Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Feeding of variegated plants

Question:  I am new to the African violet world and would like to know more about variegation.  What is ‘Tommi-Lou’ and ‘Champion’ variegation?  Do I care for and feed variegates the same as nonvariegates?

Answer:  Variegation is simply white, beige, or pink coloring in the foliage.  ‘Tommi-Lou’ variegation will normally appear on the edges of the leaf, sometimes with speckles or streaks elsewhere.  ‘Champion’ (or ‘crown’–we prefer the former label) variegation usually appears from the base of the leaf blade and spreads outward; sometimes so that nearly the entire leaf is variegated.  In addition, there is ‘mosaic’ (or ‘Lillian Jarrett’) type variegation, which appears as heavy streaks or spotting in the center of the leaf blade (like freckles), the border of the blade remaining green.

We care for variegates exactly as we do other varieties, with only one exception.  It is best to grow them at lower temperatures.  If temperatures are too high for too long, many varieties will lose their variegation and turn all green.  Those with ‘Champion’ variegation are especially prone to this, though newer varieties are more tolerant.  Fortunately, most varieties will variegate again once cooler temperatures return.  Variegation is almost solely a function of genetics and temperature.  Using a “variegated special” fertilizer such as a 5-59-17 formula won’t provide the plant with the nitrogen necessary to keep the foliage lush.

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