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Problems after wicking

Posted by azpedsrn Arizona (My Page) on
Sat, Jan 11, 14 at 21:37

I've been growing African Violets for many years and should be an expert by now but still struggle with many of my plants. Big box store african violets aside, I'd say only 20% of my violets grow well. I seldom have one die, they just grow terribly, i.e. leaves become stiff and waxy, center leaves become very small and tight; if they do manage to squeeze out a bloom, it's VERY small, and feels like wax. For years I thought I had bugs but now realize it's some sort of cultural problem. Example: Awhile ago I ordered 24 pairs of leaves. I potted them up for wicking but then kept them under a plastic lid. As the plantlets grew and space allowed, I'd put them on a reservoir under the same lights, where nearly all of them proceeded to do as described above. Today I had an "Aha" moment. I'd thrown some away due to poor growth and when I went to take some out of the the covered area, I realized that as long as they were being watered individually they were growing beautifully...looked like perfect small plants (minus flowers). So, my question to you experts....what is happening once I get them on the reservoirs to cause them to go downhill? The same thing happens to most of the violets when I buy plants from the violet show or plants I buy online. The only thing that keeps me going is that there are some that are beautiful. I've had one China Doll for probably more than 10 years and it has perfect foliage and is rarely without blooms. It's babies (started from leaves) also grow and bloom very well. Please help!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Problems after wicking

Just a guess here, but how are you fertilizing them? Apparently stiff, compact centres are caused by over-fertilizing. (I think I may have one or two with that same problem).
Now I'll step aside and let the experts chime in....

Oh, and we love photos =D

Karin


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RE: Problems after wicking

I don't do much fertilizing because the soil I use to mix in with the perlite has fertilizer in it. When I do fertilize, it is a very weak solution (I was told to do that with wick watering).


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RE: Problems after wicking

Buckeye Candy Kisses - the one of the right is wicked on a reservoir....very ugly! The one on the left looks nice and healthy. I had a worse example but it was thrown away this morning!


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RE: Problems after wicking

And here is Cool Lady. Same thing. You can see in the plant on the right where the outer leaves are larger but now getting stiffer and more brittle, but the newer leaves are small, waxy and the edges are even starting to curl under.


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RE: Problems after wicking

Az,

Let me get this straight- you are saying the ones not wicked are growing well and the ones that are are not? Is that correct?

Linda


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RE: Problems after wicking

Yes. I never realized that until I started 24 pairs of leaves and didn't have room to put all of them on wicks once they had babies. I've had to do that (put them on a reservoir) as I've weeded out other plants. Yesterday I threw away some plants and that made room for a new baby to go on the reservoir and while I was deciding which baby to take out, I realized how much better they looked than most of the ones on the reservoir, and I've always taken the best to put on the reservoir, but now they were looking horrible. It was quite an eye-opener into a problem I've struggled with for so many years.


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RE: Problems after wicking

Maybe the plant is getting too much water. Rather than tossing plants, try removing from wicking. Joanne

This post was edited by fortyseven on Wed, Jan 15, 14 at 20:40


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RE: Problems after wicking

AZ,

First, although wicking is sometimes made to sound like the end-all and be-all, it does not work for everyone. It probably has to do with growing conditions and the practices of the grower. As Joanne says, it is good practice to let your soil dry somewhat at fairly regular intervals. For example-when my trays go dry, I wait until the next day to refill them. Plants must have an air exchange at the roots and when the soil is constantly moist, air cannot reach the roots through the pores in the soil.

I'm also curious as to your fertilizing practices. How are they different than the non-wicked ones?

I find my wicked plants need flushing more frequently than do my non-wicked ones.

And how long does it usually take for your plants to begin to grow oddly once they are put on a wick?

