Hybridizing African Violets
by Margaret Taylor
Hybridizing African violets is not only fun but full of surprises. Are you saying "Yes, but ...," and having all kinds of reasons and excuses as to why it is not an option for you? I know, because I did this myself for many years until this Violetitis" took a different turn, and I ventured into the unknown. It is not necessary to have unlimited space or an in-depth knowledge of genetics. All it takes is an interest and a little patience. Sometimes, without any interference from you, a plant will self-seed. This may occur because an insect has transferred some pollen to the stigma of a flower when it was receptive, and a pod has resulted. Or the stigma was perhaps deformed and grew into the anthers of its own flower, collecting pollen on its way.
There is no reason why you could not leave that pod until it was ripe and starting to shrivel, then harvest and sow. You would only know for sure the identity of the seed parent, not the pollen parent. If you need to know the identity of both parents, then it is simple to do the pollen transfer yourself. Ship off the anthers of the chosen "father", open the pollen sacs, and gently place a tiny spot of pollen onto the stigma of the "mother". It is recommended that you also remove the anthers of the seed parent and discard them. It is important to label each cross and note names of parents (seed parent x pollen parent) and date of crossing. Do use a conspicuous form of labeling, or you may inadvertently nip off your forming pod when grooming. One important thing to remember is that variegated seedlings will only result from a cross using the variegated parent as a seed parent. Successful cross-pollination makes itself evident after week or so. The flower will shrivel, and the ovary will enlarge and continue to grow. Do not overwater or allow the plant to dry out while it is carrying seed. Keep growing conditions to their preferred levels if you possibly can. In upwards of four months, usually, the seed will start to wither. Snip it off and allow it to dry out for two weeks or more before sowing. Snip open the pod and shake the seed carefully onto a piece of white paper creased down the middle. A suitable container can be prepared, shallow and wide rather than narrow and deep. A fine seed-raising mix should be used without fertilizer content, dampened and given about one minute in the microwave. Cool thoroughly before sowing your seed as sparsely as possible. It is not necessary to sow all the seed in the first instance. It can be stored in screw top jar in the refrigerator for up to five years (I am told, but haven't personally proved this one). Seed can be settled with a fine spray of tepid water but should not be covered with mix. Cover the container with plastic wrap, place in a warm spot close to a light source, and wait. 24 °C is the preferred temperature, so it may be disappointing if seed is put down in cooler conditions. In about fourteen days, remove the plastic wrap and inspect. No seeds up yet? Not to worry, some take longer. Replace the plastic wrap and look again in a few days. It is very exciting when seed does start to emerge. Later, when seedlings have grown and reached a comfortable size, they may be pricked out into individual tiny containers or into community trays. It is a good idea to cover once again until they establish and then harden off gradually. Very soon the foliar characteristics of the parent plants will become evident. Some, of course, better than others. The real fun begins when flower buds start to emerge. Some flowers will be droppers, others nondescript or deformed. They can be discarded early, leaving room for others to grow. Scant fertilizing, plus a little mild foliar feeding is all that is necessary. You must be careful not to get too sentimentally attached to your "babies" because you are looking for one or two really special hybrids, not an army of "also rans". Whatever your preconceived expectation of flower colours and characteristics, there is always an element of surprise. To qualify for naming and registration, a hybrid must have proved itself to be stable through three generations from leaf cuttings. It IS worth the wait. One day you may experience the joy of seeing your own hybrids run away with the awards at meetings and shows. Now, what could be more satisfying to an African violet grower? From African Violet News, Official Journal of the AV-Gesneriad Society of NSW. Inc.
Hybridising Mini Sinningias is fun
Andy Kuang is a member of the Early Morn Society in Victoria. He is a marvellous grower of Gesneriads and in particular Sinningias. Andy is a great bloke to meet and talk to and his views on hybridising Sinningias comes from years of experience. The article is one of two that we will feature and the photos are taken by Andy himself.
Sinningia is a genus of flowering plant in the family Gesneriaceae, the African violet family. It is probably the most popular and easiest of all Gesneriads to grow after the African violet. There are about 74 species of tuberous perennials and small shrubs native to the rainforests of South America.
