Basic African Violet Care
African Violet
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    African Violets have 6 basic requirements that need to be met in order for
    them to grow and bloom. The closer these requirements are met, the better
    the violets will preform.  Sounds simple?  It is!  The challenge (or fun of
    growing African violets) is figuring out the correct balance between these
    six variables that works best for both you and your violets!  To make things
    even more challenging, not all violets are created equal when it comes to
    their ideal requirements.  For example, some will need more light than
    others, while some will require more (or less) fertilizer to do their best.

    As you will see when you read though this section, there are a number of
    ways people have reached the same goal when growing their violets.  We'll
    share with you what works for us and what others have done that works for
    them.
    If growing 'show quality' violets if your goal,  then this is the ultimate in
    perfecting your growing conditions and techniques.




Potting Mix:   
    If you ask a dozen people what mix they use for their violets, you may very
    well get 13 different answers to that question.  Obviously, no mix is the
    ideal mix for everyone.  Some people are happy with a store-bought mix
    from the garden center, while others will make their own mix from a variety
    of ingredients.
    We have found that prepackaged mixes contain too much peat for our
    growing conditions.  These mixes stay too wet which chokes the roots and
    the plants eventually succumb to rot.   Many people will 'lighten' the
    prepackaged mixes by adding an equal part of perlite to the mix.  The
    perlite opens or "lightens" the mix allowing more air circulation, thus
    preventing too much water retention and root rot.  
    Here at Orchid Enterprise Inc., we mix our own ingredients, using equal
    parts peat, perlite and vermiculite.   We have found this mix to be suitable
    for all our violets and leaf cuttings as well as our Phalaenopsis orchids.
    Some growers add lime to their mix because the peat tends can make the
    mix too acidic which prevents nutrient absorption by the roots.  Charcoal
    can also be added which is believed to absorb organic toxins produced by
    bacteria in the soil.
    When it's time to re-pot, moisten the mix with enough water to make it feel
    moist, while remaining light and fluffy.  You don't want your mix to be
    'heavy' and hard to work with.  At the same time, you don't want it to be too
    dry either.  Once you've re-potted a few plants, and experimented with
    getting it moist, you'll soon know what works best for you.
Fertilizer:
    All plants need some form of fertilizer to grow and bloom. Since our plants
    are potted in, what is considered a soilless-steril mix, We can either add
    fertilizer to the soil
Re-potting:
    If you ask the experts who grow African violets for show, they will tell you
    that you need to re-pot your violets every few months.  This is excellent
    advice if all other conditions are ideal.  If your growing conditions are less
    than perfect, it has been our experience that this can be disastrous to
    your collection.  It is more important to know when it's time to re-pot by
    observing the plants roots.  If you re-pot too soon, you'll smother your
    roots and rot you plants.  If potted to late, the roots will be so tight that
    you'll destroy the root system tying to replace some of the mix - or the
    roots will not break away from the old root ball and penetrate into the new
    mix.  
    A little known secrete is many Gesneriads (the group of plants that African
    violets belong) benefit from having their roots disturbed and therefore thrive
    on frequent re-potting.

    The best way to tell when your plants are ready to be re-potted is to
    remove the plants from their pots and observe the root ball.  If you can
    see plenty of roots growing around the mix and still see mix through the
    roots, then it's probably safe to say it's time to re-pot.  The more you re-pot,
    the more comfortable you'll be with judging when it's time to re-pot.  If in
    doubt, wait a week or two and check the root system again.

    When re-potting, choose a pot that is only slightly larger than it's current
    pot.  Don't rush getting the plant into a large pot.  The idea is to encourage
    the roots to expand throughout the mix each time you re-pot so that by the
    time it is in a 4-inch pot the root ball is completely filled with roots and soil
    - not just a bunch of roots around the outside of the root ball.

    With standard, and semi-miniature plants we start our plants out in 3-oz
    plastic containers.  These are potted up into 5-oz containers and then to 3-
    inch pots and so on.

    Hint: Allowing the mix to dry out slightly before re-potting makes for easier re-
    potting.  

    It is not uncommon for us to re-pot our plants back into it's original pot!  
    Knocking off some of the old mix and replacing it with new encourages
    more root growth before 'potting-up' to the next larger pot. Again, don' t be
    in a hurry to pot your plants into a larger pot.  Concentrate on growing a
    good healthy root system and the rest of the plant will follow naturally.