Linda


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RE: Problems after wicking

All my plants frequently get a chance to dry out before I either water them or refill their reservoirs. I don't fertilize often because the african violet soil I mix with perlite for my wicking mix already has fertilizer in it, and when I do, it's a very dilute solution. I considered the soil might be my problem until I thought about it...I gave the same issue with plants I buy from our local A.V. show and bring home and put on the reservoirs, so the soil isn't the problem. Linda, I'm not sure about how long - I'd guess two-three months maybe?? I'm wondering about my water. Even though I use the same water for all my violets, the ones on wicks are in constant contact with it. I have quite a few of my babies to a friend that lives a few miles from me and when I saw hers a few days ago, they still look fine. She lives in Phoenix and I'm in Glendale. Different water supply. As I said, I do have some plants that look great but in comparison to how many I throw away, it's a small amount. I appreciate your help with troubleshooting this...the Phoenix African Violet Society has their annual plant sale next month and I'd love to figure this out before I go.


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RE: Problems after wicking

AZ, I read on this forum about finding out what is in your water supply by contacting the city, county or municipal water dept. or looking on their website to learn what chemicals are used in the water. Several members of the Forum advised against using tap water if it has chloramine, unless the water is treated to remove the chemicals. A product available from pet stores can be used to neutralize the chloramine. However, your plants do not show any evidence of damage in your photos. I just purchased the product, in droplet form., to treat the water. Perhaps once you find out what is in your water supply, such as any minerals, you can search on this forum for additional information. There are also posts on how to check the pH. Joanne

This post was edited by fortyseven on Wed, Jan 15, 14 at 20:44


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RE: Problems after wicking

AZ
If your local tap water does not have chloramine, but only chlorine, that is easier to remove. If water is poured into a container that is left open, the chlorine will evaporate within 24 hours. Or you can use a Brita filter. You should be able to find a report on what is in the water on line, or call the water dept. (Perhaps compare your water quality to Phx.)
Joanne

This post was edited by fortyseven on Wed, Jan 15, 14 at 20:47


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RE: Problems after wicking

AZ,
Here is a website of basic info that I like. It might have some tips for you about lighting, watering, etc.
http://www.ag.auburn.edu/hort/landscape/African_Violets.htm
Joanne


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RE: Problems after wicking

AZ,

If you are using the same water on both good and bad, then that wouldn't be the problem, I wouldn't think. I keep coming back to the fertilizer. The plants may be from your AV show but the soil may not be right for your conditions as everyone's are different. I would try to mix a batch of your own soil using 1/3 each of peat,(not Michigan peat) perlite and vermiculite. This is pretty much the standard for wicking. I would fertilize very weakly on a three week rotation and then plain water for the fourth week.
I am suspect of the fertilizer in your potting soil. Many, many on here have had trouble with such soil.

Another thought: do you top water your 'good' violets? If so, you are regularly flushing out the fertilizer build-up (salts) that can harm your violets. If you do not flush out your wicked violets regularly; once a month or so, you will get a toxic amount of salts that will affect growth.

Also, your fertilizer should be one with non-urea based Nitrogen. It will state as such on the label. Some people have no problem with urea N but I noticed a big difference on my plants when I switched.

I think I would re-pot your wicked ones with the soil-less mix, go easy on the fertilizer and flush them out regularly. If your soil and/or fertilizer is the problem, your violets should start showing normal growth. If not, we go back to square one!

Keep us posted.


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RE: Problems after wicking

AZ
I DO NOT think this problem is from wicking or fertilizer. I also have been growing AV,s for over 10 years. I am having the exact problem. I do not think I have any pictures, but your photo is just like mine.

In 2012 I started tossing all my plants, but saved 1 or 2 leaves for re-starts. They are all growing new plants BUT some are showing the same tight centers and curling leaves. I have sprayed with everthing thing I could get but none of it helped. Some of the new starts are fine and starting to bloom, but others still have the same defect.

I am going to look for some pictures I may have taken.

Why not send your e-mail and picture to Dr. Jeff Smith and we can see what he has to say.

Thanks

Cork


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RE: Problems after wicking

I get plants looking similar to yours from too much light. When I moved to natural or less light the tight centers started growing out. I was wondering if your wick plants were closer to the lights since they are on reservoirs. I would try moving one to less light.
Also, I used to use a mix with fertilizer and so I only gave a very weak fertilizer after they were in the mix a while. But I decided that I didn't think the fertilizer in the mix lasted as long as they said. So after about a month I started fertilizing more than I had been and got results. I got tired of trying to figure that out for each plant, so I stopped using that mix and switched to Fafard which has no fert (with added perlite) and I like it much better since its simpler to figure out how much fert to use.