Since the first mini Sinningia hybrid Dollbaby was created in 1963 crossed between pusilla and eumorpha. It opened a whole new world to the mini Sinningia growers and hybridisers.
Sinningias size varies from 2-3 cm micro mini to 8 cm medium size and the large size. There are different range colour flowers with different markings. Mini Sinningia hybrids can flower all year round if they grow in the right conditions.
Hybridising mini Sinningias is fun, you can create different sizes and different colour mini Sinningias, and some hybrids even have scent.
Firstly you need to setup a plan to decide what results you are going to achieve. For example, I want to create a nice compact plant with bright red flowers, or I want my hybrids to have a perfume smell.
Secondly, after you set up your goal, you need to select the parent plants to achieve what you want. Select the plants with the strong desire characteristics. If you want red colour flower seedlings, you need to select both parents with red flowers, purple and blue are the most dominant flower colour. Normally select the seed pod parent with nice rosette symmetry leaf pattern and pollen parent with strong flower characteristics.
Then you need to grow your selected plants to the flower stage.
When the seed pod plant flower fully open, use one hand hold the calyx gently and lift the tube of the flower slowly upward by another hand, pulling at the same time to remove the flower tube. Now you can see the stigma and anthers. Use the scissors to cut off the anthers to avoid self-pollinating. After about 4 days, check with your flowers; when you see the stigma is open up and shining, at this stage the stigma is ready to accept the pollens. Use the paint brush or any other handy tool to apply the pollen from your selected plant to the stigma. I usually apply this two to three times to make sure that some pollen sticks on the stigma. You now need to mark the flower with a colour string so that you don’t accidentally remove it.
Write down the records of both parents’ details and the date of the cross.
Quite often it is hard to get two of your Sinningia parents to flower at the same time. You can collect the pollen and store them for future use. I find the pollen is still viable in one year if you store them covered in dark paper and in cool conditions.
It depends on the weather, in the hot summer season; seed pod will turn brown and split in about 30 days. In the cooler weather, seed pod may need little bit longer to mature.
After you harvest your seed pods, let them dry out about 2 weeks, then you can collect the seeds. You can sow the fresh seeds or store them for future use.
Here are some of my own experiences hybridising with mini Sinningia.
I use some of the species as pollen parent to cross to the mini Sinningia. I have done these hybrids: Orion cross araneosa, create Sinningia Marge with beautiful red flower.
PK’s Nicole cross guttata, create Sinningia Edward with very nice flowers with lots dots and lines on the throat.
I also use the micro mini Sinningia species pusilla White Sprite as seed pod parent cross with other mini Sinningia and species and create some remarkable results. I cross pusilla White Sprite with a seedling of (Texas Zebra x leucotricha) and create a beautiful small size Sinningia Pamela with delicate peach pink flowers. I cross pusilla White Sprite with lemon scent cream yellow flower species conspicua. I got a few seedlings from this cross; they are all looking similar. The size between the micro mini and the large one, all with pale mauve flowers with some purple markings on the throat. I can smell the lemon scent from one of the seedlings.
I have tried to create some petal double mini Sinningias, but the results are not good as I expected. I used double Sinningia Orion as seed pod parent cross with some other mini Sinningias and I only get about 10% of double Sinningias. The best result is Orion cross with Mark Twain and I have one seedling with big purple fully double flowers, another cross between Orion and a red seedling and I got a red double seedling.
Hybridising with mini Sinningias is lots of fun, I encourage all of you have a go and create some beautiful hybrids of mini Sinningias.
Strep hint: A suggestion is to start repotting outdoor Sinningias sometime in late July (even earlier for some if you can manage it). Usually most of them would be finished by now. Just doing a few each day is the trick.
Two of Andy Kuang's (The Early Morn Society in Victoria) recent Gesneriad hybridized outcomes.
Next Meeting: Our Society's next meeting is the third Saturday (the 16th) in April 2015. It is held at the MANNING ACTIVITY CENTRE, at 3 Downey Drive, Manning. Click here for a site map.
