Our Adventure With Victoria 2003 

Breakthrough! Seedling Survival
Click images to enlarge

We keep saying that Victoria is not an easy plant to grow and it's still true. The requirements of adult plants for light, heat and nutrients can be tricky but that's not where the main problems have been. Difficulty of germination of seeds has been solved with fresher seeds, better storage and, above all, "nicking" hard-to-start lots. The BIG problem has been getting seedlings from sprouts to teenagers.

Over the years, growers have been faced with "melt", "burn", failure to thrive and many other maladies peculiar to Victoria. Our personal survival rate was less than 1% of seedlings healthy enough to plant. On rare occasions a particular individual would show us what seedling growth could and should look like, making our general failure all the more frustrating.

Continual experimentation, by us and by others interested in Victoria, has gradually shown us the absolute essentials. Without EACH and EVERY ONE of these aspects attended to properly, success with seedlings will be sheer luck.

Water that is 85F (29C) or higher for starting seeds and growing young seedlings

Nicking of seeds of certain varieties and lots

Water exchanges of 25% twice a week or a small flow through the aquarium or tank

Good light and good air circulation

A bland planting medium, preferably sand

Pots or cups with holes in the bottom

A specially designed nutrient package given weakly weekly, preferably the Cocktail

The final ABSOLUTE essential is peat, a small layer in the bottom of the cups or pots. We don't know why it works but we know without question that it does. We know that peat acts as an acidifier, though this may not be a factor in some soils. We speculate that it somehow acts as a buffer. It's also possible that peat retains some of the antibiotic properties attributed to sphagnum moss, peat's geologic predecessor. Regardless, in combination with the other essentials above, it has brought our survival rate to 80% of seedlings planted at the proper time (with hastate leaves and roots but not left in the bags too long).

We have tried mixing peat through our soil (sand) rather than putting it on the bottom of the cups. Mixing it tends to blacken the hastate leaves. Some seedlings survive this but at a far lower rate than for those with peat at the bottom. We have also tried several humate products in place of the peat and none work as well.

As mentioned in other articles, we credit Craig Presnell with the peat piece of the puzzle. For many years, he has used it with great success for his waterlilies and decided to try it with Victoria seedlings in the winter of 2003. The proof was clearly visible in his results compared with ours. We adopted it and now have wonderful results ourselves.

In discussion with Craig, we also found we agree on the necessity of using the cocktail to feed seedlings. Some growers think it's too complicated to bother with and lose their seedlings. Others go to the trouble and their seedlings survive if the other conditions are met. We don't want to be dogmatic but we do want to pass on what our combined experience is telling us. See Roots Again.

 Seedlings photgraphed and
temperature averages
January 2004

Tank 1 - 86-87F
Tank 2 - 81-82F

Tank 3 - 68-78F

Tank 5 - 62-80F

'Adventures' in Tank 4
Average 62-72F

Duneside Tank 4 is 4' x 16' x 16" and heated with two 150W submersible aquarium heaters.

 Our Adventure 2003

 We Like It Like This

 Breakthrough! Seedling Survival

 Roots Again - Incentive to use the Cocktail

 A New Take On Victoria Species Germination &
Will The Real cruziana Please Stand Up

 1998 The Adventure Begins | 1999 The Adventure Continues
2000 A Very Bad Year | 2001 A Banner Year
2002 An Even Better Year
2003 We Like It Like This | 2004 Trust | 2005 Recovery
2006 Normal? | 2007 Weird | 2008 Year of the Hare
2009 Year of the (White) Tortoise

 Our Adventure Overview
Index to all years

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