Dale Martens either wrote an article or gave a lecture years ago about separating babies from mother leaves (all types of gessies, not just violets.) I remembered her advice and still follow it whenever I can. My apologies to Dale for not remembering the specifics, but I remember the important parts! She did an experiment with separating babies and found that not only did younger/smaller babies acclimate faster than more mature babies, but with regular potting up, they also grew by leaps and bounds, stronger and healthier than those that were left with Mom a bit longer. It really was a substantial difference.
In some ways, this goes against what we may have thought. It would seem plausible that if given more time to mature and grow roots, a baby plant would have a better chance at being strong and tough. However, that doesn't exactly seem to be the case. By starting earlier, the plant goes through much less transplant shock and the roots themselves (given fresh soil and a bigger container fairly regularly,) have no problem stretching themselves quickly. This is, of course, assuming that they are given top notch care from separation onward. So it would be an interesting experiment for any of you growers out there to try sometime!
When I first began growing, the general advice was to wait until the baby leaves were the size of a nickel. For someone who is new to growing or is a little cautious about handling the babies, nickel-size is still fine. I did it myself for years when I first began growing violets. But now, I separate babies just as soon as I can safely handle them. On some minis, this might mean the baby leaves are no bigger than a pencil eraser! And, of course, I've done my own unscientific experiments when separating those tinier-than-life suckers that I can't bear to toss. And many of them survive!
Now, I must admit I don't always separate when I should. Many times I have left rooting leaves inside baggies or domes for months longer than I should have. Inside these humidity tents, the constant condensation tends to stunt most babies from being sturdy and stout. Instead, they grow weak and spindly, sometimes with an exaggerated main stem that seems rubbery. I won't say that these babies never grow up strong and proud, but I think they've begun life with a decided disadvantage. So don't do what I sometimes do and procrastinate on separating. It really does make a huge difference!
Anyway, good growing to everyone and remember your plants now that the busy holidays are coming. They'll probably be drying out quicker than usual with the heat on inside our homes. Until next time!