Creating a Miniature Greenhouse
Two approaches in creating your own small greenhouse. Technique one, is to cover the leaf and pot with a sandwich bag (zip lock bags can tip over) and secure it a bow the bottom of the pot. With the second technique, which works if you are setting many leaves, is to place pots in a covered tray with matting. Any plastic container with a clear cover will work well (plastic wrap can serve as a cover). Check periodically to make sure leaves are moist. It is preferred that you water each plant however, if time is short, just wet the matting. If sides or top of container appear, very wet, wipe sides and top dry with a paper towel. This is critical because too much moisture will rot leaves.
Click on any photo above to enlarge.
hy African Violets and What to do.
Your Summer flowers have finished blooming and you are in need of a little colour in your home why not try growing African violets. They are cheery small plants that will give you years of enjoyment with a minimum of care and brighten up Autumn and the coming winter here in Australia. The family includes Gesneriads which offer the same vibrant colours but can be grown outdoors but usually on a verandah or patio area. The African violet or " Saintpaulia" was first discovered in 1892 in Tanganyika, now part of Tanzania by the Baron Walter Von Saint Paul who was the German governor of a province of this country. It was found growing on shady rocky ledges in the mountains. The seeds were sent back to Germany and the African violet became a plant of many German households .It was brought to California in 1926. Over the years, due to hybridization many African Violets are available with many variations in leaf as well as flower colour and shape. There are even miniature plants and some that are trailing. The flowers come in pink, blue, white, mauve, purple, yellow, fuchsia and combinations of these shades. Many now have blooms that are variegated such as striped in pink and mauve/blue. The leaves as well, have changed a great deal. They may be light or dark green, variegated white/green or even curly on the edges. African violets do not like direct sunlight. Strong sunrays will damage the fleshy part of the leaves by destroying chlorophyll and dry, brown spots may appear on the leaves. If you only have a sunny window, set the plant back from the window, or better still, the use of curtains can block the harsh rays of the sun. African violets can also be grown under artificial light. In order to get and keep the bloom going on the plant it requires 12 hours of light per day. African violets adapt well to the warm temperatures of your home and by lowering the temperature by about 5-6 degrees at night the plants appearance will improve and the blooms might even be bigger and the white borders on the bicoloured flowers will be brighter. If extra humidity is required set place a tray or saucer filled with water and gravel nearby. Water the plant when the surface soil is dry and it is still a little moist under the soil. If splashed with water on the leaves or get water in the centre of the plant you should quickly “dab” dry with a tissue or similar. African violets prefer water a little warmer than room temperature and if possible stay away from chlorinated water. You may water from the top or the bottom, but never let the plant sit with wet feet. It is best to water in the morning when it is warmer to avoid fungal diseases with the cooler evening temperatures. Do not over water! Fertilizing can be done once a month with a fertilizer for African violets. Some growers fertilize every watering using a quarter of a teaspoon to every 5 litres. Fertilize every other watering. A higher middle number ‘P’ on the label of fertilizer is important. This is phosphorus and is essential for bloom. There are pests that can infest the African violet. Mealy bugs, thrips and mites are the culprits. There are cures but to some growers throw an infected plant out and start fresh and not worry about contaminating the rest of the African violets. Also, if there is too high humidity the plant could develop a fungus infestation. Grooming will keep your plants looking their best. Remove any spent flowers and leaves. Usually the outer row of leaves will fade before they die. They should be removed to keep the plant at it is best. Dust the leaves regularly. A soft brush with natural bristles will do the trick. You can also use a damp sea sponge, but be sure to pat the leaves dry. Turn the plant a ¼ (one quarter) turn with each watering to maintain a good symmetrical appearance. With a little TLC and you should have wonderful bloom for most of the year and for many years to come.
Old or established plants.
These do well if they are stripped to about three rows of leaves. The root can be trimmed and re-potted in some fresh mix. Clean wicks if used and clean pots (generally no bigger than 100 mm for a fully grown plant) are important. If wick watering is employed, it is important that a light soilless mix is used and wicks are wet before inserting into the pot. Do remember to label the plant with its correct name.
