Culture of Trailers
By Nancy Robitaille

Trailers have been evolving gradually since 1957 when they were first hybridized.

Saintpaulia grotei, a species which was unique in its climbing habit in the wild needed support. Grown in the average home conditions, it trailed instead of climbing without this support and became somewhat popular.

S. grotei has round leaves that are slightly spooned with medium green, deeply serrated edges, and the leaf stems, (petioles) are thin, dark, brown and flexible.It produces a small medium blue flower with slightly darker center and is not particularly an attractive plant in itself. But the species possessed enough fascinating qualities to keep it of interest to hybridizers of the day.

The first hybrid trailer was made with S. grotei which produced "Sailor Girl,"which was not an outstanding plant. Frank and Anne Tinari produced hundreds of seedlings that were analyzed but none were proven of exceptional beauty. Most exhibited small flowers about the size of a dime. Colors were all shades of blue.
Just one seedling, "Wild Girl" was selected from that generation to be used in further hybridizing pursuits. The foliage of "Sailor Girl" had an interesting toothed edge and white spot at the base known as "girl type" foliage. (The firstgirl foliage plant was Blue Girl, discovered by C. Ulery in 1941.)

Wild Girl was not a trailer but it was floriferous and had the unusual girl foliage. It offered to the hybridizers, Anne and Frank Tinari, a promise of possibilities through further efforts.

When Wild Girl and S. grotei were crossed, actually a back cross, seedlings showed the climbing, or indeed, the trailing habit, with larger flowers and a more exciting color range. The seedlings were evaluated on the basis of floriferousness, color and trailing characteristics.

In 1954, Frank and Anne Tinari registered the first trailers with the AVSA and offered them in catalogs. There were six varieties exhibited for the first time at the National AVSA Convention Show in St. Louis.

At that first introduction of the new type of plant, the trailers were almost ignored by the public. That was the year Lyndon Lyon introduced the first double pink flowers on African violets. Everyone at the convention went crazy for the double pink and the new trailing form of African violets went by the wayside."Everyone was obsessed with pink and perfection," recalled Anne Tinari. Perhaps had trailers been introduced either before or after the excitement about the double pink, trailers would have been received with more interest and with the gratitudethey deserved.

At this show in 1954, the following trailers were exhibited:
"Sky Trailer, was a soft pale sky gray-blue plant with double flowers.
"Royal Blue Trailer" had deep purple flowers and attractive green foliage with red reverse. It had single to semi-double blossoms with a bright yellow eye.
"Snow Trailer" had glistening white blossoms of good form and size, sometimes lightly tinged in blue.
"Star Trailer," one of Anne Tinari's favorites had blue two-tone blossoms.

Some of these varieties are still available today.

Because of the popularity of hanging plants, trailing violets have shown increased popularity.

The trailers had been overlooked at the convention and the Tinaris were discouraged with the lack of public response so they decided to"scrap" the idea of a trailer and to move on to other hybridizing pursuits.

Ten years passed and still no one showed interest in trailers. Then Lyndon Lyon began a project to capture the trailing quality of the species trailer.

In 1966, Lyon crossed S. grotei with "Tiny Rose," a pink miniature  violet. The  best seedling of this cross was crossed again with standard "Hello Dolly," but the second generation, named "Pink Angel" trailed very little.

Time inched by. Lyon finally attained his goal with "Violet Trail," which was a blue single star with circular foliage twelve inches across and which trailed with success over the sides of a pot, thus producing a sturdy trailer conveniently cascading so that it could be used in a hanging basket.

Having developed the trailing "mold" he could then create other hybrids with the cascading habit and with larger and more varied colors of bloom. It was still necessary to back cross to "Violet Trail" frequently to retain the trailing foliage, but normal experimentation could bring about the lovely colors and the different type blooms. Demand and support arose from the public and the market was flooded with new standard trailers.

Henry C. Peterson, a commercial grower, had a very small species called S.magungensis minima which seemed to possess some characteristics of the trailer.This plant was sent to Lyon for research and with the tiny plant, semi-miniatureand miniature trailers could be produced.

The S magungensis minima possesses a growth habit similar to S grotei, but this smaller plant had very small leaves on shorter petioles and petite flowers of a deeper violet blue.

