefer a coarser, more porous, mix.  If you do use this mix, you’ll likely have to be more careful with your watering, since it will retain more water.  We’d certainly advise NOT to use a self-watering system, which will keep your plant constantly moist.  Such a fine mix would almost certainly lead to overwatering your violet and root rot.  You’ll also need to repot into fresh soil sooner, since the finer mix will compact and/or break-down faster than a regular potting mix.

When to Pot Plantlets from Cutting

Question:  I started a leaf cutting at the beginning of the year, and exactly 10 weeks after sticking the leaf, the first plantlet appeard.  The rosette is now about the size of a quarter.  Many weeks later the cutting gave me three more plantlets, which are much smaller.  The parent (rooted) leaf isn’t shading the new plantlets as much as the older, first sibling, plantlet.  Can I remove this larger plantlet while leaving the other, much smaller, plantlets with the parent leaf?

Answer:  Yes.  You can remove the larger plantlet.  With some prodding, you should be able to remove it from the soil (if the rooting medium is as loose as it should be, this should be easy).  If not, you can carefully cut it off, leaving some roots attached.  You can then give it a pot of its own.  When the remaining plantlets get to the size you are confident handling, you can do the same for them.

Center Growth Disappeared

QuestionRecently, I have experienced a problem with the center growth on some of my violets.  On some otherwise healthy plants, the center growth has disappeared.  The plant would remain healthy, then eventually sprout suckers from the center.

Answer:  Though there might be another explanation, this seems to happen to us most commonly on certain varieties, suggesting that this might be a problem that is inherited.  Yellow-blossomed varieties, for example, are notorious for suddenly losing their center growth.  This is assuming, of course, that the plant is otherwise healthy and free of pests and disease.

Blossoms Don’t Open Fully

QuestionThe blooms on a few of my varieties, ‘Irish Flirt’ and ‘Rob’s Denim Demon’, to name two, don’t want to open fully.  Any reason why?

Answer:  This was a phone call that we received from a customer.  Since the plants were being grown during the summer months, we asked whether she considered her growing conditions to be very warm–she said they were.  This is the most likely explanation for the small flowers.  Many kinds of stress, high temperatures (say, above 80f degrees for a prolonged period) in particular, can cause blooms to be small or not fully open.  This can be more of a problem for some varieties, too.  Varieties with very double, frilled, or green flowers often have this trait.  Though both of the varieties mentioned are among our favorites, they do, sometimes, behave this way.

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