African Violet Show Plants: How To Begin?

Local African Violet clubs affiliated with the African Violet Society of America (AVSA), host annual plant shows. These shows many times also include plant displays and African Violet sales to raise funds for their club. Another goal is to arouse interest for African Violets among the general public by providing helpful growing tips. Please note, I have not personally grown show plants. All of the information in this blog post is collectively from books, articles and tips from friends who have grown show plants. I am hoping this information will be helpful to those who are still hesitant but interested in learning more about growing show plants for your clubs annual show.

What Does An Annual African Violet Show Include?

  • An annual African Violet show will include a “horticulture” divison and a “design” division.
  • The horticulture division exhibits African Violet plants entered into different classes based upon plant type, size, blossom type/color and leaf type/color.
  • The design division exhibits plants in a decorative arrangement.
  • In this blog post, we will only be focused on the “horticulture division” of an African Violet show.

Horticulture Division Of An African Violet Show?

  • Within the “horticulture division” of a local clubs African Violet annual show, you can enter your plant as a “show plant”.
  • The local club will provide members with a list of different “classes” or “categories” or “sections” within which you can enter your show plant.
  • Information about entry forms or how to register your plant as a show plant can be obtained from local clubs.
  • Once you have entered /registered your plant within a specific class in the show, this plant will be judged.
  • Judging an African Violet show plant involves giving points to a plant for its different merits and also involved deducting points for not meeting those merits.
  • At the end of the judging, the African Violet show plant with the most points, is given an award/ribbon for that specific class/category/section.

Examples of commercially available fish emulsion fertilizers for African Violet plants:

Classes Of Show Plants

  • Show plants can be entered into different classes. A class list can be obtained from your local African Violet club.
  • The local African Violet club can also assist in helping you decide which specific class to enter your show plant.
  • Start the process of deciding which plants to enter into the show and under which class at least 4-5 months before the start of the show.
  • A sample class list can look like this below:

Section I- Collection Class
Class I- Collection of 3 African Violet plants of same type….
ClassII – Collection of Standards – collection of 3 African Violet plants of same type…..
Class III – Collection of Semi Miniature or Miniature
Section II– Standards- green foliage
Class I- Dark blue, purple
Class II- Red, wine, coral tones
Class III- White, cream, green
Class IV- Edged
Section III- Standards-variegated foliage
Similar classes as above………
Section IV- Semi Miniature – green foliage
Similar classes as above……..
Section V- Semi Miniature – variegated foliage
Similar classes as above…..
Similar sections continue with Miniature, Trailers, Species, Vintage etc…..

Observing Your Show Plant 4 Months Before The Annual Show

  • Once you have selected your African Violet plant to be grown for show, it is now time to observe the plant.
  • Observation of a show plant, means keeping an eye on both growing conditions and your plant rooms environmental conditions.
  • You will have to keenly observe both these conditions from today till the day of show.
  • The final goal of observing your plants is to allow your African Violet plant to achieve its best bloom and foliage resulting in a show plant.
  • Growing conditions will include soil, water, fertilizer, spacing, grooming, pot size and blooms.
  • Environmental conditions will include light, humidity and temperature.
  • Many successful African Violet show growers use a 12 week / 3 month “schedule” incorporating both growing and environmental conditions.
  • This schedule follows a time-frame of when to re-pot the plant, when to fertilize, when to change light/humidity conditions, when to groom/space leaves and when to disbud flowers.
  • By following this schedule, your plant will be show worthy. I will discuss in detail about this schedule in another blog post. In this post, I will just be giving a general idea of what is a show plant and what is involved in producing a show plant.

Growing Conditions – Soil

  • At 16 weeks/4 months before show, re-pot your chosen plant into fresh soil.
  • The soil mix should be light and airy
  • Use a mix that you are comfortable with and have had previous success using.
  • Alternatively, you can prepare your own basic soil mix containing 1 part peat moss, 1 part perlite and 1/2 part vermiculite.

Growing Conditions – Pot Size

  • Choose a pot size depending upon the type of African Violet plant you will be growing for show, that is for a standard (4″ diameter), semi miniature (3″ diameter) and miniature (2″ diameter).
  • Initially when you choose a pot size, select one that will allow for a plant to grow larger in leaf span than the current size of your plant. Usually African Violet plants grow at a rate of 1″ in leaf span each month.
  • Do not select a pot too small to hold a standard African Violet plant.
  • Conversely, do not select a pot too large to hold a miniature African Violet plant.
  • Also a plain and simple pot will work fine to grow a show plant.
  • At 2 weeks before show, you can stick a label underneath your pots with the name of your plant and your contact details.

Examples of 2″ & 3″plastic pots, great to keep a few extra in your growing tools:

Growing Conditions – Water

  • Use the same watering method you are comfortable with.
  • Either wick watering or bottom watering.
  • Water as you normally would, at the same frequency, source and style
  • This is not the time to experiment with a different watering source of watering method.