Lyon crossed S magungensis minima with a standard pink trailer, then recrossed the hybrid onto other pink trailers. The result was seedling trailers with one-inch leaves which extended eight inches across the pot. Included in these semi-miniature hybrids was a pale violet, "Happy Trails" and a single blue called "Pixie Blue,"the latter of which I personally have had excellent results with the leaves producing babies and the plantlets producing flowers in record time.

Lyon crossed S. magungensis minima with very tiny leaved violet producing trailers of a miniature size.

In 1974 miniatures trailers were first produced. Miniature trailers are intriguing because so much happens in such a small space. Growers must endeavor to keep the spread of the foliage in balance with size of flower.

"Mohawk Trail" spreads in a six-inch circle possessing one-inch flowers keeping the size of flowers in balance with the spread of foliage.

Micro-miniature trailers were soon hybridized with leaves as tiny as the fingernailof a baby.  The root system of micro-miniature trailer, "Pip Squeek" could easily fit into a demi-tasse cup.

Harold Rienhardt, hybridizing friend of Lyndon Lyon, worked with the trailer to produce a hybrid which carried the white variegated foliage of standard plant,Tommie Lou.  The first variegated trailers were standard trailers, "Blue Star Lou" and "Pink Star Lou."  Succeeding crosses produced "Lora Lou" and "Lucky Lou"which were semi-miniatures.

Semi-trailing Trailers:

When trailers were introduced, some had an unusual half-trailing habit. These semi-trailers are now almost a thing of the past. When choosing a trailer we learned not to buy the semi-trailers which did not trail well at all but rather just grew off to one side and not completely around the pot.  There are still semi-trailers around but it would be difficult to find them.

Culture of all Trailers in general:

Trailers may be grown near a window, on a shady porch, or under lights.

1.    Never allow them to dry out.
2.    Do not over water.
3.    Hang in natural light or at the end of light fixtures.
4.    Regular fertilizer is important.  Foliar feeding is welcomed.

Standard trailers should be pinched out. Leaves which are either larger or smaller than most of the plant should be taken out, as well. It is often necessary on standard trailers to pinch out the centers of each of the heads in order to encourage bushiness or more crowns. If one crown develops larger or smaller leaves than the majority the leaves or even the entire crown should be pinched out.

Basically, trailers need the same or almost the same culture as all African violets, with a few exceptions.  Both need the following:

1.    Same type of repotting techniques
2.    Watering
3.    Lighting
4.    Fertilizing
5.    Pest control.

A trailer's first pot usually is the 2 ¼ (two and one-quarter) pot. A miniature trailer may spend its entire life in this size pot or in one near this size. Semi-miniature or standard trailers would of course be placed immediately in a three-or-four-inch pot. As the trailer grows the pot size should grow with it, keeping it in proportion.

Because of its low spreading root stem, the trailer should never need more than a squatty pot four inches deep, but this pot may be a ten inch pot, four inches deep. Standard trailers should do well in large squatty pots or hanging baskets.

Basket grown standard trailers are very attractive. Mini or semi- mini trailers will of course be too large for show if not confined.  According to Judges Handbook, 1998, page 55….trailers are not restricted to size. So a small standard trailer could be entered in a show in a small pot and a large semi-miniature trailer could be entered in a very large pot. Proportion is the key.

Form (according to variety……..25 points
Condition (cultural perfection)…25 points
Quantity of bloom………………25 points
Size and type of blossom……….15 points
Color of blossom………………..10 points

"Trailers are judged on form rather than on symmetry. To be considered for a blue ribbon, a trailer must have at least three crowns growing from the central stem."Points are deducted for a plant with less than three crowns.

"Condition (cultural perfection) The size of the plant should be in proportion to the size of the container. Trailers are not restricted to size…

"Size of the leaves should be consistent…

"Blooms should be spaced evenly around the plant and from all three main crowns."

Soil mix is the same as for standard African violets. For lighting, trailers do equally well on east or west facing windowsills (note that these should be turned frequently to encourage bloom on all crowns) or under florescent bulbs. They should be protected with sheer curtains form midday sun.

