First wicking experience failed - what did I do wrong?

Begonia2005(7)September 7, 2013

I have some very nice plantlets growing in 3 oz cups and recently I had decided to wick them.

I didn't want to do this experiment on all of my plants for fear of not doing something wrong and killing all of them so I started with 2 Timeless Memory small plantlets. These two came from one plant that I separated because it was growing with two crowns. Granted this particular plant was smaller and more fragile than the sturdy Optimaras I grew from leaf - but I decided to start with these two for whatever reason.

First I took the Timeless Memory plantlet grown from leaf (it took FOREVER for babies to come out, and when they did they were fragile), I separated it and the resulting two small plantlets I repotted in 3 oz plastic cups.

One I wicked, the other I continued to water from the bottom when the surface soil got dry, like I had done with all of my other plants before.

Today I learned that the plant I wicked was completely wilted whereas the one I allowed to dry and then water from the bottom is doing fine. These two were pretty much twins, repotted at the same time, with the same kind of soil,etc.

This experience is obviously not an incentive for me to wick all of my other plants so now I wonder what went wrong.

Do you think it might be one of below?

- I wicked a plantlet that was too small/fragile?
- I sprayed the soil around the root when I potted for wicking so the soil could settle around the plant - so it might have gotten too wet for wicking?
- The wick was bringing in too much water for a small plantlet potted in a 3 oz cup?
- The soil might have been too heavy even at 1:1:1 (AV soil, perlite, course vermiculite)?

I have attached here the picture of the twin that is still alive. The one you see was not wicked but the wicked one looked exactly like this one, in the same 3 oz cup.

I would really love to be able to wick my plants in the future because it really requires much less frequent watering and it prevents plants from going from "desert to wet" - which is what often happens to mine normally.
At the same time, my plants have been doing just fine with "desert-to-wet" watering and I'd rather keep it this way than have the wick keep them with constant wet feet and then lose them to rot in a few weeks.

Any advice you might be able to help me with?
Thank you so much again!

Here is a link that might be useful:

This post was edited by Begonia2005 on Sat, Sep 7, 13 at 22:40

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My first impression is that your pot is too big for this plant.
Your soil sounds okay and spraying the roots, while totally unnecessary, would not have harmed the violet. What did you use for wicking? What did the plant look like? Did it look over-watered? How was the light? Insufficient light could slow growth and leave your plant too wet for too long.
I put my violets on a wick when I remove them from the mother leaf and, yes, sometimes they are too fragile to survive on their own.
The other thought is that it would have died regardless of how it was watered. Some plants are not strong enough to survive even though they are treated exactly like all the others. Plants, like people, are individuals.
You were right to experiment with duplicates. And I know you don't like experimenting but it's the name of the game when it comes to growing. Keep trying! It's how we learn!


    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 2:02AM
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P.S. I like the little picture you have drawn on your shelf! :)

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 2:17AM
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To answer your questions:

I used the 3 oz plastic cup, I had nothing smaller than this; and actually, I didn't mean spraying the roots, but simply spraying the soil around the plant so that it will settle around it, otherwise the plant felt too wiggly/loose in the soil.

For wick, I used Mason line from Home Depot (white).

The plant looked wilted, with some signs of rot in the middle/the crown area; (not that it actually had a crown since it was so small).

Yes, the soil felt somewhere between damp and slightly wet.

I put it on my stand where I keep most of my other small plants from leaf - under a Wall Mart light, plus the stand is in a southern window (covered by a sheer curtain), so it also gets some natural light during the day.

I too think this one was just too fragile and small relative to the 3 oz cup and the amount of water the wick was keeping in the soil. The twin survived because I did not wick it, but boy, does this variety grow slowly or what! It's probably a sign that I should not even bother growing it.

I guess the next step in the experiment is to try wicking one of my Optimaras - one that I am willing to lose. These are sturdy little soldiers, much larger and stronger than this unfortunate "Timeless Memory", and it is my hope they won't allow themselves to be killed by the water brought by a miserable Mason line wick in a small plastic container (I do want to go 1 step up from the 3 oz cup).

