Reporting back and questions a year plus after hobby started!

Begonia2005(7)September 1, 2013

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to visit back here again after a few months break - and say hello, as well as thank you, to everyone who helped establish this hobby for me;
...and ask some more questions which hopefully might help others too.

A year plus after I took up violets, the hobby is still going strong - even though I did kill a few in the process :-).

I don't have a large collection, at least not compared to serious growers on this site (Total of 15, including those grown from a leaf, and 2 more plants in the mail, on the way) - but "huge" according to my husband and sister who are baffled by how much I know about growing these little plants and all the "fuss" involved. Their idea of having a plant in the house is:
- "don't, it's too much trouble" (my husband) and
- "grab some green that you can't kill no matter what you do" (my sister).

In the beginning, like any new AV hobbist, I wanted to have some really pretty, special Lyndon Lion types right away, in addition to the sturdy but less "eventful" Optimaras from the local nursery.
I ordered Red summit, Live Wire, Witch Doctor and a Timeless Memory leaf ...but to make a long story short, these "specialty" ones didn't work out over the long term. They did in the beginning but I managed to lose all of them eventually. I also put down some leaves - some just didn't root, others did but came out just as spindly and fragile as their parents were and eventually died.

In the meantime, most Optimaras did very well, I have one (I believe it is Colorado) that is a great bloomer

... and the leaves I put down from most Optimaras turned into some really sturdy, happy and symmetrical young plants.
After forever and a day, the little "Timeless Memory" leaves finally yielded two established little plants (you can see the smallest plant to the right in the picture above, I divided them because it had tow crowns); but I can tell they will grow extremely slowly. These and the Witch Doctor (that is not doing well) are now the only "specialty" LL I have left. Everything else is Optimara.

And now the questions:

1. I recently decided to wick so I started with the two "Timeless" small plants and the Witch Doctor. I followed the instructions, per videos from seasoned growers, but now I am afraid the soil will be too wet all the time. I did make sure to use a light medium (1/3 or more perlite, 1/3 or more light course vermiculite, the right kind not sandy; and probably slightly less than 1/3 AV soil) - but I am still a bit scared the soil will stay too wet all the time. Can I take them out of the jar once in a while and let them dry a bit? Or does that mean I will interrupt the watering action in the wick and when I put them back it won't work anymore?

When I potted the small plants, I sprayed around the root with a bit of water so that the soil will settle around the plant and I won't have to pat it down; but that got the soil pretty wet already ...and with the wick inside the water now ...isn't that going to be too much? Or should I have abstained from spraying around the stem when I potted? In that case, I really would have had to pat down the soil as the plant was extremely loose and wiggly in the soil.

2. I have had my plants under one cheap WalMart grow light for well more than 6 months now, maybe close to a year. When should I think about changing it?
I do have a light meter and when there is no additional light coming from the window, only the grow light, the plants get about 500 foot-candles, towards the ends of the tube even slightly I wonder whether I should add a second tube or just change this one and maybe get a fancier grow light (like Grow-Lux, etc) with wide spectrum, etc.

3. I do want to be able to grow some fancier ones eventually, so I couldn't help it and I ordered 2 more 'specialty" types from e-Bay that are now on the way: Ma's Pillow Talk and Blue Mist. Does anyone have any experience with these hybrids?? They sure do look nice but so did Live Wire and Red Summit. Any advice so I won't kill them too like it happened with these two? Are these any sturdier?

4. All the plants from leaf are now in plastic 3 oz cups. I decided to wick them by placing these cups in baby food jars and let them hang in there with the wick in the food jar. This seems easy but I wonder whether this method will also produce any level of extra humidity around the leaves in addition to the watering benefits of the wicking. It doesn't seem like it to me because the water in the jar is completely covered by the cup - but then again, the soil does stay damp all the time so that probably creates extra humidity anyway.
I SO hope I won't see root rot though.

