Let it Grow: Gardenings great with the Gesneriads

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Gesneriads include some of your favorite houseplants. The Gloxinia, (Sinningia hybrids) Lipstick Plant (Aeschynanthus species) as well as more well-known plants such as the Streptocarpus (Cape Primrose) and African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha and hybrids).

The most popular of these are the African violets, so let&8217;s focus on them for this article.

You will be able to apply some of the propagation methods to the other plants of the Gesneriaceae family.

First of all, I have discovered that African violets require about 85 percent neglect.

Now, by this statement, I don&8217;t mean that you should ignore them for 54 days in a row per year.

I mean you should not water them everyday and feed them once a month. My African violets and streptocarpi rely on me just noticing their needs.

Is the soil dry? Water them well. Are there dead or fading leaves on the plant? Remove them.

I feed my Gesneriads about once per bloom cycle with a time released fertilizer such as, Osmicote(r) for violets. I have a lot of Gesneriads growing in a medium that has a no-soil series of components and I fertilize them with pure worm castings about once every three to five months.

My plants bloom almost constantly with just short bloom breaks to rest. Propagation is easy.

Granny used to take a leaf cutting with a long stem and place it in a jelly jar of water covered with foil and a hole poked in it. I use a different method, even though her way worked with almost 100 percent success. I dip the cuttings in a rooting hormone and place them in moist soil. For larger leaf stock, sometimes, I&8217;ll split the leaf down the center rib, dip it in the hormone and place the entire long section in moist soil.

You can get several plants from one leaf by using this method.

Remember to remove those fading leaves, keep them in a well-drained potting mixture and keep air circulation going (and I don&8217;t mean near a vent from your HVAC unit).

All of these things will help to prevent death by fungi such as: Pythium ultimum or Botrytis cinerea. (gray mold on leaves)

Next week, I&8217;ll find out some of the businesses who will be open on Groundhog Day for your last minute shopping frenzy