Friday, December 11, 2009

What's Bloomin' in the plant room now...

Lookie what is blooming in the plant room today. A Kohleria is putting on a little show to brighten up the rather dreary winter days we're having.

Click on the photo to make it larger.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Soil mixes 101

I have been making my own soil mixes when I found that almost all ready made mixes contain dolomite lime.  This makes the soil more alkaline but my water has a high ph so adding more could make plants struggling to grow. It is always a good idea to check with your local water source and see what the ph is in your area's water before adding any lime.

I use a basic mix of 3 parts sphagnum peat moss, 2 parts vermiculite, and one part perlite.  The brand of Sunshine Peat Moss is getting harder to find because there are newer suppliers and the quality is not as good as the Sunshine brand.  It is not as fine and has twigs in it.  I have found the Sunshine brand at a few garden centers and many times in a hardware store. 

I like the coarse vermiculite.  Again it is difficult to find.  Most stores carry the horticulture vermiculite and it is very fine. I found it held more water and kept the soil too soggy. You should try and see what works for you.

Perlite does not seem to have many grades of sizes so it is easy to find.  Once I get all the ingredients I put them in an ice cream bucket and water them well so the peat and vermiculite soak up the water.  It takes about a day for it to get saturated. 

The most important thing after I get it all soaked up is to mix it well getting every bit of the peat mixed in.  The peat can end up in the bottom of the container with the perlite floating on top.  This is the most important step to do. If you don't mix it thoroughly you will have a very loose mix on top, and a soggy mix on the bottom of the bucket.

I have never bothered to figure out the cost of making my own mixes, but I do know that what is in my mix. Each grower is different, as we have different living areas and different size plants we like to grow but this is a basic start of making your own mix.  If you find you think the mix is not working well, then try different size vermiculite.  Try not to add too many variables at one time because you may not know what worked well or not well.

The November/December 2009 issue of the AVSA African violet magazine has an article "Everyone's mix is different".  It is a list from well-known growers and as you will see they are all different, yet the same using peat moss, vermiculite and perlite. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blushing Flamingo

Lookie what we got with some of our hybridizing? A mottled flower with a great pink throat. Let's see if it will continue to bloom with the patterning on it's flower petals!

That's what some of the offspring looked like. We got one interesting cross that gave us flower color that ranged from purple, through light purple, bluish, pinkish, darker pink and mauve. The throat color wasn't all that interesting but the variation was really quite amazing. PS: See the side bar entitled Beautiful Blossoms. These are just three of the colors we got.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Streptocarpus: Sex

This is a pictorial commentary on how to pollinate a Streptocarpus flower. I purposely took most of the color out of the photos to highlight some of the specific details of the photo. Please CLICK ON THE PHOTO to enlarge it and get a better look at what we're talking about.

The first photo shows a strep flower cut open. The male parts of the flower, the anthers (or pollen sacs) and the filaments are shown. They are attached directly to the lower lobes of the strep flower petals or corolla. They grow right out of the pretty colored petals.

The second photo shows a tweezers holding the joined pollen sacs of the same strep flower. The pollen sacs are whole and unbroken in the photo. The pollen is inside and it would look like dust to the person looking at it if they weren't using a magnifier or microscope.

The third photo is of the female parts of the strep flower. The roundish end part is the stigma which the pollen sticks to and where the process of fertilization begins. The stigma is part of the female portion of the flower called the pistil. The stigma is sort of fuzzy and sticky and that helps keep the pollen in contact with it.

The fourth photo shows the tweezers that are holding the pollen sacs coming into contact with the stigma. The pollen sacs need to be "ripe" or mature and broken open so the dusty pollen grains inside can come into direct contact with the female parts. When the pollen grain comes into contact, a whole process of chemical changes take place. A small tube (a pollen tube) is grown down the length of the pistil all the way to the ovary (at the base of the flower where the flower petals join the green calyx and the pedicil or stem of the blossom). The male genetic material then joins the female genetic material in the flower and the flower is "fertilized". Seeds can now form. If the male DNA isn't allowed to contact the female flower in a reasonable amount of time the flower fades and dies and no seeds or fruits are formed.

As an example of this, you will probably recall that some years there is an abundant crop of apples and some years the crop is very sparse. One of the possible reasons for this happening is that the weather is so cold some springs that the insects that normally pollinate the apple tree are not flying about because of the cold temperature. The apple trees bloom because they are genetically programed to do so, but there are very few pollinators to carry the pollen to the stigmas of waiting flowers.... the flowers fade and drop off and only a tiny fraction of the possible flowers have been pollinated. There will be very few apples forming on the tree that season.

The last photo is is of a newly forming seed pod (or developing ovary). You will notice the twisting nature of the pod (that's the reason why they are called streptocarpus - strep meaning twisted). The flower right next to it has had the petals removed to show the contrast between a non fertilized flower and the newly maturing fertilized one.