Will surge ahead if the roots have filled the current pot. Use one size larger pot so that the roots systems can spread a
little. Roots that have filled the pot are needed to promote early flowering, so do not be tempted to skip a size pot to save time later. Leaf cuttings will surge ahead in double quick time in spring conditions. Plantlets that are ready to come off the mother leaf will also do well.
Small pots are preferable in both cases. Cut-down polystyrene cups with appropriate drainage holes are useful as they are inexpensive and disposable. They may be too large for miniatures and semi miniatures which prefer smaller containers.
Seeds ready to be sown now are likely to germinate when temperatures are at least 20 degrees day and night. These usually do best if covered with plastic wrap or other clear utilities to create a microclimate. Keep moist but not wet. Make sure your potting mix doesn’t become a swamp. Control watering by using wick watering which is our recommendation.
Violet Talk. We are a beaut bunch of people and will make your life interesting and productive with workshops and talks all squeezed into three hours on a Saturday afternoon once a month. Our Newsletter Violet Talk is also packed with good articles and news available to our members and other related Societies and Associations. Can't wait for April 16th the next meeting and in the meantime pursue our passion and start preparation for our May Show next year.
Alternating Tips Turning Your Violets: If you are growing your violets in a position where they receive light from one side (this applies to most situations), it is necessary to rotate your plants a quarter turn each day, otherwise the leaves grow towards the light and if not rotated regularly the main stem will bend in that direction, and sometimes no amount of turning will straighten it again. This spoils the shape of the plant. It has been suggested that to turn the plant in an anti-clockwise direction will be more beneficial than clockwise. This may or may not be true, but you may like to experiment. African violets need no rest period. Given good conditions they will flower continuously forever.
Novel Methods Of Growing African Violets: You may wish to try African violets other than in standard pots (100mm) and there are many ways that will make quite a spectacular display provided that you follow the general rules of culture and provide them with adequate light to produce blooms. A lot of our competitions (and certainly in other Societies and Associations) have a Novelty Section and growers purchase odd shaped containers to grow some of their smaller varieties in. Dish gardens can be an exciting experience of combining other plant varieties with African violets using various platforms such as wood for instance. It is fun and challenging at the same time.
Terrariums provide ideal conditions for violets and you can make very interesting displays in aquariums, fish bowls or other glass containers. With no drainage you need to watch the watering very closely. If there is moisture on the glass during the daytime it probably is too wet and the lid should be left off for some of the moisture to evaporate. Provide plenty of drainage material (i.e. river sand and/or charcoal) in glass containers so that excess water can remain on the bottom away from roots of the plants. Miniature violets and miniature Sinningias are ideal for terrariums. Keep the glass clean and if you use charcoal it is said to "sweeten" the water.
Leaves of an African violet plant turning pink could be the result of a condition we call “bleaching” in which the chlorophyll in the leaves are depleted.
Usually, when leaves begin looking pink, it is because the red underside cells of the leaf are visible through the upper cells. This is because the chlorophyll in the leaf (the green pigment) is being used up (by photosynthesis) faster than the plant can replace it.
There are two ways to counter the problem:
The enchantment of a trailer is that when fully grown it is covered with flowers. Happy Trails is featured here and is a semi-miniature trailer hybridized by L. Lyon featuring double dark pink star blossoms and medium green pointed leaves.
Another example (see below) of a trailer is Ciralda see below recently shown at the AAVA Show in October last year, which demonstrates the array of flowers that can cover this cultivar of Saintpaulia.
Want to contact us or ask a query, click on the email button below and send us a "hello" or query about your African violet. Or maybe even join! Plenty of information in the Maintenance, History and Annual Show Pages above with links to other societies, as well as the rest of this Home page
African Violet Society WA
Plenty of images, interesting articles and advice on how
to look after African violets or their associated Gesneriad family.
You are so welcome to the African Violet Society of WA Inc. Web Site.
It is our 50th anniversary year and we are really looking forward to 2015. We will continue to provide information so that your African violets and Gesneriads are well and happy. Keep checking the web site as we have many articles to help you with your African violets and Gesneriads.