Updated 2/6/2013

'Growing and Exhibiting African Violet Show Plants'

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Tiger by JoAnn
as she begins
to Grow to Show


Tiger by JoAnn
after a few months


Which leaves to prune?


Picasso by Fred
as he decides to 
reshape


Picasso by Fred
after a few months

Thanks to JoAnn, and Fred for the above photos.

Schedules Spell Success


Time to get Serious about Growing to Show!

     Look at one of your African violet plants.  It consists of a system of stems, leaves, and blossoms above a network of roots.  The roots are growing in potting mix contained in a pot.  You provide food, water, and light ~~ and the plant grows more leaves and sends up blossom stalks.  This is 'growing' an African violet.
    "Growing to Show" will not require much in the way of new equipment, but it WILL demand a few changes in your care routine. You will continue to provide light, water, and food for your 'show hopeful'.  You will also repot and treat for pests.
     However, you will be doing these things in a slightly different way.  Ordinary tasks such as watering will become more important and removing those wayward suckers will become absolutely necessary. 
     The two most obvious differences between windowsill growing and growing to show is the schedule, and disbudding.  As you complete the assignments for this lesson, you will begin to follow a schedule and to practice disbudding.


Why?

      What is the purpose of the schedule?  Possibly the most important function of the schedule is to simplify, to create an easy to follow guide.
     The schedule includes many things but one special technique has the most obvious effect on the final show plant ~~ disbudding.
     What is the purpose of disbudding?  Taking off blossom buds as they form, turns the plant's energy to producing foliage.  The idea of taking off blossoms seems strange, and a bit scary at first, but after you try it on one plant, and see the results, you will be hooked on 'Growing to Show'! 


Schedules Spell Success

     There are two types of schedules which we will be using:  plant/disbudding schedules and show schedules.  The plant/disbudding schedules help us with the cultural, grooming, and timing of growing the plant. These schedules include times for repotting, increasing light hours, changing fertilizers, and grooming.  By following a schedule, we can coax a violet to bloom on the day we want it to impress!
     Show schedules are drawn up by the show committee and include lists of the various horticulture and design classes, as well as the rules for exhibition and dates of entry.
      These two schedules work together to help us begin the journey to a fun and exciting experience! 


Good Advice!

      Good advice from Pauline Bartholomew, from the introduction of Growing to Show:  "At first reading, the processes may seem hopelessly complicated.  Don't be dismayed.  for the first year, refer only to the basics..... After you have become experienced, the more technical details will be of interest to you."


Where to Begin....

      There are a few terms we need to learn!  But we will take them one at a time

      First: choose a plant.  Keeping it simple:  the only necessary requirement is that the plant must be healthy, and pest-free. You may begin with a young starter, old enough to have an established root system and to have bloomed once to make sure the plant blooms true.  Or an older plant may be used.
      To more experienced growers, the options become more specific.  Some varieties do make better show plants than others.  Checking the winners at past shows may give hints on which varieties other show growers choose.
      Reading the show schedule is also recommended, insuring that there will be a class in which to correctly enter your plant on show day.
      While reading the show schedule, make note of entry date for the show. 
Our next step is to set up our growing scheduleDedicated show growers will begin weeks or even days after THIS year's show is over.  For this class, the generally accepted schedule of 12 weeks will be sufficient.  Mark your calendar with the appropriate dates.


Assemble Supplies

      POTS   Most shows require plain and simple pots, although a few classes are for plants grown in decorative containers.  For our group project, any basic pot will be fine.  Several sizes will be needed, as well as some method of watering.  You may continue to water as you prefer:  wicking, saucer, etc.
    
POTTING MIX   Use a potting mix that you are confident with, or try the recommended recipe of 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 perlite, and  1/3 peat moss.  The mix should be light and open, encouraging rapid root growth.
    
FERTILIZERS   The schedule first calls for a general purpose 20-20-20 type fertilizer.  At the beginning, we are concentrating on growing perfect foliage, so we will use a balanced fertilizer with ample nitrogen to feed the growth of the leaves.
     Later, we will use a blossom booster in which the amount of nitrogen is lowered and the phosphorus increased, to encourage heavy blooming near the end of our schedule.
     Foliar feeding is a practice used by many show growers to give an extra boost when needed.  Different growers have different applications and opinions.
    
MISC   As the plant grows, you will 'pot up' to slightly larger pots, and may use a leaf support ring to 'train' the leaves into perfect shape.  Some growers use household items, such as picnic plates, toothpicks, or clothespins, for this purpose.  A sharp lead pencil will remove small suckers as efficiently as an 'official' sucker plucker.
    
SUPPLEMENTAL LIGHTING  in the form of a plant light and a timer will make increasing the light hours easy, but the spring season in North America should also provide longer, more intense sunlight hours for windowsill grown plants.  Natural light is harder to control and predict, so if you have a plant light, set aside a center area for your show plant.


Ready, Set.... Go!

     1) Choose your plant.  2) Set up your schedule.  3) …And then begin!  Bathing your plant is recommended, especially at the beginning of the schedule.  Make sure the plant is labeled properly, and that you have not potted up into too large a pot.  You may remove young, immature leaves, or leaves that are old and yellowing.  Also remove those leaves that have blemishes or that are misshapen.
       This is when we begin to use the tools, mentioned in Lesson One.  Pay attention to 
good culture habitsobserve how your plant is responding, and stay on schedule.


It's time to get to work!  Read the information on the Reading Lists and begin work on the Assignments!