Like the apple example discussed above, the strep seed pod is comparable to the apple forming on the tree with the seeds inside it. When it's ripe, the apple seeds will be ready to come out of the apple and grow new apple trees and when the strep seed pod is ripe, the seeds in the cutely twisted pod will be ready to come out and form new streptocarpus plants.

All of the seeds will have unique genetics, just like each child born is unique (unless you consider identical twins which came from one egg that doubled itself). So, all the strep babies that you grow out have the potential to be interesting and unique. Many will look like the parents, but some will not.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Streptocarpus Seeds: How to Plant Seeds

Here is one way to start some seedlings of your own. Take a deli-type tray with an attached cover. Clean it up and then put down a layer of a porous starter mix.

Sprinkle some powdered sphagnum moss on the surface. This does a couple of things. One is that the sphagnum will hold a little bit of moisture around the VERY tiny seedlings. The second thing is that the sphagnum is supposed to prevent fungal problems and "damping-off" of the seedlings. At any rate, it can't hurt.

Dampen the surface of the mix slightly. The mix in the container is DAMP, but not wet, leaky, dripping, standing in water or otherwise soaked.

Put dividers in the container if you intend to try more than one variety of seed.

Since the cover is attached to the box, you won't accidently mix up the orientation of the cover. What you write on it will reflect what sort of seed is directly underneath.

Take some white smooth paper like the sort that comes in the computer tray. Cut it generously and leave some room so that you can handle it without trouble. Fold it so that the seed will fall into the crease and line up so that you can gently tap them off where you wish to put them on the soil's surface.

This is what a small seed pod looks like. Gently twist to get the TINY seeds to fall onto the paper. Gesneriads produce copious amounts of minute seeds. Don't use too many, you don't want to grow out hundreds of the same variety of seed. Besides if something happens to this batch, you will have another chance to use more of the seed in the pod to try another time.

CLICK ON THE PHOTO to see the size of the tiny seed on this paper. The pointer is showing you the small black spots on the white paper. These are SEEDS not dirt.

After each different seed you put on the soil, write the information on the attached cover. The type, date, notes you might want to remember.....

This is what a tray with six types of seed looks like. It's very inexpensive to do (free containers), easy and it doesn't take more than about 15 minutes to get the job done. Put the box under your plant lights or in a bright spot and check every couple of days. You will see green in probably a week to 10 days. Then we'll talk about what to do with the newest baby gesneriads.

Poll Results

The last poll asked what other plants you like to grow along with your gesneriads. Perhaps you like the fact that they need similar conditions, or you find that they just compliment what you already like. The answers were interesting..... people liked things that vine or trail along with bonsai type plants. Also mentioned were tropical plants with fragrance.

Now that we're talking about propagation of gesneriads from seed and hybridizing, take a moment to answer the next poll question.... What about seeds?????

Friday, January 30, 2009

Streptocarpus Seedlings: How They Do It

This is how it's done! You take your clear seed starting container and your plant-room helper and you get down to work.

Take some time to get the proper gear together such as your tools, potting mix, markers and pots and watering container. Make sure everything is clean.

Label the containers - in this case 3 oz Dixie Cups - with a permanent marker. State the variety and the plant's name, the date and what ever information you want to remember. In two weeks you won't have a clue what plant was what, so ALWAYS label everything.

Make holes in the pots. An easy way to do that is to take an awl and push it through two or three cups at the same time. Make holes in the sides also for best drainage and aeration.

Now if the seed-started plants are fairly mature as these in the picture are, lift up the plants carefully and take them out of their starter container.

Select one baby plant and carefully separate it from the bunch.

Put it in a separate labeled pot.

Gently put some extra soil around the roots and settle the soil down carefully.

Now you will note that your plant-room helper has some commentary on your job but the babies in the pots are ready to be put under some grow lights. See that the newly moved young plants are moist but not drowning and place them in a clean tray under the grow lights. Watch the plants carefully and don't let them dry and wilt. Now you have 48 new streps from seed, all with the potential to be "that one new, exciting, sensational new hybrid introduction" that now bears your name! Happy Growing.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Here are some of the sights and colors from the Como Conservatory field trip today. The club had 13 folks come to enjoy the trip to St. Paul. Please click on the photos to make the large!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Como Conservatory

Did you know that the next event will be Jan. 24th, 2009????? The North Stars are getting together and inviting violet and gesneriad fans to join them at the Como Conservatory in St. Paul tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 pm at the information desk right outside the snack shop/gift area.

