Heavy Soil

susan_kc(7b)June 26, 2014

Need some ideas for soil...

I have recently been checking several of my violets and discovered that the soil is holding too much water. The roots only fill about half the pot on some of the plants, especially the smaller ones.

I am using 1:1:1 peat, perlite, and vermiculite. What would you recommend I do to change things up a little?

I currently bottom water most of the time using a tray (not wicks) and top water about once a month to flush things out.

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I've been finding the same with my AV's. I am trying two solutions:
Modified texas style potting, where you fill the bottom half of the pot with perlite (see Annies podcasts) and the other option, cutting the pot down to size...

I am now down to a 2 part perlite, one part fafard av mix - mix, but still have lost a few plants to rot, so i am currently looking for coarser perlite - half the bag of MG perlite i got last time was practically dust.

Not sure if this helps any, we've all got to try what works best in our circumstances...


    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 5:47PM
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Try skipping the vermiculite.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 11:23PM
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Terra cotta :-) I know most people here dont grow in terra cotta, but I love it.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 12:51AM
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It may be the chicken or the egg dilemma-did too much water cause your roots to rot, or is there too much water because there weren't enough roots in the first place.

If your roots are only taking up half the space in the pot, you may need to pot down. In doing this, you might also solve the wetness problem.

I would be careful with the Texas-style potting. Many people swear by it but a lot swear at it. But, as Karin says, we have to juggle to fit our circumstances and she has been experimenting with it for a while now so she is finding what works for her.

Terra cotta is great if you have a problem with plants staying too wet for too long. The moisture seeps out from the clay so they dry out more quickly. You do have to be careful of accumulated salts at the top.

Your 1-1-1 mixture is the usual standard. Is your perlite chunky? Some of the stuff sold is dust and is just useless.


I got great perlite at Worm's Way. They mail order and charge the same amount as the c**p they sell at HD that they laughingly call perlite. It is large pieces and has no dust.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 1:15AM
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Thanks Linda, I actually know a nursery that sells coarse perlite in reasonable amounts and at a decent price, I am just never out that way anymore... But it's one of my favourite places, so I am bound to end up there sooner or later...


    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 7:41AM
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Hi, KC,
It also might depend on your care style and where you live, the level of humidity and the temps. Sounds like you water frequently.

This post was edited by fortyseven on Sun, Jul 6, 14 at 2:19

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 11:35AM
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Thanks everyone for all the suggestions. Some really great ideas here. I think I will start by cutting back on the vermiculite and upping the perlite. I just use the Miracle Gro perlite from Home Depot, so if this doesn't work, I may need to search out a better solution.

I am noticing the problem mostly in my young plants too. I'm downsizing some of them from solo cups to K-cups. Maybe the solos are just too big for them when they're developing.

Some of the plants I got at the convention just really seem to have a nice light mix--even right after watering it doesn't feel soaked. It doesn't look all that much different from mine...but it feels different. Is it possible they're using a different kind of peat? Or something else instead?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 3:24PM
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Most likely they are! The growers usually make their own mix and some of them offer it for sale. Joanne

This post was edited by fortyseven on Sun, Jul 6, 14 at 2:23

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 6:34PM
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perhaps your convention plants are in coir peat - which is quite different from reg peat. it does not compact when wet and rewets very easily. it provides better aeration then reg peat. most small plants in production greenhouses are grown in it. even succulents and cacti.
you can use it instead of peat, but it is PH neutral. where as reg peat is acidic.
if feels grainy to touch, very different from reg peat.
can you post the close up of your convention soil mix?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 6:54PM
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Are these all from the same vendor? If so, which one? I know what some of the vendors use. Also, if you ask, most will tell you their soil recipe.

The plants that I got from one vendor seem very difficult to wet. I wonder if it is the same one.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 1:05AM
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I bought from several different vendors. Here is a pic of the Fancy-Bloomers mix

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 4:27PM
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This is from Violet Barn

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 4:28PM
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and this is from Violet Gallery.

