by Connie Oswald Stofko
People from across the United States, Canada and the world will come to Buffalo this month for the annual convention of the African Violet Society of America (AVSA), a a joint effort with the African Violet Society of Canada (AVSC).
“I’ve even had people from Ukraine and Armenia contact me about how to get visas to come here,” said Judy Niemira, local co-chair for the convention and current president of the African Violet and Gesneriad Society of Western New York. “It’s really a big deal. We’re excited about it.”
The convention’s plant show is open to the public.
“People think they know what African violets are until they see the show,” Niemira said. “There are plants with speckled leaves, and plants with flowers that are speckled or look like bells or little wasps.”
You can even enter your own registered African violet in the show.
You can attend the entire convention; you don’t have to be a member of an African violet group to attend. See registration information here.
African violet convention and show
The convention will be held in the Adam’s Mark Buffalo Hotel and Event Center, 120 Church St., Buffalo.
It begins with meetings on Sunday, May 20 and runs through Saturday, May 25. The event will include tours and presentations. There will also be commercial vendors where you can buy plants. See the entire schedule here. See registration information here.
The show will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, May 25 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 26.
There is a $5 admission charge for people who are not AVSA or AVSC members. If you’re a non-member and join AVSA or AVSC at the door, this fee is waived. AVSA and AVSC members who are not registered with the convention can show their AVSA or AVSC membership card to receive a $1 discount.
If you have a registered African violet (not the kind you get at the supermarket) you can enter it into the show. For information on entering your registered African violet in the show, contact Niemira at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Awards are based on merit, not competitive judging, she explained. With competitive judging, there is a prize for first place, second place and so on. With merit-based judging, there might be 10 plants in a group, and if they’re all good plants, they could all get blue ribbons.
“This is the only plant society that does it this way,” Niemira said. “It encourages people to enter their plants.”
African violets are part of the gesneriad family, and you’ll see examples of other gesneriads in the show, too.
Tips for African violets
People often tell Niemira that they have an African violet, but it never flowers.
“I ask them if they feed it and they look at me like I have two heads,” she said.
She recommends constant feeding for African violets. Dilute fertilizer to one-quarter strength and use it every week to ten days.
You can use orchid fertilizer or tomato fertilizer, and she recommends using the different fertilizers on a rotating basis.
Watering and soil
“Most people kill an African violet by overwatering, not underwatering,” Niemira said.
You may see bags of potting mix labeled as African violet soil, but don’t use that, she said. It’s too heavy. Instead, use something like Pro-Mix, or use a mixture that is 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 perlite and 1/3 peat moss. Don’t get a mix that contains a wetting agent.
Don’t use clay pots; they hold too much moisture, she said. Use plastic pots instead.
“I don’t like the self-watering ceramic pots,” she added, “because they keep the soil too wet. The plant will drown in that.”
Get more tips on African violets
You are welcome to attend meetings of the African Violet and Gesneriad Society of Western New York; you don’t have to join, she said. The group meets on the third Tuesday of each month from September through June at Greenfield Health and Rehabilitation Facility, 5949 Broadway, Lancaster. (As I write this, the information on the group’s website is out of date and the correct meeting place is what we have here.)