Secrets of a Professional Grower Revealed Part 2

by | Jun 16, 2016 | 4 comments

I know it has been a while, but here is the second part of the post about growing African violets to sell. Donna and Steve Turner of were kind enough to allow me to go to their home,  see their growing area, and reveal all their growing secrets to me.

Potting medium recipe

I promised to share their potting medium recipe and here it is:

This makes a lot of media, which is how they make theirs for obvious reasons. So if you have only a few violets cut the amounts proportionally.

3 gallons of ProMix Bx

2.5-3 gallons coarse perlite

1 gallon coarse vermiculite

2 cups coarse charcoal

3 T dolomitic lime

3 T bone meal

Mix well and use!

I had some questions from my previous post about how they deal with insects, where do they get their plants, do they use seeds or leaves to start their plants, and more.


The answer to insects. They use Marathon which contains imidacloprid, a systemic insecticide, in their soil mix. They have also used diatomaceous earth (food grade).

If they detect soil mealybugs, and on occasion just to make sure they don’t have any, they will use the hot water method to dip their plants. The water is heated to 120 degrees and the root ball is dipped into the hot water and swished around for about 30-45 seconds to kill any insect pests. Soil mealybugs are spread in the soil and because they mat water their plants, the insects could go out the bottom of the pot and move through the water to the next pot.

Growing Russian Plants

Where do they get their plants? Since they are mostly growing Russian varieties now, believe it or not, they come from Russia. Leaves are used and they do not start any from seeds and have not hybridized any. Donna says they don’t have enough room for that.

“Putting down leaves”

So, what do they do with those leaves? Donna “puts down the leaves’. What does that mean? Here is my Youtube video showing how to do that. Donna used what she calls the 4-4-4-4 method to grow her plants. She starts her leaves and they are in their starter pots approx. 4 months. At that time the babies are moved into small (I think 2 oz.) solo cups and are put on the mat watering system. Mat watering is an acrylic blanket placed in the bottom of a shallow tray. (The blanket for mat watering and the wicks for wick watering have to be acrylic, not cotton.)  Water is poured into the tray and the water wicks up into the pots of violets. They are in the small solo cups for 4 months and then are moved into 3″ pots which are kept on mats for 6-8 weeks until they are moved onto individual wick watering reservoirs. The root systems aren’t developed enough to go right to individual reservoirs. If the plants are kept, after 4 months, they will be moved into a 4″ pot and continue to be wick watered. They use tap water which is Detroit city water.


They fertilize the plants with Jack’s Classic 20-20-20 and 1 drop of Superthrive every time they water. If the plants are on mats they use 1/4 tsp. per gallon of water and 1/8 tsp. if the plants are wick watered.


These are a few interesting tidbits. They make sure their plants are blooming when they sell them or they don’t take them to the show. There is quite a bit of organization needed to keep all of the dates and times straight to disbud until the time comes to let them set buds so they are blooming at the time of the show or sale. So, all Donna’s double flowering violets are together and are on the top shelves where its warmer because they take longer to bloom. Semi-doubles are on the middle shelves and the singles are on the bottom. It takes 2 weeks longer for a double to open than a single. Ten weeks before the show, they are all separated to their respective shelves. Nine weeks before the show, the doubles are dis-budded for the last time, 8 weeks before for the semi doubles and 7 weeks for the singles.


I asked about the Steptocarpus and she said growing them is about the same, as far as propagating and the 4-4-4-4 method. She grows beautiful streps, too. She does use square pots for the streps since they are top-heavy, as it seems that the square pots are less tippy than the round pots. Some plants grow a lot faster and bigger than others with the streps as well as the violets so none of these processes are written in stone. If a plant is getting bigger faster than the rest, it will be moved up to the next size pot whether it has been 4 months or not.

Do what works for you

All of these procedures work for Steve and Donna and their growing conditions and most likely will work for you, as well. Yet, all growing conditions are different, so you may have to tweak them to fit your particular growing environment. And, if what you are doing already works for you, don’t change it. Don’t fix what isn’t broken as the saying goes.



I hope you enjoyed this little peek into the growing of African violets and streps to sell. Thanks, Donna and Steve for being generous with your time and sharing your growing tips.

If you have any more questions, leave them in the comments below.

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  1. Roxanne Carney

    Thank you for such a great article. I didn’t see the answer to my question as to the lights used to grow the streps. I noticed they used a four bulb fixture but which lights are they using. Roxanne


      Sorry, when I saw Steve he thought he had answered questions about the lights. Must have been someone else. They use T-8 lights and they are on 8 hours a day, and they leave them on 9 hours a day before the show to ensure blooms. They do have some T-12 lights as well, but those are on 12 hours per day. They don’t use LED lights yet because they aren’t perfected yet. Thanks for the questions.

  2. Glenda harris

    I wish you had shown the rack setups, show how to pot, shown how to groom a violet , how to work with streps.


      Hi Glenda, If you look back at the first Grower Talks post, I show all the light racks and their set up. I also have a post about grooming and potting a violet. Type in African violet in the search box on my blog and it will take you to all the posts about violets. Thanks for your interest! I will do a post about streps more in depth soon.


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