This post was edited by Begonia2005 on Sun, Sep 8, 13 at 9:15

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 9:13AM
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I think it's best to root suckers in straight perlite under dome/plastic. when I pot up after awhile I use 50% perlite to AV soil - so I think you did not add enough for wicking.
I insert the wick underneath right away, but water by hand sparingly until they start growing and have made sev leaves (I still keep them 'bagged' for at least a month anyway). when I know for sure that the roots filled the soil well and the plant is in active growth - then finally I start wicking (the wick is there already).
there's just too much danger of rot when the plant is small and the root ball not big.

This post was edited by petrushka on Sun, Sep 8, 13 at 13:29

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 1:28PM
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I think you're correct in trying one of your Optimaras. Sometimes the minis and new plantlets are so frail with an equally frail root system to match. Experiment on the tough ones first until you get the hang of it.

I don't know about Mason line. I use acrylic yarn and have always been happy with it.

It sounds as though you did everything else right.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 2:47AM
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I am pretty sure Mason line IS acrylic yarn.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 10:53AM
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mason line is nylon. but that should be ok.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 1:18PM
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perle_de_or(Zone 7)

I have learned to not separate baby plants until they are bigger than when I first started doing this.
For smaller ones I use small cups, such as condiment cups with holes cut in them, or small clear cups you can get at party supply stores. They are half the size of the three oz. cups. With those, I burn a hole in the bottom with a soldering iron.
For condiment cups, I wash them well, (like ones that have chinese sauces, etc.) and cut slits in the edges of the bottom with scissors. I don't wick any more, but when I did, I tried the mason cord and acrylic yarn and liked the yarn better. I never tried wicking with a smaller cup than 3 oz, but maybe it would work with just one ply of the yarn or mason cord.

If I don't have any small cups and the plant is small, I use the regular 3 oz. cups but with a layer of perlite in the bottom, then I put the mix on top of that. That way there is not too much mix for the small plantlet. I also always cover my smaller plants, but that is what works in my conditions. I make sure the mix is just damp, never soggy. The same would hold true when wicking, soggy is too wet. I used to take the wick out of the water when that happened. Hope this helps and I wasn't confusing.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 2:58PM
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Hi Perle, quick qestion why did you stop wicking?, I top water and my plants are doing fine but I was considering wicking, I heard it was better but I wouldn't want to start if it does not have advantages to it. Thanks. Velleta

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 3:35PM
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perle_de_or(Zone 7)

Well, I tried it for a while, but could never get the soil mix to work, even though I tried different formulas. My plants would either be too wet or too dry. But this is different for everyone, so I think it is good to try it and see if it works for you. You could try on just a plant or two.
Also, I found that when I was wicking, I could not get rid of fungus gnats. I also found that I did not like the dripping wicks that dripped water every time I lifted the plants up to refill their reservoirs or check for dryness. This is just my own personal preference, and I may try it again sometime. I am sure it works very well for other growers.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 11:49AM
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Thank perle for your reply, I personally prefer top watering I spend more time with my plants that's way. I really love to pamper them. Bt I might try one on wicking, but then again why fix if its not broken. Velleta

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 12:01PM
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wicking is indispensable when you are not there for watering for more then sev days: vacation,etc. i put large tubs under my plants and can be away for 2 weeks easily. even stretching into 3 weeks, but then 3rd week the water runs out and they start drying up just a bit . which is actually good and should be done from time to time anyway.
AND when you get past 20's just too time consuming to water by hand then (i happen to have many other plants too).
gnats are always a problem, but i discovered that dryer sheets cut in strips and laid around/near the plant magically help. dont' know why, but that's what smbody was doing and now i am converted too.
also, it's good to put some systemic granules on from time to time as a prevention against mites - that will get rid of gnats too.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 1:58PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Petrushka -

Can you share with us what kind of systemic granules do you use against mites?


