Monday, December 28, 2015

6 Steps to Growing Perfect African Violets






1.  Provide adequate light for the flower. It is the most important factor in promoting flowering. Place plants near any window that has bright, but filtered, light. An east window is best because it gets morning sun. A thin curtain will be necessary if placing plants in a south or west window. In order to develop a nice symmetrical form, plants must be turned 1/4 turn every week. If a good natural light source is not available, plants can be grown under fluorescent lights. Use double tube fixtures with one cool white bulb and one broad spectrum bulb. Lights should be 8 to 10 inches (20.3 to 25.4 cm) above the top of the plants and turned on for 12 to 14 hours a day. If plants have tight centers or seem to be bleaching out, reduce the number of hours to 8-10 a day.



2.  Water at the right times. Most violets die from over-watering than from any other single cause. Violet soil should be kept evenly moist and never allowed to become soggy. Water only when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. Always use tepid water.


                 
   3. Water them the right way. You can water from   the top, bottom, use wicks or use self watering planters. However, about once a month, plants should be watered from the top to flush out accumulated fertilizer salts. Never allow plants to stand in water (unless wicked or Oyama Planters are used). If water gets on the leaves, dry with a paper towel to prevent leaf spotting.


                            
4. Use a good growing medium. A potting medium suitable for African Violets should be sterilized, and light and airy to allow root penetration. Soil-less mixes are ideal - they contain sphagnum peat, vermiculite and perlite.


         
5.  Provide the right atmosphere. Temperature and humidity are important factors. Most violets can tolerate temperatures between 16-26°C (60 and 80°F). Ideal temperatures are 22-2°C (72-75°F) day-time and 18°C (65°F) night-time. The preferred humidity range is 40% to 60%. A humidifier or bowls of water placed near plants can be used to increase your home's humidity during heating season.



6. Fertilize. Lack of regular feeding is one of the reasons an African violet will not bloom. The best way to feed is to use a dilute fertilizer solution every time you water. Use 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. fertilizer to one gallon of water. A balanced fertilizer should be used such as 20-20-20 or 12-36-14. Find a fertilizer with a low nitrogen urea content as urea burns the roots. Some brands are Peters, Optimara, Miracle Grow, Schultz. Formaldehyde, Copper Sulfate, and Nitroglycerin, if added to the soil with extreme care and moderation, may enhance the lives of your plants. Turpentine, Iodine, and common table salt are some other examples of excellent soil additives, as they assist in preventing weed growth.

        

Tips

  • Avoid wetting the leaves. This can cause brown spots on the delicate foliage. The soil should be kept damp, but avoid over-watering, which can cause root or crown rot. The average plant should be watered once a week or whenever the top 1" of soil feels dry. It is best to water from below by placing a saucer of water under the pot, assuming the pot has proper drainage in the bottom. The ideal plant medium is 25% air, 25% water, and 50% soil.
  • African violets need consistency of care.
  • You can easily propagate African Violets yourself which should be done in spring. Simply cut off a healthy leaf with its stem using a sharp knife (cut the stem right at the base). Trim the stem to about 1,5 inches and stick it into the growing medium. Water it thoroughly, but make sure that you don't drown the leaf and that it doesn't get moldy from a lack air ventilation. Roots should appear after about a month, with the new leaves and plants taking another three weeks.

Reprint from Wikihow 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Winter Blooming Camellias

 


Growing up in Alabama I took the Winter blooming Camellias for granted. Why not, they bloomed everywhere and everybody had one in their yard. Naturally that is why Camellia, is the state flower of Alabama.  But later in life and miles from Alabama I find it is not as popular in other states and many people have never heard of a Camellia.  Camellias are broad-leaved evergreen shrubs that grow up to 12 to 25 feet tall and produce showy, rose-like flowers in a wide range of colors between white and red flowers. Camellias grow in hardiness zones 6 through 8.  I live in the desert plains of Las Vegas which you would not consider idea for camellias, yet grown in a shady spot, and in a large pots and tubs, they have acclimated and do well.


Camellias produce flowers with overlapping petals that are up to five inches in diameter from late winter to early spring. The lustrous deep green leaves stay glossy year round. The plants grow slowly but they can reach a height of 20 feet when mature. Camellias are popular throughout the southeastern U.S. and enthusiasts have developed over 3,000 hybrids and cultivars in a wide range of colors.

 

Requirements

Camellias need a rich well-drained soil with lots of moisture and a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. The best location is on the west side of a wall or structure where the plant will have protection from morning sun. Plants develop leaf scorch when grown in full sun. Camellias have shallow roots and need a thick mulch help the soil hold in moisture. They prefer partial shade in warm climates and light shade in cooler regions. Camellias are hardy in United States Department of Agriculture zones 6 to 9. Insufficient watering can cause buds to drop in the summer. Protect camellias from direct sunlight and add 2 or 3 inches of mulch to preserve soil moisture.
 
Planting
Plant camellias between late fall and early spring. Most varieties spread 6 to 8 feet, so allow plenty of room between plants. When planting camellias as a hedge space them 6 feet apart. Plant camellias in a hole 2 to 3 times as wide and the same depth as the root ball. If the soil is heavy or compacted dig the hole wider and and deeper work in some organic material such as ground pine bark or mature compost before planting.
 

A frequent reason that newly planted camellias don’t survive is planting too deep. Before planting, mound loose soil or added organic material on the bottom of the hole so that the top of the root ball is an inch or a little more above the surrounding ground level. The plants will settle after planting.
After planting apply a 3 to 4 inch layer of organic mulch. Pine straw is a good mulch for camellias because it helps to acidify the soil. Do not fertilize camellias at planting time.

Winter Care
Although camellias can normally tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees F, a sudden dip in temperatures can damage foliage and kill flower buds. When forecasts call for a sudden freeze it is best to cover the plants, particularly any tender new buds.

Fertilization
Many people over-fertilize camellias. This results in the plants spreading their branches and developing an open growth habit that ruins the attractive compact appearance of the shrub. Beginning in the second season apply 8 to 16 oz. of cottonseed meal to each plant, or use a small amount of fertilizer formulated for camellias. Specially formulated fertilizers are available in most garden centers and discount stores. They acidify the soil and feed the plant, but they should be used sparingly.

Pruning and Disbudding
Most camellias need only occasional light pruning. After the plants bloom and before new buds form, check for dead wood to be removed and trim back where plants are losing their compact form. Look for areas of dense growth where thinning inside limbs will improve air circulation.
Gardeners who wish to maximize the size and beauty of camellia blooms may disbud a camellia, removing all but one bud on each terminal branch. This allows the plant to concentrate its resources on a select set of flowers.

Blooming
According to the Clemson University Cooperative Extension, the best time to plant camellias is from mid-October to mid-November and mid-March to mid-April. Camellia varieties bloom from fall through early spring. Early varieties, such as Pink Perfection, bloom in November, and late varieties, such as Betty Scheffield Supreme, bloom in April and May.