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
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 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