Under lights, trailers need the same hours as standards, 10-12 hours per day. They should be approximately 8-12 inches from the lights.

As with standard violets, temperatures range from 65-80 degrees F. (18-27 degrees C.) with a five degree farenheight (3 degree C.) drop during the night. Variegated trailers should be kept cooler-not higher than 75 degrees F (24 degrees C.). To keep good variegation, place variegated violets on lower shelves as with standards.

Temperatures below 60 degrees F. (16 degrees C) will slow up growth for all size trailers. Heat exceeding eighty degrees F. make foliage droop and buds will blast before blooming.

Water as with any violet using warm water. Avoid splashing leaves (however, occasional washing of leaves will remove dust particles.) Watering may be directly onto soil, top watering,  capillary matting or by wick method approximately every 7-10 days. Plants should be watered once each month directly onto soil to clear up salts accumulation. Remember, a small pot will need more frequently watering than a larger one. When over watered, petioles will become brown and mushy. Under watering and dryness for any length of time may stunt the plant or even destroy it.

Trailers can absorb humidity sitting on pebble trays or by misting. Air should circulate freely among all violets.

Fertilizing is similar to standard violets. A good balanced fertilizer is recommended. Keep in mind that trailers need slightly heavier feeding to avoid yellowing of leaves. Another point to remember is that when misting trailers with diluted fertilizer, the plant absorbs much more of the fertilizer than when watered eitherby soil or by wick.

Ramblin' Lassie (has girl type foliage)

Fallin snow, photo by Robitaille

Rob's Sailor Bill

Honeysuckle Rose

Becon Trail, photo by Beca

Pixi Blue, photo by Cajun Kisses

Teeny Bopper

Kissaway Trail, photo by Cajun Kisses

Chanta Spring, photo by Violets4you

Pacific Pearl, photo by Cajun Kisses

Rob's Humpty Doo, photo by Cajun Kisses

Tiny Wood Trail

Milky Way Trail, photo by Cajun Kisses

Hawaiian Trail

Alan's Fallen Angel

Flashy Trail

Lil Runaround
A Few Popular Trailers:
Mellow Trail-pink
Gypsy Trail, pink
Adirondack Trail, pink
Chisholm Trail, blue fantasy and variegated
Moody Blues blue and white
Lucky Lou blue variegated foliage
Treasure Trail. pink
Jet Trail, blue
Oregon Trail, purple
Happy Trail, fuchsia
Freedom Trail, fuchsia
Trail's Delight, pink
Kartuz Number 1, pink
Trails Away, orchid
Star Trail, purple
Pixie Pink, pink
Pixie Blue, blue
Rusty's Trail, red
Tiny Blue Bells, blue
Pip Squeek. pink
Snowy Trail, white
Tucson Trail, pink 
Trail Along, pink
Confetti Trail, fantasy

And hundreds of others. Check your Best Variety List for more suggestions.

According to an older copy of the Handbook for Growers, Exhibitors and Judges,it states that:

1.)  Older varieties--this is the first varieties produced-- do better at the ends of the light garden, but newer varieties need good light.

2.)  That trailers require constant feeding.

3.)  That trailers should have the centers pinched out except for semi-trailingvarieties

4.)  That trailers are judged on form rather than symmetry.

Standard size trailers should have at least three main crowns from one central stalk, with only one plant in the pot. Points should be deducted if plant has less than three crowns. And flowers should be located on each of the three or more crowns for full points.

Semi-miniature and miniature trailers should be judged on form rather than symmetry,and these are not restricted to size. That is, a mini trailer does not have to be less than six inches across.

Most trailers are very floriferous. Whatever the trailer's size, it should have a pot in proportion to the plant.

Minature or semi-miniature trailers will develop larger leaves if put into large pot or hanging basket, but this does not change the classification.

Trailers can put out a few larger crowns. If most of the plant is small crowned, the larger crowns should be pinched off. If a large leaved trailer throws out some small leaved crowns, these should be removed. The size of the leaves should be consistent all over the plant.

Foliage Training

Work at increasing suckers rather than removing them as with standard violets.

A trailer baby will look like a standard violet baby but as it grows, sucker type growths will appear. These are called "rabbit's ears," a potential new crown.