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RE: Problems after wicking

What a distressing problem for you. Is there any chance that the water gets too cold? I wouldn't think the water quality is an issue since it is used for all, unless a concentrated amount in the reservoir creates an unbalance. Have you considered mites? I realize you feel it isn't a bug problem but I've had a number of plants that looked like your affected ones & they were mite ridden. Hopefully this isn't your case but its a thought.

Terri


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RE: Problems after wicking

I sure appreciate all your brainstorming. I think I'll take a few of my wicked plants off my light stand, flush them, and then start using our drinking water, which we get from the local water store. If they improve, then I'll know it's either the water or the lights causing the problems. I attached this picture to show you that some of my plants are thriving. The one with the pink blooms is China Doll and like I said earlier, I've had this one >10 years and she and her babies do great. The other two I've had a least a couple years and are NOIDs.


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RE: Problems after wicking

Hi Az and Cork
My second "best guess" is too much light ...
Also, suggest you not toss out otherwise healthy plants, give them a chance to come around.
It is possible to get a light meter. Perhaps someone on the Forum will advise. Joanne

This post was edited by fortyseven on Wed, Jan 15, 14 at 20:50


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RE: Problems after wicking

I had thought about insects, also, but since the problem is just with the wicked violets that doesn't seem like it would be an issue. Also, there is the dreaded virus; that would affect the violets and their offspring as Cork has said, but again, it's just the wicked plants.

Have you tried taking leaves from these affected plants? How have they grown?

Also, as Perle said, make sure your lights aren't too close. About twelve inches from light to top of the plants is a rule of thumb.

Also, if it were me, I would not use bottled water. Many on here have had problems with it because it has been processed to the point that it has no necessary nutrients for plants. If your water was the problem, all of your violets would be affected.

I like your plan to remove from the lights and flush.

You can take your plants to your local extension agency and ask for a diagnosis. Different states have different procedures, but most will not return your plant and will charge a small fee for diagnosis.

I have heard many good things about Fafard. Unfortunately, I can't find it near me or I would try it.

The rest of your plants look lovely!

Linda


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RE: Problems after wicking

Linda, I've thought for years that plants did better when I started them from a leaf, thinking they were raised in my environment and culture (or lack of - haha) but out of these 24 pairs of leaves, hardly anything has grown well once placed on a reservoir. I just checked the distance and they are closer than 12" but the babies that are doing well are further away and have a plastic cover over them but they do tend to be a little on the leggy side. (they are in a sheet cake plastic tray.) If it was too close to the lights, I think they'd all have the problem but some that are closest are doing fine. I think some violets are just more tolerant than others and maybe that's why some can tolerate being close to the lights or can tolerate my water. Otherwise I don't know why some do so well and others don't. Every Cool Lady and Starry Night, for example, is horrible, while every China Doll is fine and for years I did well with Mulberry Jazz and Fiery Sunset. Rob's varieties do well for a year or two then fail. I repotted 16 of them and am anxious to see if they improve. I'm sure I'll be looking at them many times a day to check for improvement. What about pH?


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RE: Problems after wicking

Do all the wicked plants have the rusty coloured layer on the topsoil? Maybe there's something about wicking that makes the fertilizer come out of the soil more? Just wondering because some of my violets are in an already fertilized mix, plus my perlite has traces of fertilizers too. And I just set some of them up for wicking... I never thought about it much, but if it's going to be a problem, I better go shopping for new av mix ;-)


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RE: Problems after wicking

AZ,

The rusty layer is likely fertilizer salts that need to be flushed out. (Back to the fertilizer again!) The fertilizer is rising to the top as the water is coming from the bottom. I didn't notice this accumulation until Karin pointed it out. I would re-pot at this point since it is so heavy with a mix that does not have fert. in it.

Fertilizer accumulation can cause all sorts of funky growth including dark spots, hard growth, dead crowns.

