- WHO should study the techniques used to grow blue
ribbon quality African violets?
wants to learn more about the saintpaulia/gesneriad family and the plants growing on their
- WHAT is 'growing to show'?
specialized techniques are nothing more than understanding the needs
and habits of the African
violet, supplying those needs, and encouraging those habits to allow
each plant to achieve its best foliage and bloom.
- WHY should you learn these methods if you never
intend to enter a show?
remember the moment you realized there were thousands of different
African violets? Remember the rush when your first babies sprouted up
around a mama leaf?
In the same way, learning how show plants are grown will add to your
understanding of how and why an African violet grows and blooms. Your
'normal' plants will begin to show the benefits of your increased
I think most people think 'growing
to show' is complicated, time consuming, and uses 'unnatural operations'
that produce a stiff, artificial plant.
The plants on a showroom
table ARE different than our windowsill friends at home. Yes, a show
grower 'takes things a bit more seriously'. The main difference between a casual
hobby grower and a show grower is 'expectations'. An average grower who
has a row of healthy plants blooming on a windowsill is happy; the plants
have reached the grower's goal of 'growing and blooming', with shiny
leaves and fresh blooms. We water them when they are dry, repot them when
they need it, and change the fertilizer occasionally.
A show grower also wants a plant that grows and
blooms, but he/she expects the plant to grow steadily and at a constant
rate, producing evenly spaced foliage, and with the energy and maturity
to produce a massive amount of blossoms. Watching and observing how the
plant is growing, he/she will change fertilizers, pot up or down to
encourage growth or bloom, increase the light, and disbud to allow the
plant to put its energy into growing perfectly spaced leaves.
We, as casual growers, are familiar with the
terms: fertilizer, potting mix, and light. Learning to 'grow to show' is
simply learning how to use these items.
Show plants are judged by a
point system on merit. In
other words, each plant is compared to how that variety should look if
grown perfectly. A show grower's goal is to coax and encourage each plant
to become its very best.
There is nothing artificial about producing a plant
that is as near to perfectly healthy and beautiful as it can be. And in
the same way, there is nothing wrong with a row of violets growing wildly
and mildly along.
By now, I hope you are saying: "This might be fun", "I can
do this", and "Where do I start?"
There are three essential tools to
acquire. The first is a basic understanding of good culture habits. Keep in mind: what works for one person may not work in
another person's house or plant room. Be prepared to ask questions, to
read books and other literature, to experiment, to learn why a soil
ingredient is included in your potting mix. Nothing creative can be done
with a plant that is unhappy and unhealthy.
Good culture habits need the second tool: observation. Watch your plants. Do they like their new shelf in
the bedroom or have they stopped growing new leaves? Did you notice any
change when you began using the new fertilizer? What happens to your windowsill
plants when the seasons change? Observation cannot be stressed enough.
The third tool is respect for the plants
variety has individual traits; you can't grow a miniature into a giant,
and you can't contain a large standard in a water glass. One variety will
send out new leaves and blooms overnight, and another will grow at a
snail's pace. Some blossoms are tiny single bells; others are huge 3 inch
triple balls. The best a grower can do is to encourage a plant's good
habits and discourage any bad traits. Above all, remember: without this
fascinating little plant that traveled from deep Africa, we could do
Keep these tools by your side; learn to use them.
This African violet Show Class will include three stages; a three step plan,
if you will, to growing and enjoying African violets. They are culture,
grooming, and exhibiting.
Culture simply means the day to day care
provided to the plants. This
involves basic requirements for a plant to live, such as food, water,
light, and heat. It also includes special techniques such as alternating
fertilizer types, and regulating the day length.
Grooming also includes things with which you are familiar,
such as removing dead blossoms and brushing the dirt off leaves. Show
growers have developed special methods, such as disbudding and leaf
training, to improve the growth pattern of foliage and blossoms.
Exhibiting is defined as
displaying a plant without entering into the show. For our purposes,
exhibiting will include both enjoying our beautiful 'show' plants both in
our home and as an entry in a violet show. The joy of sharing our violets
with our neighbors is every bit as satisfying as the pride of a show
Schedule Will Keep Us Together'
The old song lyrics are running through my head: 'Love will keep us
together'. All the new terms and new methods will fit together, and be
easy to finish correctly, with a schedule. A plant schedule does indeed, keep everything together.
Several decades of improvements in pots, soil
mix, and plant hybridizing have given all African violet growers an
endless variety of materials to use in their hobby. From plants that
naturally form perfect foliage to insecticides that will kill bugs
without marring a blossom petal, there are many advantages a modern
grower has over a person attempting to grow perfect plants thirty years
ago. Artificial light had done much to make growing African violets
possible in any room and house.
But even more significant are the advancement in
knowledge of how and why a violet grows and blooms. If you don't think
there is anything new about a plant living on soil and water, read
Montague Free's All About African Violets,
1949 edition, and you will be amazed at the questions African violet
growers were asking at that time!
Show growers have developed a basic schedule, which lists
and includes the necessary methods and the times at which each should be
course, each show grower will adapt this basic schedule to fit their
growing conditions, and preferences. So if someone says: You HAVE to do
it this way, remember THEY may have to do it that way... but your plants
may need something a bit different. The many growers who enter prize
winning plants in the National Conventions all use different soils,
fertilizers, pot sizes, etc.; each has learned to adapt the basic
schedule as a result of watching and observing their plants.
Combining the three tools of good culture habits, observation, respect
for the plant, with a fourth, the plant schedule, we have the main tools
with which to create something beautiful! As much fun as you have had
watching your violets grow and bloom, I dare to promise you will have so
much more satisfaction from having a hand in helping them grow to their ultimate best.
of Lesson One
Lesson One will introduce you to the
subject of growing a prize-winning plant.
First, let’s take a quick look at several African violet shows. Then, we will review the basic culture
of African violets needed to encourage strong, healthy growth and
bloom. Finally, we will explore
the ‘show schedules’; there are two different schedules that go by the
name of ‘show schedule’! The
Reading List has more details.
Read the included material, and familiarize yourself with the terms. Take
a look at yourself and your plants while completing the assignments.
Learn to recognize and use the four tools to 'growing and showing African