The baby trailer is too weak to support this additional growth until the plant itself establishes a firm base. Rub off these small suckers that appear on the baby trailer until the baby develops eight full grown leaves.

When the baby develops this size, we might call it a "starter plant" and the rules change. At this point, the grower can pinch off tiny leaves sprouting from the center point of the crown. When pinching, be careful not to damage the bases of the remaining foliage. You must leave on at least four leaves to provide nourishment for the root system. Note that the semi-trailers, if still grown SHOULD NOT be pinched.

On standard trailers pinching should be continued throughout the lifetime of the plant to encourage branching and lush growth. The newer mini and semi-mini trailers,for the most part trail very well on their own. Cascading branches may be pinned down until the pot is filled.  There should be no bare stems showing.

Any mature leaf can produce a new sucker at its base. Usually two to thee suckers will actually grow from a single pinch. Some leaves will never produce suckers,and a few may turn yellow and drop off. When the crowns thicken and form leaves,pinch them regularly, thus attaining many crowns to form the single trailing plant.

Keep the center of the trailer open to the light to give leaf and flower growth.This would involve the removal of all suckers and some leaves that grow at the center of the pot. You might insert toothpicks in the soil on each side of the crowns to keep them from running together.

Trailer Propagation

The trailer may be divided at its roots, creating two separate plants from one. However, another method is even more simple. A mature sucker my be cut off, then rooted in vermiculite.

When taking a mature crown for propagation, detach a six-leaf crown and remove leaves from crown's lowest inch. Scrape surface to stimulate root production, dust cut in with fermate if desired (against disease) or with rooting hormone. Then plant in your regular soil mix or in vermiculite.

The crown may be placed in a plastic sack for humidity. Provide air holes. After four weeks, the plastic should be removed.

As with the standard violets, leaves from the trailer will root very quickly. Keep rooting leaves out of direct sunlight and water from the bottom to prevent rot before roots may be formed. Babies may be seen within six to eight weeks,sometimes earlier.


Trailers like all AVs are susceptible to pests. Trailers have many wholringleaves and provide protection for many pests such as foliar mealy bug. Growers should inspect trailers frequently.

Cyclamen mites cause yellow spots on leaves and petioles and will cause leaves and flowers to be deformed. Some mites build silky webs under leaves. You might place a sheet of white paper under leaves and shake the plant. If red or beigespecks fall onto the paper, it is quite probable that the plant has mites. Trailers also show the same symptoms when an infection occurs. Isolate immediately.One cure for mites that has been recommended is to dip the root ball and the entireplant into hot water 115 degrees F. (44 degrees C.) for 15 minutes. Then spray with Kelthane or Avid once a week for three weeks.

Anne and Frank Tinari and Lyndon Lyon are to be commended on this exciting type of African violet. It provides long lasting pleasure and once established requires a minimum of care.
Happy trails to you!!


Freckle Trail

Fairy Fountain, photo by VioletFarmer

Jeanette's Party Hat

Lamb's Ear, photo by Kajun Kisses

Cirelda, photo by Vivkay

Champagne Pink

Alegro Appalacian Trail
A Few Interesting Trailers

Bicentennial Trail: (Lyon) pink double standard trailer

Crafty Farmer: (Lyon) blue semi-double standard trailer

Fancy Trail: (Lyon) pink double variegated standard trailer

Tinari's Geneva Trailer: (1954,Tiniari) blue and white single variegated standard trailer

Pixie Blue: (Lyon) purplish blue single. Mimiature trailer

Sky Trailer: (Fisher) blue with white edge standard trailer

Trail Along: (Lyon) bright pink miniature trailer

Cirelda: (Tracey) pink two-tone double stars semi-miniature trailer

Baby Brian: (Tracey) pale baby blue single semi-miniature trailer

Rob's Sticky Wicket: Light fuchia semi-miniature trailer

Rob's Boolaroo: Pink/blue fantasy semi-miniature trailer

Rob's Wooloomooloo: Pink semi-miniature trailer

Sweet Amy Sue: (Harris) Pink/blue fantasy standard trailer

Fancy Fountains: (Fredette) pink/blue fantasy

Edited 1 time by jancarol Apr 9 12 10:19 PM.