Friday, January 25, 2008

African Violets DaMn Suckers

Sometimes African Violets get a bad reputation for being slightly harder to grow than some other common houseplants. When I realized there was this "thing", like a whole other world, that existed on African Violets, I had to give them a go. I didn't like them very much. I saw them as untidy, dusty, old looking plants. I was not a fan of fuzzy leaves, and still have only come to more or less accept them, and try to keep them nice looking (which is getting increasingly hard since my AV collection has grown This is a pic of one of my very first AV's.

One thing I was completely baffled by in the beginning was the concept of "suckers". WTF are these? And why could I not understand what they were? It took me a while, but I finally get it. And in hopes to help another confused and frustrated person.....I am going to explain.

Quoted by Wikipedia: " (A) A basal shoot, root sprout or sucker is a shoot or cane which grows from a bud at the base or roots of a tree or shrub. Suckers are considered undesirable by horticulturists because they are unsightly and their growth draws energy from the plant." Here is a link to the Wikipedia page.

I also must add that I think Wikipedia is a wonderful concept. I encourage everyone to check out this link to the Wikimedia Foundation, which is sort of like the parent of many "Wiki" pages. It is based on the idea that everyone should be able to access the same information for free. Free open content. I think they have an amazing idea. Way to go!!

Getting back on track, to suckers......I had a real problem recognizing them. There are not too many pictures on the web that can can easily convey to someone what exactly a sucker is. So I am going to overload on sucker pictures to hopefully easily convey to someone, anyone, what the heck these things are.

Here is a pic of a whole pot of them damn It is recommended that a person DO NOT grow them like this, unless they are of a trailing variety (which is a whole other thing). Suckers are said to take energy from the main plant, thus causing an eventual decrease in the plant's overall health. Now because they say not to do this, I had to. This is not a trailing variety, which in a simple sense means that all the suckers are coming from the same main stem, so far. I have yet to see if any suckers will grow from another sucker. I have also not seen this plant bloom yet, it is still quite young. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. I will keep tabs on it and let you know.

So there's a whole pot of them, notice the messy look to the plant. But what does one look like, and better yet, what does it look like before the whole plant is an unsymmetrical mess? Below is a pic of one growing off the neck. It is a small speck of green. If I can find them when they first start or are at least pretty young, I take a pencil and scrape them off. Unless of course you want to root them, which also is quite easy.

How do you know it is a sucker and not a flower? I asked this too. Below is the same sucker up close, and off to the right, is a new flower bud. The flower bud is no more than half an inch big, so you can see it does not take long to recognize the difference. Once you see it for yourself, the cloud goes away and the concept becomes really clear.

I should note that the African Violet in the above pics does not receive enough light. Notice how the leaves stretch upward. I admit some of mine are slightly neglected, no one is perfect, and c'mon, I have nearly 60, it gets rough Below is the above plant beside one that is grown in adequate light. The smaller one is a mini AV, not a large AV, like the other one. In terms of suckers, size doesn't matter, AV's come in a variety of sizes and a sucker is a sucker is a sucker.

So suckers make the plant look messy and unkempt, wtf is it supposed to look like then? Regular Av's (not the trailing ones) grow from one central rosette, flowers will appear in the center or just off center. This African Violet displays the symmetry that growers try to achieve. This one particular AV has taken a few months to look like this. It still isn't quite what I want it to be, but it is one I have that has a "close to symmetrical" look.(before)


There I did it, I think. I am out of breath, and ready for bed. I never anticipated this post taking me so long, but it was fun putting it together.

And this pic has nothing to do with suckers, I just had to end this post with something related but prettier than all these "suckers". Last but not least, the other side of the flower, not as pretty as the face of the flower, but unique and beautiful in it's own way.


mr_subjunctive said...

I'll probably do an actual PATSP post about this eventually, but -- I'm not having a good experience so far with Saintpaulia. I never liked them that much in the first place, and then a batch came in to work, in full flower, and they were undeniably pretty, so I bought one. I figured if I was going to dislike them, I should only do so after giving them a reasonable shot at winning me over.

So far, I'm only solidifying my dislike. I can't get the hang of watering, I think is part of the problem, and humidity might be an issue too. If some leaves yellow and drop while other leaves get scorch marks around the margins, does that mean it's too wet and doesn't have enough humidity?

Tracy said...

Hey, at least you are trying them, I have only been growing them for about a year, so I am far from a pro. But here is my 2 cents. If you haven't gotten the watering thing down pat, and I still don't have it quite right, there are many things that can happen. I have found I get the scorch marks on the leaves either from damaging the leaf, or from going too dry. I haven't found humidity to be too much of a problem, I have found with higher humidity, they rot. The yellow leaves.....could be from over watering, or just not watering right. Where are you getting the yellow leaves at? Bottom? New ones? How about the scorch marks?

Another thing I have found is that many and I mean many of my AV's tend to go through a slow decline if I have left them in the same mix that they came in. I find the mix that many greenhouses use to stay wet quite a long time in my house. Maybe it works for them, but I can not get it to work for me. All of them have rotted away, so I always repot into my own mix, which just has lots of coir, perlite and orchid bark.

The only thing I would say is repot, and let it go drier, they rot so easily, it's unreal. Keep trying, I fell in love with them.

mr_subjunctive said...

I was originally watering all the time; basically as much water as the soil would take up, that's how much it got. And then I thought, oh, wait, I'm probably watering too much, so I stopped giving water as often, and then I got the yellowing and scorching. Which should make for a nice, tidy, easily-solved mystery, but when I check the soil to see whether or not I should water, it always feels wet to me anyway.

The yellow and scorched leaves are both mostly at the bottom of the plant, the oldest, largest leaves, though there have been a few that weren't especially old and went yellow anyway.

mr_subjunctive said...

Oh, and -- I suppose I could try repotting, though I'm not sure I'm willing to go to that much trouble for this particular plant. There are so many others, you know.

Tracy said...

I totally One's person fancy is so different from the next in the world of plants.

Tracy said...

And now I will answer you, since I forgot the first If the soil feels wet all the time to you, they I definetly say repot, fast. My space violet did that, and it is dead now. Now I am going to say the yellow leaves are from overwatering, and the scorched oned are probably juat old, mine go old and gray at the bottom. As long as your new growth is okay. Get it out of what it is in.....use what you use for your plants.

Jor said...


Thanks a lot for your explanation. It is the best that I could find. I am really new in african violets, so I have a silly question: How can I diferentiate between a sucker and new leaves? Are suckers just undesirable new leaves? I have two really messy AV... Can I send you a picture of them? Maybe you can use them on your blog as a case of study! My email is:

ANNIE said...

I am totally name is annie from america on line..and my name there is leahsnotes ..please help me..I still don't get are suckers..I've tried to understand also crown etc..this is my favorite plant..for some reason they like me..I dont have green thumbs but just ordered 12 AV !! LoL..I own 4 that always North window in south florida. I'm in a townhouse..I dont have south east windows. .help me do suckers look like..I just don't get it

ANNIE said...

I am totally name is annie from america on line..and my name there is leahsnotes ..please help me..I still don't get are suckers..I've tried to understand also crown etc..this is my favorite plant..for some reason they like me..I dont have green thumbs but just ordered 12 AV !! LoL..I own 4 that always North window in south florida. I'm in a townhouse..I dont have south east windows. .help me do suckers look like..I just don't get it