Question: I recently visited an African violet show. Many of the violets displayed there were very large, perhaps 18″ or more across. Mine have never gotten that large. Can you explain why?
Answer: First, keep in mind that these are showplants. A prize-winning plant is the result of good culture and plenty of TLC. Serious exhibitors also usually grow those varieties that make the best showplants–i.e. large, symmetrical foliage, and heavy bloom.
The most important factor, however, is probably disbudding. Our large showplants are disbudded (not allowed to bud or bloom) continually from 6-8 months to about 6-10 weeks prior to the show. During this time, all of the plant’s energy goes into foliage growth, not blossom production. As a result, the leaves grow much larger. While large showplants are often grown in (shallow) pots 6″ or larger, violets that aren’t going to show do quite well in 4″ pots, where they continue to bloom and grow to about 10-12″ in diameter. Most exhibitors also use leaf supports, or “rings”, which go underneath the outer row of leaves and keep them from bending down over the rim of the pot. This ensures that the leaves are held flat, and are exposed to the maximum amount of light, which promotes more vigorous growth. Besides these differences, culture is the same in virtually every other way.