Is coir peat usually available in garden centers or does it need to be specially ordered? Might be worth checking into.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 4:30PM
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A search on this forum using the word coir does not say good things about it long term for larger plants.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 5:18PM
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as far as availability of coir peat : it is usually sold in the compressed brick form. there is MG product called expand-n-gro - that is coir peat.
i might add - and there're a lot worse things that are said about reg peat...especially on gw..
since some agent is necessary for moisture retention - you'll need to use either reg peat or coir peat. there is no other choice.
i don't care much for gw bashing peat in the 1st place - you need to use is correctly, that's all. and i do use it.
but i think coir peat is a far superior product to reg. peat.
you need to go outside of AV forum to get a scoop - this is a very insular forum, if you pardon my saying so :).
there was a thread on cacti forum, i posted some interesting links there and also on houseplants (last year).

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 5:46PM
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*everything* has to be used correctly - i actually read the instructions on the coir chunks i bought (i forget the brand, but it came as a brick) and it said to soak (in hot water - i think) and rinse it before use. did that and used it on all my balcony plants - they did fine, some are still in it years later (oopsie)....
i started buying the av mix though because i just have limited space now, and whilst the brick itself isn't big, once expanded...
so now i just use av mix on EVERYTHING, because i can buy it in small bags, add some perlite (small bag) and you're good to go for most plants...


    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 7:51PM
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funny! i actually also use av mix for a lot of plant mixes for houseplants (i cook up a few).
i keep all of my av's on wicks - which require 40-50% perlite.
so i can't put newly bought plants on wicks - 'cause they don't have that much perlite.
basically in the beginning i water by hand, then once the violet grows up a bit, i repot, removing lower 3rd of root ball and replacing it with proper wicking mix (on the bottom). and then i wick with caution, allowing it to dry up somewhat. then finally by the 2nd repot i can remove some bottom leaves and put good mix on the top too without cutting off the bottom 3rd either. that means a slightly deeper pot and the original mix is only a sandwich in the middle. by that time i can rest easy and wick normally.
but you can do the same 'sandwich' even without wicking.
it will lighten the mix considerably.
that's why suckers are great - they go in proper light wicking mix after rooting in perlite. of course, i still can't wick then right away...but still it's possible very soon after with texan-style perlite plug on the bottom.
but i am starting to experiment with coir peat, just need to get more of it - it's not readily available, it seems.
i used mg expand-n-gro straight out of the bag, just soak and squeeze. no rinsing.
it's more aerated even when wet, doesn't compact as peat - so danger of dampening should be lessened.
anyways, search, investigate, try out perhaps - it's an interesting option.

This post was edited by petrushka on Wed, Jul 2, 14 at 22:15

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 9:55PM
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Thanks for the feedback. A member of my club gave a presentation about coir and other potting mediums.
Another member then went out to get coir and brought the brick to the club. I did a search on GW forum on coir and was surprised to find negative feedback by one person several years ago. So I sent her that info. Having your balanced perspective is also helpful, I let her know.
Some members live in small condos or apartments and don't have a lot of backyard to keep a lot of materials. So they have to make a decision. Also, if they do use a product
that is not ideal for their environment, by the time the damage
shows up in the plant, it can be too late to salvage the plant.
Yes, the Forum does have the perspective of only the members. Many are new and seeking information.
I like to read older posts because I read the forum years
ago when needing advice but did not join at the time.
Reading older posts widens the perspective.
Yes, it is good to seek more info, especially for one's
specific environment.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 2:03PM
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i am in an apt myself :), i understand the lack of storage very well.
coir peat is fairly new to me too, i was using it by accident actually, thinking it was reg .peat albeit very strange one (i did NOT read the label!).
so while i searched for info, one of the points was that fungus gnats go not lay eggs in it! don't know, if it's true - but that would be a godsend, provided i convert everything to coir peat...
anyways, here's that post in other forum with more opinions.

Here is a link that might be useful: coir posts in cacti forum

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 6:58PM
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Thank you, although AVs are not succulents, I often wonder if their care might be a little similar, because they are mostly all leaves and shallow roots, like cacti. Of course, they need more moisture. Joanne

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 2:32AM
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the important point is that even cacti grown in damp pure coir peat do not rot. that is smth to think about.
as far as AV's being succulent - there is smth there.
i had to leave my AV's on wicks unattended for 2mo! some wicks got stuck on the wall of the reservoir, not reaching all the way to the water level. they were bone dry for may be a week or more or who knows how long... and they were totally fine - not a leaf limp, some were going into bloom :). i was quite impressed. but temps were rather low - about 65F. and possibly down to 63F at nite. most my sub-tropicals go semi-dormant at these temps, requiring very little water. perhaps, that's what happened.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 8:57PM
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