N A P S Northern Section

                                   Auricula Culture        

                                 After the Newbottle Show!

Now that we have had the pleasure of our auriculas this season, the time has come to prepare for next years display. Hopefully by now you will have made some crosses in the hope of raising "a winner" and you will be keeping an eye on the seed pods, hoping to see them begin to swell. Many growers- especially in the North like to re-pot their plants at this time of year although others do just as well by leaving the task until late-August. The reasoning is to get the plant settled into new compost and producing a healthy root system before the summer heat arrives and so ready to make good growth in late summer and autumn.

A quick word about composts and pots. Satisfactory results will be obtained with proprietary composts, John Innes No.2 with added horticultural grit has proved a successful growing medium over the years. Some like a mixture of J.I.No.2 and soil-less compost with extra grit. The compost does need to drain well and not become waterlogged. Most growers today use plastic pots. In these the compost does not dry out as quickly as in clay pots and so the watering requirement throughout the summer is reduced.

Re-potting is not to be confused with "potting on". If you have been growing auriculas for a year or two you should have young plants at the 12-18 month stage in 3 inch pots ready to move on into a 3.5inch pot. Such plants need "potting on" and it is a simple matter to knock the plant from its old pot, remove the flower truss and stem (if present), trim and tidy up the root ball, place into the new pot and fill round with fresh compost.

Text Box: Preparation of a young plant for potting on in to a 3.5 inch pot

The re-potting process is for mature plants which may be several years old and which have flowered this season and involves removing most of the old roots. Take the old plant from its pot and using a stick or some other blunt pointed implement scrape the old compost away from the roots. If there are offsets, remove them and put them to one side.

The carrot should be apparent now and if you look carefully you will notice that new roots are growing from the top. Cut through the carrot below where these new roots are growing and discard the mass of old root. Cover the freshly exposed tissue with sulphur or some other fungicide - also where any offsets were taken.

 Half fill the pot with fresh compost and with the roots spread out fill round them until the pot is full. Some growers like to re-pot into a 3 inch pot at this stage and move on into a 3.5 inch pot in the autumn. Any offsets taken may be potted into fresh compost- the usual method is to grow several around the edge of a small pot or pan according to how many there are.

Re-potted plants are now given a thorough watering and it is a good idea at this point to take some precaution against vine weevil. Provado is widely used now but some may prefer to use the nematodes, which work well in the warmer months. Provado also protects against aphids. The plants are now placed in a cool, shady spot and they must be protected against slugs and snails. You should try to prevent them becoming waterlogged so they will need some protection from heavy rain. However do not let them dry out if we experience a long spell of hot weather. Auriculas do not like strong sunshine for any length of time- any you expose quickly turn pale and look sickly. If the plants get too hot then the new roots will "cook". After about a month you should, upon inspection, find that a new root system is developing and your re-potted plants have crossed the first hurdle on their way to next season. As ever the auricula grower must be vigilant- you cannot expect neglected plants to produce good results.

Article & photographs by Bob Taylor

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