    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 5:10PM
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Irina, was just about to ask the same question, I would love to know. Velleta

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 7:20PM
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well, i just read it here to put marathon granules as preventive and i did not have marathon, but i had bonide 'indoor systemic'. so that's what i was using. it's weaker then marathon.
the Bonide product is 0.22% imidacloprid , Marathon is 1.0%.
i sprinkle it on like every 2 mo.
i had crotons and ivies in the same room (major mite attractors!) - so that's why i was using it. i know better now - no more ivies near my AV and crotons only if bagged.
so, it's not like i am claiming that imidacloprid works against mites....but, it does work against other things gnats :).
i know, i should get smth better for forbid? i have lots of uses for it too, just being lazy...
you had your hopes up, eh? ;)..

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 9:02PM
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Hahaha, well dah. Velleta

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 11:25PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Pertrushka -

Imidacloprid is NOT helping against mites. But it keeps Mealy Bugs at bay - both root mealies and foliars and controls the gnats. The problem with it - it only active for 3 months - and probably even less - and you do it every 2 months.
I am not sure if crotons and ivy actually host cyclamen or broad mites - I think mostly spider mites - and AVs are less susceptible to spider mites.

I swear by Forbid.


    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 3:12PM
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so I found out ;). I also had thrips - systemic helped somewhat for leaves, not for flowers, but still better then nothing. cross my fingers, never had mealies!
but i'll get forbid for other stuff. whichever mites exist, I proly get them all one time or another.
besides ivies and crotons they also get on my calla lilies, alocasia, citrus and amaryllis . oh, and cyclamens too! what else? ficus! just saying... got many sources :))).
I spray with neem other plants and have hort.oil - but refrain from using it often - it burns indoor plants and a lot of outdoor too! I did not want to use oily stuff on violets besides, so I just dunk them in hot water .
do you think neem oil (bayer natria 70% concentrate) could be used on violets? and then perhaps washed off with soapy solution?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 5:34PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Joyce Stork was teaching the judges class in Denver - and she recommended a brand of Neem Oil ... something like Azamax..

If you have a serious infestation - it is not that efficient - but if you have something starting - it is good. You do not need to wash it off, Just make sure that initial concentration is right - whatever it is. Probably written on the bottle.

Cyclamens and AVs under the same roof??? That's risky!


    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 8:51PM
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i take precautions of course, keeping clean, sep rooms..keeping some babies isolated under plastic.
i had my first and only infestation last year after 3 years of av bliss, after that i got more vigilant.
i dunk my ivies/cyclamens in hot water too :) when i take them indoors and then ev 2 mo or so. and clean large-leaved tropicals with half alcohol monthly and spray with neem.
but it' s getting to a point when i'd like to reduce maintenance a bit....time to 'FORBID'!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 10:33AM
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I tried wick watering on 5 violet plants. re-potted plants with wicks. used soda bottle for water. The plant saucer filled up with water to fast though. I now had to raise the plants up higher or the soda bottle below the plants. If I leave the saucer sitting with full amount of water in it the plants will be affected I think. Also tried this before going on vacation for 2 weeks and wondering if this is a good idea or not? I used combination equal amounts verm. perlite peat, AV. I have my plants on bay window and put water container below the window in a table. I will see how this works. Is there something I did wrong?

Will this work for very young leaf rooted starters when I go on vacation or what should I do with these?

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 2:06PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Taras - the very young plant - probably will do better if you stick it in a covered transparent box - and move it away from the direct sun. It will preserve the moisture and it will be OK. It is risky to change your method of watering just before a vacation - because you are not experienced yet. So probably a friend with a watering can will be a better option.
Otherwise - seems that 1:1:1 soil is correct. You need to have enough water in your reservoir - it can be a cut-off soda bottle - or a glass jar or you can put your plants on top of the deli containers will with water with fertilizer solution with a hole in a lid - you can thread your wick through.
You need to see how other people do it - then you can figure out the best way for yourself. Keep searching the internet for plant wicking and check if you have a violet club in your area. Somebody to show you the ropes would be perfect.

Good Luck


    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 2:04PM
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