Hello Everyone, i just wanted to suggest a very fine Streptocarpus variety "Bristol Sunset. I bought it at The Violet Barn in the fall of 2010. It has grown ever so well in a north window and has had at least 50 flowers open from April til now. I am going to put it under lights. I have grown a good many Gesneriads over the years but this one blooms so well with minimum care. I had to spend this spring and summer away for the most part and fertilized it infrequently. I meant to put it on a resevior and wick, I didn't and got home a few days to see it wilted. I gather there are other Bristol hybrids that are at or near this stature. What a LOVE! I hope everyone has a great holiday season and that your new year is all you want. Lee Sherwood McDonald
First of all, the Tomato food is not that acidic. Tomatos don't like it too much below pH 6 and usually do better at around 6.5-7.
Second: The water around here is pretty alkaline (pH 7.8-8.5) and full of minerals, which more than makes up for the slight acidity of the mix and the fertilizer.
Third: I only use the fertilizer at 1/4 strength and repot often because most Gesneriads will be damaged by salt buildup in the mix.
Fourth: What works for me doesn't necessarily have to be a good idea for you. I use the MiracleGro stuff mostly because it's cheap and available everywhere. Not at last, I use it because it works for me.
I grow Gesneriads, Begonias, Orchids, Hoyas, some succulents, some Aroids, some ferns etc.
Everybody gets the same food and they're all happy with it.
In my experience, the much more expensive fertilizers are great - particularly for the manufacturer's bottom line... LOL
I have found that it is much more important to use the right mix and to repot frequently than it is to use any particular fertilizer.
I have used organic fertilizers of all kind in the past (Molasses, Guano and Kelp based) and have found that they have a tendency to make my mix mold over on indoor plants. I also have tried all kinds of inorganic fertilizers and have not been able to find huge differences except for the price tag.
What seems to be the most important is that the fertilizer is halfways balanced. The Tomato food, for instance, is 18-18-21. And I know that the respective numbers are quite high but since I dilute the food to 1/4 strenth or less, that has never been a problem.
I used to use Schultz BloomPlus (10-60-10) on all my plants, diluted to 1/4 strength and that worked fine as well but is much more expensive than the Tomato food.
Oh, wow! 9.2 IS alkaline and definitely prompts you to mess with the soil chemistry. It's surprising that you can AT ALL use your tap water to water your plants...
Other than that, I have made the experience that messing with the soil chemistry often times causes more problems than it solves. You are playing with a very complex systems of which you don't know all the parameters and changing just one parameter slightly, can cause an avalanche of changes in other parameters...
I have only had chlorotic leaves on one of my Sinningias because I didn't repot it into my own mix immediately. After repotting, the plant greened right back up.
Well, the BloomBooster is most definitely acidic, considering it's extremely high Phosphorous content and I agree that it is no good for general use but can be a good thing on variegated plants to promote variegation and on stubborn "non-bloomers" to promote bloom - but only every once in a while!
The bottom line is that this discussion has been going on since the dawn of horticulture and I don't think that it will stop or be concluded any time soon. It's hard to generalize an extremely complex subject like this - there just is no silver bullet.
What that means for all practical purposes is that every grower will have to find out what works for them by means of trial and error. There was an article in The Gloxinian/Gesneriads quite some time ago, which was titled "What Works? What Works!" and Brad Thompson has this article on his Begonia website that is titled "Advice On Taking Advice"... :)
Sorry All, but I do have to agree with Sis here. Alkaline or acid DOES make a difference on some gessies. Streps and African Violets are two of them as they like it more acidic than alkaline.
If you continuously use a bloom booster, you will end up with an adverse effect. You want to stick with a fertilizer that is as close to 60 as possible and with micro-nutrients. 20-20-20- is perfect to equal the number 60 but if you can't find that, get a fertilizer as close to those numbers as you can. Growers will often use a bloom booster right before a show but not on a regular basis.
Connie: I couldn't agree more! The pH requirements are different in different genera and Streps and Violets generally like it a little more acidic than other Gessies.
However, you have to keep that in perspective. Sure, your average Violet won't tolerate as much lime as most Primulinas but most Violet and Strep growers that I know will add some lime to their mix anyway. Peat based mixes can be very acidic, especially as the peat starts to break down and that might be the reason why.
None of the popular Gesneriads will tolerate extremely acidic or extremely alkaline conditions. What we are essentially talking about is a pH range of maybe 6 to 8.
I also completely agree on the BloomBooster or any other high Phosphorous fertilizer. It will throw off the nutrient balance in the mix and will alter the pH significantly if you use it on a regular basis.
I pretty much use miracle grow on everything but will beef it up with a bit of rose food for my solanaceae family plants. I've used bloom booster too but notice after awhile the quality and size of the blooms seem to diminish when I use it consistently. Seems like it wears out the plant.
So what I'm getting here is that I should feed the AV's with quarter to half strength miracle grow & every once in a while throw in a bit of rose food?
And Olaf .. if you haven't glommed on to Kirks Castille Hardwater Soap for bathing, give it a try.
In the long run you can use pretty much any fertilizer that contains nitrogen,phosphorus and potassium,but for general use it should be fairly well balanced,such as 20-20-20.Plants also need some trace nutrients,especially if they are in a soiless mix.
Check the label on your rose food.As long as it doesn't contain highly acidic ingredients it will probably work,but be very cautious about the amount you use.
I know people use Hartz Flea and Tick Shampoo and Murphy's oil soap.What is the Castille soap used for?
Ahh .. it's for places with hard water .. you can actually get a good lather out of it and it rinses really clean and makes your skin soft! You mentioned you had hard water in Chicago. When I lived in England I had friends shipping it over to me .. the water is so hard there you can get a concussion just taking a shower.