Another clue: you mentioned Rob's. A lot of people on here have problems with Rob's plants or other hybridizer's plants. Ma's plants do not do well for me while I can grow Rob's just fine. It has to do with the growing conditions you can provide and, I suspect, the climate where you live. An example: even though I grow in 'controlled' conditions in my basement, my plants are subject to cold temps. and lower humidity in the winter and blazing temps. and high humidity in the summer. The Buckeye and Newtown series grow like weeds for me. Interestingly, these series come from hybridizers within 25 miles of me.

Linda


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RE: Problems after wicking

Looks like everything is pointing to the fertilizer. I'm surprised, because my reservoirs frequently dry up and when I refill them I always add water to the top of the violets to re-wet their soil and then finish filling the reservoir. But, the rusty color can't be ignored. I rarely fertilize so it must be from the potting soil I'm using. I think I'll try to track down some Fafard - I've never heard of it but maybe I can order some on Amazon. Thank you all so so much...you've been so helpful. This is a problem that has robbed so much of the joy of growing violets and if I can get it solved, I will be thrilled.


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RE: Problems after wicking

Perle_de_Or or Linda, Fafard potting soil is available on Amazon. Which one do you/would you use? There is an African Violet one and also a couple others for potting flowers?


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RE: Problems after wicking

AZ,

I had a recommendation from a grower on which Fafard to use. I'll dig through my e-mails tonight and get back to you.

Linda


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RE: Problems after wicking

Hi Linda and AZ, I know that I read about it on this Forum as well and wondered what it was. Doing a search for that word will pull up the older posts on that topic.
Joanne


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RE: Problems after wicking

Ok, I am officially shocked. I just realized that fafard was the mix I had bought at a nursery, and it was cheaper than any other av mix I had bought before... I guess I'll be buying more, even though it makes me sneeze :-)
I was debating on trying their orchid mix and sphagnum moss as well....


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RE: Problems after wicking

I saw a You Tube video by "Soo Neaty" who shows separating babies then wrapping the roots in sphagnum moss before inserting into a mound of potting mix inside a pot, I have been intending to ask about that or do some research.
Joanne

This post was edited by fortyseven on Wed, Jan 15, 14 at 23:10


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RE: Problems after wicking

I mixed it with perlite and added some water to it - it's been fine ever since. I think it may just have been a bit on the dry side when I first opened the bag, and the dust was what got to me...
Anyhow, I don't remember which plants are in what mix, and they are all doing well, so I think it's not making THAT much difference in my growing conditions...


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RE: Problems after wicking

AZ
Here is more of my thinking. You live in Arizona and I live in Ohio ��"No way the water can be the same or our growing conditions can be the same.

I have used water from my dehumidifier for many years because we have a water softner. I save it in 5 gallon buckets all summer. This fall I ran short of water and started using rain water. No chlorine.

Lights -- My lights are about 12 inches above some of my violets. Other table, the lights is 17 inches above the plants. One rack has lights on 10 hours a day, the other rack has 12 hours. Table is on about 12 hours a day. I put some of the problem plants in a window to see if any change would happen. I call this my “last chance” section before they go into the trash. The 5 or 6 plants have been there for 5 months and still look the same BAD.

Fertilizer -- I change brands every week. Measure very carefully, ¼ teaspoon per gallon. I water once a week and clear water on the sixth week.Soil -- I mix my own which is the basic 1-1-1.

I still thing something else is going on, but not sure WHAT???
Cork


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RE: Problems after wicking

I buy violets from Jack's on EBay. His plants are beautiful. I asked him what he uses for potting and he said Fafard #2 with more perlite added. This doesn't seem to match up with what I see on Amazon number-wise but when I asked a local nurseryman about it, he knew just what I was talking about.

Linda


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RE: Problems after wicking

Here is a picture of my "Last Chance" -- About ready for the TRASH.
Cork


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RE: Problems after wicking

Cork, AZ,
From RachelsReflections.org
under "problems"--
"Tight Centers can be caused by

....too much light move away from light
....pests (mites) use pest control
too much fertilizer..... leach or repot or water with solution of 1 tbsp of Dolomite lime per gallon for a few weeks then go easy on fertilizer after that.
root bound... pot up in size"

Joanne


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RE: Problems after wicking

More from RachelsReflections.org
"Leaves curl downwards
....too much light.... move away from source,
or temperatures too cold"
Joanne


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RE: Problems after wicking

On this forum in 2009, Korina wrote about having tight, brittle crowns on AVs. In trying to browse older posts, I did not find the cause. Perhaps Irina, who was active on the forum at the time, recalls something about it.chlorine takes one week to evaporate. Charcoal filters help

This post was edited by fortyseven on Wed, Jan 15, 14 at 23:24


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RE: Problems after wicking

Your plants look like they are suffering from culture problems. The one at the top right and the top middle looks like the least affected. I think if you experimented a bit, they would be fine.
Difficult to tell from pictures, but I don't think it's pest, just culture.