5. Many of the plants in the 3 oz cups are getting clearly bigger in diameter than 3 times the diameter of the cup. I would like to re-pot them in something slightly larger so they can grow more (which also means I would no longer be able to wick them in baby food jars). But if I decide to do this, what should be the next size and can you offer any suggestions for a container? I found some short clear plastic cups at Kroger once but the jump in size seems a little too much relative to the 3 oz cups.

Any advice would be appreciated - thank you again!

This post was edited by Begonia2005 on Sun, Sep 1, 13 at 12:21

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For whatever reason, those Photobucket links don't want to work - I tried everything...oh, well.
I will try to attach links here.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 12:26PM
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...and the collection from leaf, all Optimaras except Timeless Memory, the small plant at the right which I have divided in two as it had two crowns.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 12:31PM
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perle_de_or(Zone 7)

Your Colorado looks wonderful and your other plants look very nice, they are growing symetrically and flat. So you are doing something right. I also purchased a selection of leaves from Lyndon Lyon and it has take almost a year from leaf, but I now have some of theirs that are doing really great. Blue Dragon, Ethel's Explosion, Mermaid, Lyon's Magic Charms, and Nancy Leigh have certainly been worth the wait.
I have several types of Optimaras that have always done well. I forgot to mention in my reply to your other thread that my two top Optimara performers are Optimara Tennesse and an old one that I think is Rhapsodie Barbara, both are just terrific plants. I am going to send you a private message about some of my Optimara plants, maybe I can send you some leaves.
Here is my Optimara Tennessee:

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 5:11PM
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Thank you so much! I would love to try any leaves of plants that other growers have tested and know they are sturdy and reliable! :-)

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 10:17PM
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Repeat after me_I AM NOT SCARED!!! I swear plants know when you are afraid of them and will take every advantage to die on you. Confidence!!!

Now on to your questions: Your soil mix is appropriate for wicking. Some people use a thinner wick for smaller plants and vice-versa. I do not. I like my reservoir go dry for a day or so before I re-fill it to let my plants dry a bit. If the plants become too dry, watering from the top will get the wick going again. You will have to experiment but as you are a confident plant person this will not scare you. Just stick your finger in the soil-if it's soaking, it's too wet but I don't think you'll have this problem. (Spraying the stem is unnecessary but not harmful). And you will have to pat your soil in somewhat. Just don't go at it like you're punching down bread dough.

You do not need fancy grow lights. Go to HD and get a warm white and a cool white. Your fixture should have a reflector. (I have been using this combination since 1972.) I think the warm is labeled daylight or sunshine. If you want the reason for this, let me know. It's rather lengthy and it's very late'll just have to trust me. (I can also rhapsody for quite a while on soil mixes in case you are interested). But...I digress...) I replace when my tubes get a dark ring around the ends, (very noticeable) or when growth and blooming start to slow. Be careful with new tubes. They are very strong in the beginning.

As you have learned, plants of a genera are not all the same . Each cultivar and even each individual is different and will respond differently to your growing conditions. Just follow good AV growing practices and don't be afraid to experiment. And don't be discouraged when you lose some. We all lose some. Some plants are just naturally weak, some won't like you or your conditions and some are just suicidal. Just chalk it up to experience and move on. A plant that dies gives you room for something new! I have been at this plant business my entire life and there are still violets that refuse to bloom for me. Ex: Gillian. Grows like a weed. Will not bloom. I don't obsess over these non-bloomers. I give them to my neighbor and let her obsess.

Instead of individual containers-why don't you get a tray-the kind annuals come in-with no holes. Add egg-crate and place your plants on this with the wicks extending through the egg-crate. This takes care of humidity (Question 4) and you won't have to figure out what containers to use (Question 5). It also makes it much easier to care for your plants when they are all together and all you have to do is water the tray.

Let me know if you have more questions!


