Why do I just grow minis?
Actually, I do grow some standards. I specialize in the minis, but I have several standards that I’ve been growing for many years and would hate to get rid of. I’m also, for the first time ever, trying my hand at some Buckeye’s. Let's see how they do. I just don’t know what I do wrong with standards, but I have no luck with them. I was always taught that standards need repotting about once a year. For me, I’ve found this to be untrue. In my conditions, my standards often require more frequent repotting than my minis. Why? I’m not sure! When I grow a standard to a certain size – say about 8 inches in diameter – I start losing lower leaves, they develop necks, and then, after blooming, the plants get bunchy and no longer seem to like the light they’ve been getting. I feel like I’ve tried everything, but it’s always the same, and no matter the hybridizer. So, I stick to what grows well for ME – semis and minis! They really just seem to grow themselves, and I can get so many more in the same space! Plus, they are just so darling. ;-)
Differences in growing minis and standards
We’re told there really is no difference, except that minis appreciate more light than standards and need more frequent repotting. Otherwise, their care is the same, more or less. I have found this to be generally true, as it relates to their actual care.
Showing: Minis usually need a little more babysitting when prepping for a show, since they have a tendency to sucker like mad when disbudded. Newer hybrids seem to be a little better about that. Standards take more diligence and patience when growing for show.
But what if you’re not growing for show? You just want to grow a nice little mini plant, but haven’t been able to keep one alive. For you, I would say that perhaps you are giving them a little too much love. For example, they are sensitive to too much of anything: water, fertilizer, light, cold, etc. The smaller plants really do not need more coddling. They just need less of everything. So, dial it down a notch if you are accustomed to only growing standards. Keep in mind that they do not like to be in large pots, so don’t be tempted, even if that semimini is outgrowing its little solo cup. If it grows too large, reduce the roots, remove older leaves and repot into the same size cup. Be careful not to over water minis; they don’t need as much water as you may think!
For the water-holding problem, minis do really well if they are wicked. But if you don’t want to wick, keep in mind the small ones really do need watering more frequently than the larger plants in bigger pots. This should not be misinterpreted at MORE water, just a little water more often. When the surface of the soil is dry, water just enough to moisten the soil again. Never flood or over-soak! Minis are sensitive to overwatering, and I think even more so than standards. Perhaps it is because we have less time to save the plant once it begins to rot.
Another problem is that the plant may have a tendency to be wobbly in the pot after repotting, since there is less soil to anchor the plant. Sometimes I will place the plant just a tiny bit lower in the pot than normal so that the sides of the pot will help hold the plant in place until new roots have developed. Just be very careful when backfilling soil so that you do not over-fill and cover your crown. Never bury violets too deep in the soil. They will rot very quickly. Sometimes the plant needs to be domed or bagged until the roots have developed enough to provide a solid anchor to the plant.
I hope I’ve give you a few things to think about and maybe help you grow better minis. African violets are actually pretty tough plants as long as you know the things they cannot tolerate. Those things are the same for any size violet, from micro mini to super sized standards. Also, if you start with minis that are proven easy to grow and show, the odds are even more in your favor. Good luck!