Question: Should I ever remove leaves from my violet? I would guess so but, other than removing obviously dead ones, I have no idea how to decide. Which ones need to be removed?
Answer: Yes. Most (non trailing) varieties only need to have 3 or 4 rows of leaves since blooms are produced only from those leaves. This means a total of no more than a dozen or so leaves. Some larger plants grown for exhibition may have more but, even then, not as many as you might think. Their large size is due more to the size of the leaves rather than the number of them. For some varieties, especially those with very wavy, girl, or ruffled leaves, removing excess foliage is even more important. If out leaves are never removed on these varieties, new growth becomes very crowded in the center as there becomes no place for it to grow, and the leaves that are produced can be distorted or misshapen. Further, bloom stalks that are produced have a hard time finding their way up through the foliage.
How to decide which leaves to remove? Plant “symmetry” or “form” is important, but this is a concept that can be difficult for some to grasp (not everyone has an “eye” for this). Instead, here are a couple of never-fail, easy to understand rules that can be followed. Rule #1: always groom from the bottom up. The first leaf to be removed is always that leaf that is growing from the lowest point on the plant. Look at the plant from the side (not from the top), and determine which leaf is (or leaves are) growing from the lowest point. This is the oldest leaf on the plant and is the first to be removed. Now you can look at the plant from overhead. If it doesn’t have the shape that you want, remove another. Which one? Repeat rule #1. Rule #2: looking from above, leaves hidden beneath other leaves are unnecessary and can be removed (assuming twisted and out of place leaves have been properly arranged). These leaves are invariably older leaves, growing beneath younger ones, that add nothing to the symmetry of the plant. Removing them will not even be noticed, since leaves above them already occuply the same space!
Finally, be certain to remove leaves being produced from the axils between existing leaves–these are suckers! The only place where new growth should appear is from the crown, or top, of the plant (except on trailers). Removing suckers as soon as they appear not only improves symmetry and overall appearance, but it will encourage your plant to produce more flowers, sooner.
Question: I’m growing for show for the first time. If I keep my standard-size violet disbudded, but don’t pot it into a larger container, will it produce the bigger leaves that I see on some large showplants?
Answer: When a standard-size violet is continuously disbudded, it will produce larger leaves (mini and semiminiature varieties will stay small even when disbudded). Not being allowed to bloom, all of the plant’s energy goes into producing foliage. This is how experienced exhibitors grow some showplants so large. Even though these plants may not have more leaves than they would when grown as a “house” plant, the individual leaves can double or triple in size. Grown as a houseplant, most standard varieties rarely require a pot more than 4″ in diameter. Grown as a large showplant, however, shallow pots 6″ to 8″ in diameter are often used, even larger for the humongous specimens!
A larger pot is aesthetically more pleasing for these big showplants (judges can deduct points for underpotting) but, without using larger pots, are necessary to produce such large leaves to begin with. As the plant grows larger, it requires a more developed root system to support it. This means providing more soil and a larger pot. A plant will only grow as much foliage as its root system can support. When disbudded, it may want to produce larger leaves, but will only produce leaves as large as its root system will support. Therefore, both disbudding and potting into a larger container will be necessary to grow truly large plants.
Question: I have a plant that needs dividing, but seems so overgrown that I don’t know where to begin.
Answer: This was from a member at a local club meeting who had a “supermarket” violet that was so overgrown and crowded with crowns that dividing it by simply pulling crowns apart would have been impossible. Normally, if there appear to be just two or three large, easily identified crowns, you can massage them apart with your fingers, then pot each crown into its own pot. That wasn’t possible in this case.
The individual crowns still need to be identified and removed, but doing so here means cutting them out with a sharp knife or razor (we like Exacto modeling knives). Be careful to remove whole crowns, with at least two leaves and a growing center. Fill a small (2″ or 2 1/2″ pot) with moist (wet, not soggy) soil and make a small “divot” in the center of the soil surface. Place the crown in the divot and gently, but firmly, press the moist soil around its base. Be sure the crown is “snug” and doesn’t wobble around in the pot–it will root better if this is so. Place the potted drown in a clear, plastic bag or container, and seal it. You shouldn’t have to water until it’s removed from the bag. Place it in a bright, but not sunny, location. In about four weeks, the crown should have rooted and can be removed from the bag–you now have a plant. What’s important now is that you don’t allow this to happen again! Regularly remove any “suckers” (small pairs of leaves seen growing in the leaf axils) as they appear. If you don’t those little suckers will soon become large crowns of their own and you’ll have to divide it again. Besides, your violet will look more attractive and bloom better if suckers are regularly removed.
Question: My species plant of S. orbicularis purperea is growing well, but has begun to sucker heavily. Is it best to grow single-crowned, or am I better off letting is sucker naturally?
Answer: Unlike our modern hybrids, which are developed to grow best in a specific form, the Saintpauliaspecies plants can be successfully grown either single nor multi-crowned. The AVSA Master Variety Listsays this species “may be grown single-crowned–does not sucker”. The operative word here is “may”, since many of the species seem to have a mind of their own, and grow best in different forms for different growers. Personally, we have found S. orbicularis to be one species that grows more naturally multi-crowned.
Other species, like S. ionantha, S. velutina, and S. diplotricha, grow extremely well and easily for us as single-crowned plants. They can, however, be grown multi-crowned, if this is their preferred habit under your conditions. To quote from the AVSA Handbook for Judges and Exhibitors, “judges must look at the species as native or wild plants. Occasionally, in the wild habitat, they may have an extra crown or two.” Keep in mind that only the species and trailing varieties can be exhibited as multi-crowned