    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 2:21AM
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Speaking of lights: right now I have most of my violets on a ready-made, store-bought metal stand that is usually designed to keep in the garage. The height between the shelves is 14 1/2 and is NOT adjustable (so it's a take it or leave it situation); and by the time I hang the tube right under, you cannot have more than 9 1/2 - 10 inches between the tube and the top of most plants.
Now that I put a couple of them in baby jars, they might actually be too close to the tube (these are two variegated small plantlets, Timeless Memory)

I think the reason why most grew well from leaf at slightly less than 10 inches is probably because the tube is only one and not very strong (cheap WallMart stuff). When I measure the light at the top of the plant in the evening (so without any aid from natural day light), they get about 500 ft candles, towards the edges even less.
So despite being relatively close to the tube, it looks like they have not been in danger of getting too much light.
However, if I continue to wick them with jars, they will be significantly elevated by the jar and they might just be too close to the light.

So perhaps using egg crates is better - but then the reservoir would hold too little water and I would have to add water too frequently, no?

Going back to light, I have had this Walmart tube for close to a year now, so at some point it will have to be changed. I haven't checked for the black rings yet, so thank you for reminding me to do this. I don't think they're there yet - I will see this afternoon when the lights come automatically on with the timer.
I have thought about using two, like you said (warm and cool), but the shelves being not too high, I am afraid I would fry the AV-s with two tubes.

Interestingly enough, the Colorado Optimara - my most successful so far - offered some amazing bouquets of flowers after living under a fluorescent lamp with several adjustable arms - in my office.
This one was NOT kept on my regular stand.

The results I have seen from the stand consist mostly of nice round plantlets that grew from a mother leaf - but they are still too young for serious bloom. So we will see how they do on the stand over the long term.

I did keep the Red Summit and Live Wire on this stand - but they always grew somewhat frail and spindly maybe the stand is NOT giving enough light for the exotic ones after all. The Optimaras seem to love it though.

Looks like experimenting is the only way - but experimenting also takes an enormous length of time. By the time I really learn what works and what doesn't, I find out I am much older :-))).

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 1:04PM
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Also...where can I get egg crates?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 1:08PM
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Yes, experimenting does take time. Growing teaches patience if nothing else. I raise orchids. Some take seven years to reach blooming size. Patience....

You really do need two lights if you want growth and bloom. Generally speaking, the cool white has the blue spectrum which is used by plants for growth and the warm white has the red spectrum which is used for flowering. I believe the Gro-lux has the far red spectrum but I have never found it to be necessary. Plus, the Gro-lux are more expensive. Regular florescent bulbs usually emit the green spectrum, (which is why we all look ghastly in department store bathrooms!) and this is the one color that plants do not use.

If you omit the jars and grow on the egg crate, you may have more distance between the plants and your light. Some growers make up for this distance problem by shortening the amount of time their lights are on. Again-experiment...

I do not wick my leaves. I place them in a tray with a dome. I also put them on a heat mat in the winter. I have the most success with this method.

You can get egg crate at HD or Lowes. It is actually a diffuser for florescent lights, not really an egg crate. At my store it is with the plywood and boards. You cut it to fit your trays. I also got my shelves at Lowe's. Adjustable, sturdy and fairly cheap.

Also---something to think about when frustration sets in. How lucky we all are now to have these forums to learn from. When I was learning to grow, it was strictly trial-and-error. And a lot of violets went to plant heaven before their time. There is so much knowledge here at our fingertips!


Here is a link that might be useful: Egg Crate

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 3:12PM
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perle_de_or(Zone 7)

This is an interesting thread. Linda, thanks for the link for the egg crate and all your great info.
I have found through trial and error, that my Optimaras do best in natural light. Exceptions are Little Ottawa, Little Crystal, Little Moonstone, they will bloom anywhere I put them.
I haven't quite gotten the knack of wicking, I have tried different methods and soil ratios, but stopped wicking all of mine, I bottom water mostly. I may try wicking again with the egg crate method.
Begonia, send me a private message on my page so I can work out sending you some leaves.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 12:02PM
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My soil for wicking is the standard 1:1:1. I place the pots on the egg crate and fill the trays. This method provides humidity yet keeps the pot out of the water. I have been wicking my violets since I began growing them.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 2:30AM
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Thank you so much, Perle - I will e-mail you in private.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 12:16PM
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