Are you growing on a windowsill? It's been very cold here in Ohio lately. I would consider that, as well.

Linda


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RE: Problems after wicking

More pictures of my growing area. This is Rack # 1 on which I have 202 plants.
Cork


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RE: Problems after wicking

This is Rack # 2 with 209 plants.
Cork


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RE: Problems after wicking

This is my growing table. I lost count of plants.

The temperture in my basement is always 72 to 78.

Cork


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RE: Problems after wicking

Some grow -- took this picture of Rebel's Breck this morning. I started it from a leaf.
Cork


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RE: Problems after wicking

This is Gillian which is growing on Rack #2.
Cork


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RE: Problems after wicking

Impressive set-up, Cork,
Congratulations on the Rebel blossom.
Joanne


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RE: Problems after wicking

Considering how many plants you have, a few runts probably don't count...
My 'gardening-philosophy' has always been to try and make my plants happy, but not to go out of my way to do so - if they don't do well in my conditions, then maybe they aren't meant to be grown by me...
Unless I really, really like them...


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RE: Problems after wicking

Wow that's a whole lotta plants!!! Your Rebel's Breck is beautiful as well as Gillian. I don't believe I've ever had a violet with white flowers. With trying to solve my problems I repotted 16 poorly-growing plants and put them in natural light and will top water. I was attempting to raise the lights on one shelf of my stand when the S hook slipped out of my hand and fell INSIDE the light - I had to take that light off the stand until I can get a new S hook and decided to let that be another experiment - no light on that shelf which has all the violets on wicks. Now to wait...the hardest part.


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RE: Problems after wicking

Depending on where you attach the s-hook to, you can bend a piece of wire coat hanger or a chain link to make it work...
Of course, I'd probably be stubborn and take the light fixture apart ;-p

Karin


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RE: Problems after wicking

I bought a new S-hook...afraid what might happen if I take the light fixture apart ;) This morning I went to the monthly meeting of our local Africa Violet club. They agreed it's probably the fertilizer in the soil I've been using and the lights, also...apparently 11 hours a day is too long to have the lights on ...oops! I had actually increased it to that length awhile back thinking maybe that's why I wasn't getting as many blooms as I thought I should. The lady that hosted the meeting today had the most gorgeous violets - I didn't know whether to be encouraged or give up! She had an Arctic Frost that was so beautiful. I've never been a fan of white flowers on violets but this one changed my mind. Anyway, I need to get some peat moss without fertilizer - something our Home Depot doesn't have - and repot all my violets. I've been surprised that a few of the 16 I repotted earlier this week, stopped wick watering and put in natural light have actually shown some slight improvement; I expected it to take several weeks but I really think the leaves on the ones that weren't as far gone have softened up a bit.


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RE: Problems after wicking

Good news! Please be encouraged!
Joanne


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RE: Problems after wicking

AZ,

Home Depot, (and Lowe's), have exactly what you want. It is called peat moss, sphagnum peat or Canadian peat or even 'the brown kind'. (Do not get Michigan Peat AKA 'the black kind'). It is outside with the mulch and the big bags of potting soil. It is usually in white packaging and comes in a block. It will break up when you use it. It contains no fertilizer.

Linda

Here is a link that might be useful: peat moss


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RE: Problems after wicking

Thank you Linda. Home Depot did have sphagnum moss but I was looking for peat moss. Good thing Home Depot is very close.


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RE: Problems after wicking

Thank you Linda. Home Depot did have sphagnum moss but I was looking for peat moss. Good thing Home Depot is very close.


