How To Care For African Violets In Summer

Now it’s time to decide which plants shall go outdoors for their summer vacation, and we begin to wonder if African violets would appreciate this treatment. It has been successfully carried out by some people, usually with the pots sunk to their rims in fairly deep shade.

However, it will be necessary to see that they have an adequate supply of water during the dry season.

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Summer storms can create havoc, and I think it is much more satisfactory to allow the plants to remain indoors, or to remove them to the porch, where they add a decidedly decorative touch to the plant stand.

Plants located on the porch must be sheltered from the sun and strong wind, and although water need not be applied daily, each plant should be checked regularly to see that it does not become excessively dry. Neither should they go outdoors until the weather is settled and warm.

Indoor Summer Location

Those in the house may need to be transferred from an East to North, or Northeast window. Shading the plants from bright. The summer sun is very essential.

Starvation is not the only cause of those yellowed leaves; an overdose of the sun can cause them, too. The aim is sufficient light intensity to produce flowers, but not enough to discolor the foliage.

Wherever they are grown. it will be necessary to turn them occasionally to keep them symmetrical. I prefer plants with a single crown, and to keep them growing this way, side growths, or suckers, must. be removed as they appear.

The leaf pattern as well as the number of blooms is important. Should you prefer plants with multiple crowns, it may be wise to remove some of the center leaves when they become too thickly crowded so that the flowering stems will have a better chance to Nish through the foliage.

Plants that have been in bloom all Winter may or may not take a rest at this time. If flowering has ceased, they are kept somewhat drier and no fertilizer is given until new growth and buds become evident. Fertilizer is always applied to the soil when it is moist to prevent any possibility of burning the roots.

The Matter of Moisture

Usually, lack of humidity is no problem during the Summer. but plants in porous pots placed on pebble-filled saucers will help to solve this problem during the winter months. However, care must be taken to see that the water level in the saucer is below the base of the pot.

How can one tell whether or not a plant needs muter? The surface of the soil appears lighter in color and is somewhat dry to the touch. The porous flower pot itself is darker when moisture is present and it is heavier in weight.

When water is applied. do it thoroughly, and make sure that the entire ball of soil is moistened. Water for African violets should always be at room temperature, if not slightly above.

Using Wick-fed Pots

Why not try African violets in wick-fed pots? They are very decorative in these containers, although care must be taken to see that the soil does not become soggy. When the reservoir is filled with water the plant gradually absorbs it. and the soil surface becomes darker in color. 

Rather than keep the base constantly full of water, test the feel of the wick itself. If it is cool and damp to the touch, moisture is present in the soil and the plant will not need to be watered that day. It is better to allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings so that air can penetrate the root system.

The Potting Mixture

Now is a good time to shift small plants into larger pots or to repot, if necessary. It is best to use a soil rich in humus; one part of the soil, one part of sand, two parts of leaf mold or peat moss, and one of well-rotted immure is excellent.

To this may be added a small amount of vermiculite and charcoal. but it is not essential. Be sure not to bury the crown of the plant too deeply when potting. and firm the soil very gently.

While shifting and repotting plants. Remember that leaf propagation at this time of year ensures new plants come into bloom when they are wanted for Winter. A leaf will produce more than one plant, and each is put into a two-inch pot from which it goes into a four-inch azalea pot where it is usually kept and fed only when necessary.

Pot-in-pan Propagating

One method of propagation I often use is the ”pot-in-pan” method. This consists of a small, stoppered flower pot, placed in the center of a shallow bulb pun which has been filled with a mixture of sand, peat, and vermiculite. The small pot is kept filled with water which gradually seeps into the surrounding rooting medium, thus keeping it moist.

A few final suggestions. Remember to bring indoors before it becomes too cold those plants used for porch decoration. African violets like fresh air, but Tint cold drafts. Leaves will probably be dusty, and they can be sprayed with warm water and the plant kept out of the sun until dry. Crown rot can be brought on by overwatering so learn to avoid this pitfall.

Check for insect attacks. Trouble “nipped in the bud” is the rule to follow with African violets. The mite is the worst insect enemy. causing curled, distorted young leaves. Capsules of sodium selenate are available if you do riot and object to their extremely poisonous nature.

Whatever insecticide is used. remember to follow the recommended strength. Warfare on insects is not too difficult to cope with if attacks are recognized before they have become severe.

44659 by Helen Farnham