Keys to Growing Show Plants

1.      Keep it simple and stick to the basics.  Develop your skills as a grower and focus on good cultural practices.  Good cultural habits are the single most important factor in growing show plants.  Good culture means doing the following:

a.      Start with good soil.  Find a good high quality potting soil mix that works well in your growing condition.  A good place to start is with a simple 1-1-1 mix of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite.  I have been growing since the early 70’s and have been using that mix for most if not all of that time.  I have made various additions to the mix but the basic ratios have not changed.

b.      Practice consistent watering.  I have been wick watering for over 20 years.  I don’t think I could grow a show plant without this watering technique.  The key to wick watering is the soil.  It must be light and fluffy with a lot of perlite.  But if wick watering doesn’t work in your environment than find a technique that works for you.

c.      Fertilize regularly.  Find a fertilizer regime that works for your growing conditions.  Don’t be afraid to experiment!  Most of what I have learn about growing show plants I discovered by experimenting.  I always try new approaches to things.  Sometimes they work sometimes they don’t.

d.      Be consistent.  Consistency is a key factor in growing show plants.   You must strive for consistency in repotting schedule, watering, fertilizing, disbudding, etc.  Any break in culture will show up in your plants.

e.      Repot frequently.  Repotting should be done every three months.  This is especially true of miniatures.

f.       Inspect your plants daily.   You should try to take the time daily to work with your plants.  This is for them as well as for you.  I find first thing in the morning is a great time to check in on your plants.  I grab my coffee and head to the plant room.  I don’t repot or anything time consuming.  I just do whatever I think the plant may need.   Disbudding, turning, watering, etc..

2.      Obtain varieties that grow well for you in your conditions.  Varieties that grow well for someone else may not grow well for you.

a.      Start with varieties that a currently on the “Best Varieties List” from AVSA.

b.      Check the show winners in the AVM.  See which varieties are winning shows.  Chances are good that if a lot of people are winning with a variety then so will you.

c.      When choosing varieties for your collection don’t just look at the blossoms.  The foliage and a plant’s growth habit are even more important than the blossoms.

d.      Good traits:

  i.     Symmetrical growth pattern.

 ii.     Blossoms that stand well above the foliage.  Blossoms stocks should not be overly long.  Look for thick stems that will hold the blossoms.

iii.     Contrast between the foliage and the blossoms.  You want your plants to stand out in a crowd.

3.      Plan ahead!  Show plants take time to grow.  Start a minimum of 6 months from the show date.

a.      Go through your collection and find standards that are currently in 4” pots that have nice symmetrical foliage, look healthy, and have no marks on the foliage.

b.      Repot them into 5” or 6” pan pots at that time.

c.      Move them to the best spot you have in your plant room.

d.      Take care of these plants first.  If all else fails these plants get taken care of first.

e.      Choose 5 plants for each collection you plan to enter.  If they all do equally well you are set but usually you will have issues with at least one plant in the 5.

f.       Stick to your schedule!  Repot on time.  Water consistently.

4.      Most importantly!  Remember why you are having a show.  It is to encourage the public to take up the hobby and show African violets at their best.  Even more important is to learn from each other and have fun!  The club as a whole should strive to spread the work of the show around so everyone has a good time.