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RE: Problems after wicking

AZ,

Try to use a mask when you break it up. It isn't as bad as perlite, but it's a bit dusty.

Linda


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RE: Problems after wicking

Az,

Just a thought on your AV club experience. Remember that everyone there, including the woman with the 'Arctic Frost' was once where you are now. It's true that some people are better at growing but we have all killed more plants than we care to think about while we were learning. And if anyone tells you they never killed any plants, it's 'Liar, liar, pants on fire'. So, don't get discouraged!

Linda


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RE: Problems after wicking

I have a friend that is experiencing the same problem right now - just as AZ. More of it - she popped her plants out of the pots - and the roots look like carrots. it happened after she moved her collection to wicks. She did her home work and the lab test excluded any pests or diseases. Right now she is addressing the water and soil tests. Her base mix is Promix BX.
I am thinking that wetting agent they add to the soil - makes it not good for wicking - it becomes too wet
I will post the update.

I.
.


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RE: Problems after wicking

Hi I read a while back not to use a wetting agent with AVs. I think I had used it on two and they did not do well.
Today, as I posted on another thread, I bought a water meter from Ace hardware store. It looks like a thermometer that is simply stuck in the soil, it will indicate if the plant needs to be watered. It has a separate reading for AVs. If it is a useful tool, I will post an update.
Joanne


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RE: Problems after wicking

Hmmm - your own fingers are free! You can always touch the soil or lift the pot slightly to figure out if it is heavy - or light - means needs watering. Plus just a bit of a dirt under your fingernails adds interest! ;-))


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RE: Problems after wicking

Hi Irina
I got it as a precaution
because the culture in my home drastically changed once the heater has to be on most of the day. the pots dried out faster than I was expecting. I have to check them every day now.

I recently managed to kill two violets within two weeks by letting them get too dry then overwatering and they got crown rot. One was a variegated violet I had waited for six months for it to bloom. It had a very tiny root system. The other was one that was just setting bud for the first time. It had a substantial root system. Both were one-of-a-kind., and one cannot be replaced.

I haven't used it yet, but if it is a winner, I will let you know!
Joanne


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RE: Problems after wicking

When trying to revive a too-dry plant, give sips of water. When a plant dries significantly, the root system begins to dry and die off. A reduced root system cannot use a heavy drink and the plant will begin to rot.

Linda


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RE: Problems after wicking

Joanne - use Linda method - plus spray the wilted plant with tepid water. But it happens to all of us.

What should be mediated is - plant do not die from root rot in 2 hours. It takes days while you could reroot the crown, later - take the leaves and put them down - and before it is totally wilted - sometimes you can restart it with the wedges of leaves- if this is the only thing that is still healthy.

Usually all the disasters happen when I do not have time to look at my plants...They do so much better if you look at them often with a loving approving eye!

What are the plants that are NOT replaceable?
Plants are mostly replaceable - you Joanne - are not. Do not get sad! Wrinkles are not necessary!

I.


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RE: Problems after wicking

Irina, You are so encouraging, one of the plants is Rebel's Dolores.
Thanks for the tip on misting with water. And you are correct, a combination of things caused me to not pay the usual attention to my plants.
I am repotting and following your advice about putting Marathon granules in the top soil.
I am getting my collection back down to a size that is manageable for frequent attention. Joanne

This post was edited by fortyseven on Tue, Feb 4, 14 at 13:58


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RE: Problems after wicking

Hi, AZ,
I have got everything under control now, so
I would love to take you up on your offer for a leaf or two of Fredette's China Doll. I can offer you small plants in exchange. I sent you an email to let you know what I have ready. I think it is ok to ship now. We had a little touch of winter for the first time, but it is not very cold.
Thanks,
Joanne


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RE: Problems after wicking

Joanne,
I sent you an e-mail. Let me know on here if you DIDN'T get it.


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RE: Problems after wicking

Instead of tossing the problem plants away I would suggest you to change the soil and water according to the wet/ dry cycle and observe the changes. I had a few plants from my friend that also exhibit the same problem and they're on a wicking system as yours. The plants dramatically improved after I changed the soil and put them on my wet/ dry watering cycle. Previous the soil was mostly pearlite and vermiculite and now it is perlite and peat moss.


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