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Rejuvenating Old Plants

Rejuvenating Old Plants By Fred C. Hill

If properly grown, an African Violet never wears out. The plant can constantly be recycled over and over again and there is no limit to its life span. Most standard sized violets should be repotted every six to nine months; miniatures and semiminiatures every three to four months. I have plants that have been in my possession for over ten years and are constantly recycled.

The first step in recycling is to remove the plant from the pot. Remove any drooping or dead leaves as well as any blossoms. Check the plant for symmetry. The plant should have leaves radiating out from the central core like the spokes on a bicycle. Also remove any leaves on the bottom rows that are smaller than the leaves above them.

Remember to scrape the core and remove any dried calluses or bumps where the leaves were removed. This will usually create a neck and make it seem like you have a violet tree. If the plant is too tall for the pot, cut off a section of the root ball and lower the plant into the pot. The plant is put into a clean pot and covered with damp mix so the bottom of the leaves are even with the rim of the pot. The rule of thumb for potting up or down is that the crown of the plant should be more than three times the size of the rim of the pot before it is potted into a larger pot. It may even have to be potted into a smaller pot if many of the leaves have been removed. When potting do not pack the mix tightly around the plant. The roots need air spaces to grow.

There may be times when it is impossible to lower the plant enough to retain some of the rootball. It may require you to remove the root ball entirely. If this drastic method is necessary, take a deep breath and cut the root ball completely off with a sharp knife. Make sure the neck has been scraped and dried calluses and remainders of leaves are removed. Put your dampened soil mix into a pot and tap the pot on the table lightly to compress it a bit. Next, make a hole with a pencil, large enough to insert the main stem of the plant.

Place the pot and plant into a clear plastic bag, inflate it and seal the bag tightly creating a miniature greenhouse for the plant. Put it in a bright but not sunny location, check it weekly to see that it has not dried out and within a few weeks roots will have developed and the plant will start growing once again. Gradually open the bag for a few days or a week to let the plant become accustomed to the room conditions and then move it to where your other plants are kept. You can follow the same procedure with a sucker you have removed from a plant.

There are many soil mix formulas. Because I wick all my plants I use a very light mix of one part potting soil or peat moss, one part coarse vermiculite and one part coarse perlite. My wicking is 4 ply acrylic worsted yarn which I scour to remove any sizing and keep it wet when I use it. I use all 4 plys for a standard plant and split it into 2 plys for my miniatures and semiminiatures. I also use squat pots for my violets because they have shallow root systems. Squat pots are also called azalea pots.

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