What to do when African violets grow

I have two African violets that I have had for many, many years. They are potted in lava pots and doing OK but are outgrowing the pots.

Do you have some advice on what I should do? I’ve had them so long I would hate to see anything happen to them.

— Dick and Barb

If they’re still in a single plant, then you need to replant them into bigger pots. Don’t go too much bigger. Generally 2–3 inches bigger in diameter is what you should be looking for.

If there are several plants in a clump then you could consider separating them. This is simply separating the individual plants by cutting them (carefully!) apart with a sharp knife. Resist the temptation to get too greedy if you’re doing this. The smaller the plants you end up with, the greater the chance they could die. I’d only split each one into two or maybe three separate plants.

Whichever way you go, use a quality potting soil (personally, I like Black Gold) to repot them. You want to keep as much of the existing soil and roots intact. That is, don’t “bare root” your plants. They could survive, but the chances of them failing as bare roots will be much greater.

Personally, I’m not all that big of a fan of those African violet pots you might see. Plants seem to do OK for a while and then they can start to fade away either from over watering or salt accumulation in the soil.

I like to see them potted in a standard pot (terra cotta, ceramic or plastic, it doesn’t really matter) with drainage holes in the bottom and treat them like any other houseplant you have.

Folks think they need these type of pots and have to water from the bottom to make the plant happy. Getting water on the foliage can sometimes lead to spots forming on the leaves. Frankly, these spots are not that prominent and they form not because of water but because of temperature (from cold tap water). If you use lukewarm water, you shouldn’t have any spots. Besides, even if you get some spots, it doesn’t hurt the plant in any significant way.

I need to move the tulips I planted a year ago. When is the best time to dig them up and replant?

­— Janna

It is best to wait until the foliage dies down at the end of its blooming season. It’s important to leave the foliage on after bloom because it’s feeding the bulb, building it up for next year and forming next spring’s flowers. Once the foliage dies down, that job is done and you can safely move the bulbs.

Once you have dug up the bulbs, I think you’re best to replant them right away.

Some people like to hold the bulbs in a cool, dark place all summer and plant them in the fall. That is probably a safer, surer way to do it but finding a cool, dry spot can be a challenge and besides, I’ve seen lots of people forget about their bulbs, and by the time they rediscover them, they’re dried up and dead.


Do grapevines have to be planted any certain direction? North to south or east to west?

— Deb

For the backyard gardener, it really doesn’t make that much difference, but most commercial growers place their rows north to south as that orientation provides the most even distribution of light in the canopy and has been associated with improved yields and berry quality.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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