Growing African Violets successfully in tree fern fibre

Creating the right environment for healthy root growth is key for healthy African Violets, according to Greg Barnes, owner of Bio Leaf Plant Nutrients Ltd in Auckland, New Zealand. Growing this plant and making it thrive is something Greg admits he isn’t good at. He says AVs traditionally die when they are in his care.

Since re-potting his own 4 AVs in tree fern fibre, Greg has much more success. When someone gave his wife an African Violet that was growing in a soil-based substrate, he decided to transplant it into milled tree fern fibre, just to see what would happen. He had experienced great results already with growing orchids in tree fern fibe, so it was worth a try.

“Amazingly, the plant has survived for 10 weeks and is growing well, producing many white flowers. It is in much better condition compared to when I transplanted it,” says Greg, who is passionate about helping growers optimise plant growth and health. 

“If an AV has healthy, well developed root mass it will have healthy top growth. They like a substrate that provides consistent moisture,” he explains.

“Many AV growers use the wicking method to try and achieve this. Most of the potting mediums used will not do this well, and they need particular management to keep the growing medium moist, but many people don’t do this properly.”

He explains that when it isn’t done correctly, the growing medium will hold too much moisture, which results in the roots rotting. Or it is too dry, which results in the roots dehydrating. Both will lead to the premature death of the African Violet. Tree fern fibre provides the roots with consistent moisture without the need of having to use a wick.

Before discovering Fernwood Tree Fern Fibre, Greg left his plants in the growing medium they were growing in when he bought them, which he thinks was a peat-based mixture. When he re-potted them, he used an African Violet potting mix bought from his local garden centre.

“I re-potted the first one in mid-September and by November I had re-potted all 4 violets. By now, I would most likely have killed them all, but they are all thriving and growing well. All of them have produced flowers for us,” he says.

“The first AV I re-potted was rather sickly. It had hardly any roots and dehydrated leaves. The picture with this article is a photo of that same plant. It’s doing great since growing in fern fibre.”

Greg’s Top Tips for growing healthy African Violets

  1. African violets grow well with a potting substrate that is moist and is not waterlogged. One of the more successful ways to keep the potting substrate moist is to use a wick to move water from a reservoir into the growing substrate. Tree fern fibre does away with having to use a wick. Simply add water to the pot saucer, and the tree fern fibre will move the water throughout the substrate, and it will remain moist for several days.
  2. Even moisture and nutrient distribution. Milled tree fern fibre has a unique property in that it absorbs and holds water without becoming waterlogged and distributes water evenly throughout the medium. This enables the roots to be in constant contact with water and nutrients.
  3. With this potting medium, it is difficult to overwater. It’s easy to know when to water your African Violet because as the tree fern fibre starts to dry out, the top surface, turns light brown and fluffs up a bit.
  4. Tree fern fibre takes a long time to break down, so the plant will be able to stay in the pot for several years, if necessary. Every time you repot a plant it is a setback because of transplant shock.
  5. Pot on with minimal root disturbance. When you repot your African Violets, you do not have to strip all the growing substrate from the roots. You simply place it in another pot and pack some fibre around it to fill in the gaps. This means that you minimise transplant shock and the African Violet settles in and starts putting energy into growing.

Every time Greg waters his African violets, he feeds them with Dyna-Gro GROW 7-9-5 at a dilution rate of 1ml GROW to 1.5 litres of water.

He has been growing plants for over 30 years – orchids, roses, ferns, African violets, palms, cycads, and bonsai. You name it, and he has probably tried to grow it.

“As a result, I have many years of experience using different types of fertilisers. Taking all this into account, I have never had such good and consistent growth response from plants, as I have since using Dyna-Gro Nutrient Solutions.”

The Dyna-Gro range contains all 17 essential nutrients required for optimal plant growth and health. Find more information and valuable tips from Greg on the Bio Leaf Plant Nutrients website