The Winter Carnival ORCHID show is also going on at this time so there are many good things to see. There is a $5.00 fee for the orchid show but entrance to the conservatory is on a donation basis. Come for the warm air and blooming flowers, and come for some fun talking plants with the rest of the plant people..... see you there.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Planting Strep Seeds

My first experience planting strep seeds was interesting. Dale Martens was kind to give me all sorts of information and most of it I followed. I was shocked that they germinated in one week. I wiggled the roots per her advice and finally transplanted them three months later into dixie cups using 3 plants in each cup. It took about four months or more for them to bloom. Obviously I was doing something wrong. She said I should have potted up the babies immediately after they germinated. This is a picture of the plants now.

When the second set of seeds germinated, I transplanted them again into dixie cups, three to a cup. Every two weeks I wiggled the roots. They are now getting ready to bloom after only 5 months. That is quite a difference, although Dale is able to get them to bloom in 4 months.
The second sets of plants are much smaller than the first set, although it doesn't matter since all I am looking for is to see the blossom. I think next time I will transplant them into something shorter than a dixie cup and see if that will speed up the blooming process.
I did not plant all the new babies and as you can see, they look leggy and none have bloomed. I did wiggle the roots for awhile but now not very often. Obviously transplanting is the secret to growth and blooms. Click on photos to enlarge the view. Article by Blogger S.J. Please comment on your experiences with starting streps!!!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Poll results

Here's a short poll update. The last poll asked what January problems were in the plant room. Most answers went for it being too dry. Mildew, keeping the growing area warm and grooming came up also. No one was mentioning insect problems, the low light or the option of having absolutely nothing wrong. I think that January is a challenging month right after the busy and sometimes too hectic holidays. Personally, everything in the plant room might like a good going over. Repotting, grooming, watering perhaps???? What about your plants??? COMMENT.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Other Gesneriads

Ok, these are pretty cool looking. This is a Seemania purpurascens.
The photos are from someone (who takes a lovely photo) on the gesneriad list. The question is..... there is a small debate.... if this is actually the flower of the S. purpurascens. There are reports that it could have a someone different look to it, and perhaps be more pinkish. Have you grown this? Do you have a photo of it???? Have you seen any good photos of this on the web?

Let us know..... comment on the post or write to ... that will do it!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

CLEANER Air for the Home!

TOP 16 plants most effective in removing:
Formaldehyde, Benzene, TCE and Carbon Monoxide from the air.

Bamboo palm Chamaedorea seifritzii
Chinese evergreen Aglaonema modestum
English ivy Hedera helix
Gerbera daisy Gerbera jamesonii
Janet Craig Dracaena “Janet Craig”
Dracaena marginata Dracaena marginata
Corn plant Dracaena massangeana
Snake plant Sansevieria trifasciata
Pot mum Chrysanthemum
Peace lily Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”
Warneckii Dracaena “Warneckii”
Boston fern Nephrolepis exaltata
Spider plant Chlorophytum comosum
Golden pothos Epipiremnum aureum
Heart leaf philodendron Philodendron scandens
Weeping fig Ficus benjamina

Did you know that indoor air always has pollutants? Plant people are lucky because plants really help take out some of the bad things that are all around us in such a variety of products and situations. For instance.....

A NASA study found that plants help remove many toxic elements from the indoor environment.

Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a commercial product found in a wide variety of industrial uses. Over 90 percent of the TCE produced is used in the metal degreasing and dry cleaning industries. In addition, it is used in printing inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes, and adhesives.

Benzene is a very commonly used solvent and is also present in many common items including gasoline, inks, oils, paints, plastics, and rubber. In addition it is used in the manufacture of detergents, explosives, pharmaceuticals, and dyes.

Formaldehyde is a ubiquitous chemical found in virtually all-indoor environments. The major sources that have been reported and publicized include urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) and particleboard or pressed wood products used in manufacturing of the office furniture bought today. It is used in consumer paper products that have been treated with UF resins, including grocery bags, waxed papers, facial tissues and paper towels. Many common household cleaning agents contain formaldehyde. UF resins are used as stiffeners, wrinkle resisters, water repellents, fire retardants and adhesive binders in floor coverings, carpet backings and permanent-press clothes. Other sources of formaldehyde include heating and cooking fuels like natural gas, kerosene, and cigarette smoke.

See??? Here we have more reasons to add to the collection and grow a couple more plant varieties! Has anyone tried some new Sinningias lately?

Check out Bachman's for more information about this and a whole ton of indoor plant care information... they have an online sign-up that sends coupons out periodically too..... and who doesn't need a few bucks off sometimes? You can sign up for the e-club by looking at the lower left hand home page of Bachmans.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all.

The poll's are in.... out of the people responding to the last poll a majority of folks liked the cool white fluorescent bulbs better than warm white, specialty or other. The only other opinion expressed was the vote for Grow Lux bulbs.

Last month's AV magazine had a nice article on the differences in bulbs... anyone want a recap for the blog?