Auricula basics

A Quick Q&A History of Auriculas
by Duane Buell

 

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How long have auriculas been in cultivation?
Possibly 500 years or more.

How hardy are auriculas?
Auriculas are exceptionally cold tolerant. Their weakness is that they do not tolerate heat or excessive moisture well. In most areas they are considered to be a shade or partial shade plant.

Can auriculas be grown in the open garden?
This answer is a qualified yes. If you have an area of your yard where fuchsias and begonias will grow without being sun burnt, it is probably worthwhile to try some auriculas, but be sure to read further.

What are the soil requirements for auriculas?
Auriculas thrive in a moist, well drained soil. They do not tolerate acidity and want neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Growers generally add grit in the form of coarse sand and/or fine gravel to their potting or garden soil.

Why are so many references made to growing auriculas in a greenhouse, under glass or in a trough if they do well outdoors?
There are a lot of types and sizes of auriculas. Plants that are grown for show must be protected from the weather at all costs. Many of the plants have a coating of farina (a white or yellowish meal) that is important to their show worthiness. If this farina is touched by rain, it can destroy the appearance of a flower or plant. It is also a sad fact that many of the show auriculas have virtually had the hardiness bred out of them so they require considerable extra attention. A trough for many gardeners is an excellent way to provide a unique environment for plants that may not otherwise fit into one's garden. With a trough it is a simple matter to offer plants a different soil mix, different drainage, different moisture and even different shade than immediately surrounding plants.

What is meant by a "thrum" or a "pin" in reference to the auricula?
These terms are referring to the anther and the pistil of the flower. The thrum is a plant where the anthers are prominently visible and the pistil is recessed as one looks directly at the flower. A pin is a plant where the pistil is prominently visible and the anthers are recessed. The terms are particularly relevant to those who are growing or breeding plants for show as pins are not allowed on the bench for judging. Frankly, the flowers can be equally pretty, and in the garden, it doesn't matter whether one is looking at a thrum or a pin.

 

 

Where do I start?
It is safe to say that most folks are first taken by auriculas after seeing pictures of some of the show plants. It is probably best for beginners to look for plants labeled as "garden" or "border" auriculas. These can be show quality plants also, but they tend to be hardier and easier to care for.

Where do I find auricula plants?
Auriculas can occasionally be found in larger garden centers, but it is most likely that they will be found at specialist nurseries and garden sales if they are grown in your area. If you have the pioneer spirit, there are sources for plants and seeds listed on the links page. Also, the American Primrose Society makes seeds available to members through a seed exchange program. It generally is not necessary to be a seed donor to take advantage of the exchange programs.

Will auriculas come true from seeds?
Seeds from nearly all auriculas will be hybrids and can come up as virtually any color combination. A seedling from a named variety cannot be called by the name of either of the parent plants, no matter how closely it may resemble the parent.

 

Where can I find more information?
Join our Members' Forum. Most questions are answered very quickly by folks that are actually involved in growing auriculas.

 



 

Trouble Shooting Auriculas
by Terry Mitchell, APS and NAPS
(This article was written in response to a question posed in a discussion group.)

 

It is very difficult to give a satisfactory answer to the problems you are having without seeing and inspecting the plants and the situation you are growing them in. Although you gave a lot of information about your problem there are some important points you didn't mention which could help to give a better idea of what is going wrong.

You say you grew your Auriculas in the first 24 feet inside the door of your greenhouse. You also say the door is kept open while you are working in there at least 8 hours a day. Does the greenhouse have side vents and roof vents? Are these kept open in all but severe weather? Just having a door open would not give anything like enough ventilation, and I believe this is possibly causing the botrytis you are getting.

Heating is not necessary for Auriculas. They must, however, have a good movement of fresh air around the plants, even if it is cold or freezing air.

The yellowing of the leaves is normal through late autumn and the winter. If you are removing these leaves as soon as they start to yellow you will more than likely be damaging the carrot (meaning the main stem of the auricula) and the leaf joint on the carrot of the leaf above. This will cause that leaf to start yellowing; it is a vicious circle.

You say you finish up with long carrots and very little foliage. The leaves should only be removed through the winter if they have dried up and gone papery in texture, or if they go thin and wet and are then a threat to the plant from botrytis.

When new growth gets under way in early spring, the plants with long carrots can be carefully eased out of the pot, hopefully keeping the root ball intact. Some compost should be gently teased from the bottom of the root ball and the plant carefully lowered back into the same pot. It will now sit lower in the pot and fresh compost should be used to fill the pot back up. This will cover the long unsightly carrot and cause new roots to form from the carrot at a higher level. It is normal practice for the lower roots and carrot to die to some extent in any case.

Overwatering kills far more Auriculas through the winter than underwatering. The compost should be kept just damp, and any watering should be carried out on the best weather days possible for the winter. Watering is best done early in the day to give time for any careless splashes of water on foliage, etc. to dry before nightfall (another source of botrytis).

The compost you use for Auriculas is crucial and has to be very open. A good loam based or John Innes type compost with plenty of sharp grit and sharp sand added is called for. This stimulates good strong healthy root growth. If you tap a plant out of its pot you should see strong, healthy white roots running right through the root ball. If all the roots are brown and soggy and rotting it is a good sign that you are overwatering or the compost is not open enough. Peat based composts are not suitable for Auriculas  as they retain too much moisture.

You say the flowers never last more than 2 to 4 days before collapsing. Unless you have vine weevils, or some other pests in the pot damaging or eating roots, it again sounds to me like overwatering, the wrong type of compost, or a combination of both.

The problem with the double vulgaris seems to bear out the fact that you are not getting good air movement round your plants. The mummified buds can occur if you are getting water on them or the plant, or if they are growing in damp stagnant air. This also leads to the botrytis that you mention follows the mummified bud stage.

I hope this helps you to eliminate the problems you are having. As I said, it is difficult to make a  satisfactory answer without seeing the problem first hand. Please let us know how things go.

 


 

 

From the Archives: Quarterly of the American Primrose Society, Vol. 11, Summer 1953, page 18

 

Care of the Carrot - Mrs. Ben Torpen, Woodland Acres, Beaverton, Oregon

 

Now is the time when all Auricula lovers are concerned with repotting, and care of their plants for next year’s bloom.

 

The use of clean sterile posts is a prime requisite in repotting and cannot be stressed too often. Any simple household disinfectant may be used such as Purex or Clorox, and with the aid of a good brush or sponge the required number of pots may be cleaned and sterilized in record time.

 

At this time, the success of growing depends on what happens to the carrot or the root of the plant. Many times the carrot will thrust itself above the level of the old pot and must be cut off to fit into the new one. When this happens, do not hesitate to cut off the bottom portion in order to bring the plant down to the desired level in the new pot, being sure to sterilize the wound. Flowers of Sulphur or charcoal may be used. If there is any question of pests on the roots as dusting with some good insecticide is advisable after the roots have been thoroughly washed.

 

If there are offsets to be removed, take them off gently, being sure to sterilize both the carrot of the mother plant and the offset.

 

Offsets planted around the mother plant root more quickly. They may also be left on the carrot until they form roots of their own. This is the safest method for those who hesitate to take off unrooted offsets.

 

After the plants have been repotted in the mixture of your choice, water thoroughly, until the water runs from the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. Drainage must be sharp always, and the care taken to insure this, plus cleanliness and good ventilation for the plants means a good healthy carrot and success in Auricula culture.

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