Thursday, August 4, 2011

Trailer Taming Part 2 - Potting and Grooming a Bushy Trailer

Bushy trailers generally do not form long trailing stems, but they sucker and make many crowns. They will usually form crowns on their own, but you can encourage the reluctant plants by pinching out the center of a crown where you need more fullness.

When grooming trailers, consider what you do to single crown plants.  You need to remove the older, outer row of leaves.  The same thing is true with trailers.  Left on the plant, these leaves will block the light from new crowns growing in the center and and make the plant look dull.  Yes, this can be a lot of work on a large plant, and you will find you need to remove a LOT of leaves.

This is Amadie Trail, a miniature trailer.  It was growing in a 4 inch pot here, but that was 2 months ago and the plant is past its prime in this pot and ready for a 5 inch pan pot.  I don't have any 'secrets' when it comes to trailers, but if I had to name one essential tool for success,  it would be the 5 inch pan pot.  Trailers love shallow pots.  I work hard at getting a good, full shape in a 5" pan pot.  After I have that, it is just a matter of consistent grooming and potting up into bigger pan pots.

Here is Amadie Trail right before repotting, still in a 4 inch pot.

The 4 inch pot is taller than the 5 inch pan pot, so I need to trim the roots.  I will just slice off the bottom inch or so with a sharp knife.

I will gently work away some of the soil from the root ball, especially the top layer.  My 5 " pan pots always get two wicks.  Fresh soil is added all around.
Finally, I need to remove leaves in the center of the plant.  This serves two functions -lets light into the crown, allowing smaller new crowns to grow, and gets rid of older, dull leaves

Now the plant is in fresh soil, and ready to put out new growth.  Because the plant needs to grow both new roots to fill the larger out and new leaves on all the newly exposed crowns, growth may be slow for the first month. We'll take a look at the plant in the fall to see how it is doing.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Trailer Taming - Part 1: Naturally Trailing Types

There are two main types of trailing African violets.  Bushy trailers form multiple crowns from a center point, but generally don't form long branches.  Naturally trailing types grow long stems or branches and can be trained to grow as large, full plants, with the potential for high bloom counts.  The secret to a full plant with a nice round shape is to get many crowns to grow along these trails.  Why do you see so many straggly trailers?  Many people hesitate to grooms plants and avoid taking leaves off of even single crown plants.  Grooming trailers to be nice full plants requires you to remove many leaves—most of which will be perfectly healthy and green.

Most plants will get nice and full if you remove the leaves that block smaller crowns.  Do this consistently, especially on young trailers and those you move up into bigger pots.  Sometimes drastic steps are needed. 
Here is a great example of a trailer that needs to be trained to grow more crowns.  It is a pretty nice plant here, but it has a significant flaw—it does not have enough crowns for the size of the plant.  The leaves are healthy and the shape is nice, but it grew very quickly for me, so I repotted it into larger pan pots without doing the needed training.  It is growing in a 7 inch pan pot.

I need to take off a lot of leaves, exposing bare stems underneath them.  I will do this in two steps so I don’t stress the plant too much.  Here is the plant after a good grooming.  I removed a lot of leaves.  Small crowns are visible on the bare stems and near the center of the plant.  These crowns can now grow since they have light now.

One month later, one side is showing a lot of smaller crowns on the bare stems.  I will pluck more leaves out and the plant will look pretty bare….but, in a few months it will fill in.  Keep the leaves on the ends of the crowns to be sure and provide enough energy for the plant.   If these crowns are still sticking out at odd angles when the rest of the crowns grow in, I will remove them.