Growing African violets is a lot different than playing an instrument. If you play an instrument and hit a wrong note you will instantly know you did something wrong. If you change something when growing African Violets it takes about 3 months until you'll see a change in the plant.
I have grown plants for many, many years and I have had a few experiences that I wish I had not had. When I hear of doing something different and it sounds like a good idea, I'll try it!
So, what are some things I've done? As a new grower many years ago, I heard about a product I thought sounded good. I ordered it and tried it on a tray of 30 leaves that I had just purchased. The leaves withered and died 3 days later. Yessiree, all 30 of them!
Then I heard about the fine attributes of using cow manure in a growing mixture. My plants grew to a nice size and I was pleased with the results. One very cold day, rather than go into the garage to get a mix for the minis, I used the cow manure mixture. It took about 3 months until they started to grow into huge plants. None of them could be put in a show because they were too large.
Superthrive was supposed to be a nice additive and I used it on all my plants. I was happy with the shiny leaves. However, all the variegated plants turned much greener and once again I could not enter them in a show. I've continued using Superthrive and it is o.k. as long as I continue using it. The variegation stays nice but if I were to discontinue using it the variegation would then be lighter in color.
I also heard of a product to control or stop powdery mildew. It seemed to work until I noticed that 3 months later all the plants had markings on their leaves. I have since heard that the product must be mixed and used immediately. It cannot stand for a few days and then be used without bad results. Once again many plants could not be entered in a show.
A few years ago, foliar feeding seemed to be a good thing to do. Of course, I did it but no matter how careful I was wiping the edge of the leaf of any excess moisture, I still got burned edges. More plants not entered in a show! Since the idea came about, experiments have been done to show that the plants do not benefit from fertilizer placed on the leaves.
Many books and articles talk about alternating fertilizers. Yup, did that too. More plants not entered in a show. It probably is a good idea since different fertilizers contain different elements but it should be done all the time. Rather than alternating, I stay with one fertilizer. It saves me wondering what I used last week and what I should use this week.
So what is my advice to prevent such disasters? Try new ideas or products but do it on only three plants for 3 months. I try to select a plant with a light green leaves, a plant with a dark green leaves, and a variegated plant for the experiment and then I wait…………..
Thank you to our author - judge, teacher, grower and willing mentor for those of us still learning - Sharon Johnson!