Tool recommendations below, for different ways to water African Violet plants:

Growing Conditions – Fertilizer

  • Initially when you first fertilize, use a balanced fertilizer (14-14-14; nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium), as you want the African Violet plant to grow in size and increase its leaf span.
  • As the African Violet plant grows at the 12 weeks/3 month time frame, reduce the amount of nitrogen and increase the amount of phosphorus to promote bloom production.
  • So a bloom booster fertilizer mix (12-36-14 or 10-30-20) would work well.
  • For variegated foliage, use a fertilizer mix with high phosphorus such as 5-50-17.
  • At 8 weeks/2 month time frame, switch back to a regular balanced fertilizer (14-14-14).
  • Keep using the balanced fertilizer each week till the show date.

Examples of commercially available African Violet fertilizers below:

Growing Conditions – Grooming-Spacing Of Leaves

  • When you first select your plant to be grown for show, take a picture of the plant and take a good look visually at the symmetry of the plant and leaf size.
  • Try to identify the smaller tiny leaves growing underneath the larger leaves. These tiny leaves may be present or maybe not.
  • If they are present, remove these tiny leaves, unless of course they ruin the symmetry of the overall African Violet plant or create a large gap between leaves on the plant.
  • Remove any dead or damaged leaves.
  • A few days before show, brush off any dirt/soil/dust from top of the leaves and pot rim.
  • Remember to check for suckers and carefully remove them. For more information on how to remove suckers, can visit blog post, “African Violet Suckers: What Are They and Removal?“.

Growing Conditions – Blooms

  • From the very beginning at 12 weeks/4 months before show remove all flowers and buds from your selected African Violet show plant.
  • The African Violet plant should be disbudded (removing flowers/buds) between 5-8 weeks/ 1-2 months before show depending upon the type of bloom your selected plant will have.
  • African Violet plants with double blooms/flower type will need to be disbudded 8 weeks/ 2 months before show.
  • African Violet plants with semi-double blooms/flower type will need to be disbudded 6 weeks/ 1.5 months before show.
  • African Violet plants with single blooms/flower type will need to be disbudded 5 weeks/ 1.25 months before show.
  • For more information on African Violet bloom shapes/types, can visit blog post, “What are the Different Shapes of African Violet Flowers?“.
  • African Violet plants with variegated leaf type will need to be disbudded 10 weeks/ 2.7 months before show.
  • As the bloom stalks develop, remember to gently bring them out from underneath the larger leaves and into the center crown area.

Environmental Conditions – Lighting

  • Ideally if you are growing African Violet plants for show, they need to be grown under LED lighting.
  • This will give better control over light intensity and duration of lights.
  • At 12 weeks / 3 months before show, turn off your LED tube/light fixture set up. Clean off any dust/debris/grime from the surface of the tube lights and lighting fixtures.
  • Normally African Violet plants would be under lights 10-12hrs/day.
  • When your growing for show, the light exposure needs to increase to 15hrs/day. This has to be done slowly over the course of the next 10 weeks/2.7 months before show.
  • For lighting the below schedule can be followed:
  • 10 weeks / 2.7 months – 12hrs/day light
  • 9 weeks / 2.5 months – 13hrs/day light
  • 8 weeks/2 months – 14hrs/day light
  • 7 weeks/1.7 months – 15hrs/day light
  • Continue with 15hrs/day light until the day of the show.

Below are examples of light meters, useful to keep in your growing area, especially when monitoring low or bright light intensity.

  • At 4-5 weeks / 1 month before show you can adjust the distance of the lights from the plants surface if required.
  • For e.g. if the leaves are moving upwards, reaching for the lights, you can slightly lower the light fixtures a few inches closer to your African Violet show plant.
  • For e.g. if the African Violet show plant seems to be developing a tight crown, you can adjust the light fixture away from the plant.
  • At 1 week before show, if there are still a few buds which have not completely opened up, you can increase the light duration to another hr/day.
  • Once the show is over, keep the plant under a light fixture which is on for first 14hrs/week, then gradually back down to 10-12hrs/day reducing an hour of light each week.

Environmental Conditions – Humidity/Temperature

  • To encourage blooming of African Violet show plants, the temperature in the plant area should be around 75F.
  • If the temperature in plant area is lower than 75F, give enough time for the show plant to bloom. It will just take longer for blooms to appear at lower temperature.
  • At 1 week before show, if the show plant is heavily blooming, you can reduce the light intensity hours to 13-14hrs/day, this will in turn reduce the temperature slightly in your plant area, as the fluorescent tubes give off some heat.
  • The same is true for the opposite, if at 1 week before show, the plant is blooming slowly, can increase the light intensity hours to 15-16hrs/day, this will in turn increase the temperature slightly in your plant area.
  • The humidity in the area should be between 60%-70%.
  • Below are commercially available humidity – temperature meters. I use the AcuRite meter to measure humidity/temperature.

Below are examples of temperature and humidity meters, useful to keep in your growing area, especially when monitoring powdery mildew on your plants.

End Of African Violet Show

  • Once the show ends and you bring your plant back home, remember to isolate your plant.
  • You can keep it in a different area of the house, away from your plant area or if you dont have space, keep the plant enclosed in a ziploc bag for at least a week.
  • This is just to make sure that no insects have hitchhiked from another plant/surrounding area to your plant.
  • Once the show ends, assimilate the plant back to normal light conditions.
  • Gradually reduce the light exposure by an hour each week until it reaches 10-12 hrs/day.
  • Leach the plant with plain water to get rid of any fertilizer build up.
  • Gently pour plain water few times from the top of the soil and allow to drain through, this will remove any accumulated fertilizer salts.

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