Behind the Scenes – Growing for a Hybridizer

Many of you have been following the saga of the leaves I got a few years ago from Dale Martens. Dale is the hybridizer of both African violets and other gesneriads. She’s very well-known for her strepts and a number of the other gesneriads.

At the 2018 AVSA National Convention (the one in Buffalo, NY where I broke my foot and ripped the skin off half my arm) Dale gave me leaves of two of her crosses that she was hopeful would become successful hybrids. I was very excited to grow these leaves out for her. Neither of them ended up being keepers, but I think it’s really important for you to know how long it can take to actually get a hybrid that is stable and unique that you can release.

The first leaf – which I will call Plant 1 – was “DM-21 Colors, Basic White w/Shades of Wine.” I put the leaves down on 28 May 2018, and they sprouted 10 July 2018.

Plant 1 sprouting
Plant 1 sprouting

The second cross – Plant 2 – was “DM – Green White, My Sensation x Hearland’s Heirloom Lace.” It was also put down on 28 May 2018. It sprouted a week later.

Plant 2 sprouted
Plant 2 sprouted

By November 2018, one of the plantlets of plant 1 was exhibiting a trait that Dale wanted to explore. You can see clearly how the underside of some of the leaves started showing red patches.

Plant 1 exhibiting red splotches on the back of some of the leaves.
Plant 1 exhibiting red splotches on the back of some of the leaves.

Babies were potted up in mid-November 2018. The three in the back row are all Plant 1. Only one of the three plantlets of Plant 1 showed those red patches on the underside of the leaves. The front row are two plantlets of Plant 2. They were both showing the beginnings of red on the back of the leaves and at the tips of some of the leaves. The petioles were red.

Three Plant1 plantlets in the back row and two Plant 2 plantlets up front.
Three Plant1 plantlets in the back row and two Plant 2 plantlets up front.

By December 2018, I had some blossoms on Plant 2, white with green, frilled edges, but the blossoms were not consistent with stalks of semi-double blossom and other stalks of full doubles on the same plant. Mine was not growing how Dale had hoped and she asked me to keep only one of the plantlets of Plant 2, which I did.

Plant 2 first blossoms
Plant 2 first blossoms

The day after Christmas 2018, I had the first blossoms on Plant 1

Plant 1 first blossoms.
Plant 1 first blossoms.

Every blossom was different!

Plant 1 with a different blossom on the same plant.
Plant 1 with a different blossom on the same plant.

This was what Dale was hoping for! She asked me to grow on all three until they all bloomed. Here is what Dale said when I asked if I could keep sharing these during the Look at What’s on the Stands in each podcast episode: “Yes, I love anything educational! It really is educational to show why AVSA requires 3 generations. Also as with my first hybrid, giving you the leaf of that one and getting feedback, even if it’s disappointing to know the seedling isn’t unique enough is what hybridizers should do. They should share their hybrid with someone else to see how it grows in another’s environment. Then when experienced growers grow them, the feedback is valuable. “

Plant 1 continued to bloom, and in January 2019, one of the plantlets looked like this, with every blossom different:

Plant 1 showing all different blossoms.
Plant 1 showing all different blossoms.

Dale asked me to keep that plantlet of Plant 1 and grow it as if I was growing it for show. Plant 2 eventually bloomed similar to her control plant, and she asked me to stop growing it.

So, by February of 2019 I was growing just the one plantlet of Plant 1. I struggled with it a bit and learned that too much light made it tighten up at the crown. It was happier in lower light, so it was moved to a deeper shelf where it would get less light.

I went to repot it on 13 October 2019, and noticed something – Plant 1 was growing half and half – with one half of the leaves dark and the undersides of them splotched with red, and the other half a distinctly lighter green with no red splotches at all!

Plant 1 displaying the half and half coloration.
Plant 1 displaying the half and half coloration.

Here is a closer look at the underside:

Plant 1 - a closer look at the red patches on the underside of the leaves.
Plant 1 – a closer look at the red patches on the underside of the leaves.

I checked with Dale, and here is what she said: “I was hoping as time went on that the random red would be attractive similar to irregular white variegation on strep leaves. Instead it’s quite distracting and would draw the eye away from even the most beautiful flowers. Please toss it. Thank you for your efforts. “

So although my journey with these leaves and the plants they became was ultimately unsuccessful, it was really interesting. In addition my tracking them, sharing photos, and reporting on how they were growing was very helpful to Dale as a hybridizer.

I would do it again in a minute!


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