Sinningia Growing Tall

Question:  I have a Sinningia that is getting a bit tall.  I raise Kohleria as well, so when they get long, I cut the top of the plant off at a leaf node and stick it back into moist soil.  No problems.  Can I do this with this Sinningia?

Answer:  Yes.  You can treat it the same was as a Kohleria, or as an African violet with an extremely long “neck”, for that matter.  Kohlerias are much easier to reroot, however.  Sinningias don’t root quite as readily, depending on how old, and woody, the growth is.  You might want to place your pot with the rooting cutting in a clear, covered, container or in a plastic bag for a few weeks, until its rooted.  In addition, since Sinningias are tuberous, the tuber should sprout a new plant (like a potato), especially if wait to see the beginnings of a new sprout before removing the old growth.

Columnea is Growing Long and Spindly

Question:  How to I get Columnea ‘Light Prince’ to be full?  I have a pot from a previous order that actually has some buds, but is long and ‘spindly’.

Answer:  C. ‘Light Prince’ is a beautiful plant, and can bloom quite heavily, but it tends to be more seasonal in nature than some of the othe Columnea.  We find that it blooms best in spring, when nights are still a bit cool but days are getting longer and brighter.  It will bloom other times of year, but never as heavily or as well.  As for keeping it “full” looking, you’llneed to get in the habit of occasionally trimming or “pinching” the tips of stems.  This will encourage the plant to branch and produce new growth.  If not done, individual stems won’t tend to branch on their own and will just keep getting longer and longer.  Most plants, columnea included, tend to produce bloom from the newest growth, which means that there’s no point in trimming the plant back now, when you have buds appearing.  As soon as those blooms disappear, though, trim your plant back and let it fill out with new growth.  Next time, you’ll have a fuller plant, with more stems, more new growth, and even more blooms!

Streptocarpus: Watering and Pot Size

Question:  I’ve recently received some Streptocarpus from you.  These are younger plants in 2″ pots.  They are ready for a larger pot.  I’d like to use the self-watering “violet” pots.  Would they do well in these? 

Answer:  Streptocarpus easily grow and bloom.  They’ll grow and bloom nearly constantly in most home environments, in natural or artificial light.  They’re nearly indestructible if you just remember to keep their “feet” happy.  It’s very important that streps have a healthy, growing, root system.  This means regular repotting into the proper size post using the proper soil for the watering methods used.  When repotting, go into a larger pot only when the size of the root system calls for it.  Don’t ever “pot up” until the root system fills the current pot.  After repotting, water lightly for a while, giving the plant a chance to grow new roots into the added soil.  Use a soil that is light and porous.  For streps, the lighter, the better.  Water only when the surface of the soil is “dry to the touch”.  Never water a plant with soil that’s still wet and, if using saucers, never leave a strep sitting in water for long periods. 

As a rule, streps would rather not be in self-watering pots since plants in these pots generally stay very wet all of the time, something streps don’t particularly like.  They want their feet to “breathe” a little.  If you choose to use such pots, you must use soil that is very light and porous.  Us a soil-less (peat based, with no topsoil) mix, that consists of at least 50% coarse perlite.  After potting into such a pot, water lightly from the top for at least a few weeks, giving the plant a chance to grow new roots and establish itself in the pot.  Only fill the reservoir with water when the plant and its root system is mature enough to use all of the water that you will be providing it.  Until then, be patient.  Underwater a strep, and it may wilt but will recover when watered.  Overwater a strep and it may forgive you once, but not always a second time.

Streptocarpus has Irregular Missing Leaf Sections

Question:  My Streptocarpus has irregular sections that are missing from the edges of the leaves, as if something had been eating them.  Any ideas?

Answer:  Actually, this is something one of our employees experienced with a plant she had taken home from the shop.  We’ve also been told similar stories by some of our violet-growing friends.  A week or so after telling us this, she brought in a small, black, insect in a plastic baggie (dead, of course).  She had found it on the plant and wondered whether it could have been the culprit.  As it turns out it was.  We couldn’t identify it, but knew who could.  It just happened that a large conference was being held by a group of entomologists and plant pathologists in Rochester.  Being only an hour’s drive away, they had scheduled a tour of our shop.  One of them quickly identified the insect as the “black vine weevil”, a black, wingless weevil about 3/8″ long.  All are female, do not fly, and disperse by walking or are transported by man or on infested material.  Adult weevils feed on foliage, chewing out notches.  Damage is usually not fatal, but often is unsightly.  As larvae, the grubs feed on roots and underground stems, and can be more damaging than adults.

These are most commonly found on outside plants, but they can become nuisance pests when found indoors.  Fortunately, infestations on houseplants are normally small, and control is best accomplished by removing adults by hand when found, even if the appear to be dead–it seems that the adults will “feign death” when disturbed!  In any event, this is not likely to be a widespread problem for violet growers, but this mysterious plant damage has been described to us before.  In this one instance, it was nice to have the mystery solved.

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