Flowering Plants For House Conditions
( Originally Published 1923 )
A window garden without some flowering plants would be monotonous, but in the majority of cases palms and other plants grown for their foliage will be the more easily managed. The constant change added to the living room by the growing of some flowering plants will, however, more than repay for any trouble one may be put to in order to have good specimens.
In addition to the plants mentioned in other chapters the following plants may be grown in the house with reasonable ease.
FOR SUNLESS WINDOWS
Next to the geranium I believe the fibrous begonias will give most satisfaction. They are easily grown, and will remain in bloom for long periods, the plant producing new clusters of flowers as the old ones begin to fade. The flowers, according to the kind, range from red through pink to white and are quite showy, particularly the red ones.
The showiest begonia for the house is the coral begonia (B. coccinea), but almost universally known in the trade as B. rubra or B. maculata, var. corallina. If planted out in the greenhouse it will grow eight to ten feet in height, but in pot culture one can expect a plant having a reasonable amount of care to grow from eighteen inches to three feet in height. The stems are bright green, and are very stiff and upright, giving the plant a rather columnar habit. The leaves are from three to six inches long, and about half as wide, with wavy red margins. The flowers are about half an inch across, deep coral red in colour, and are borne in rather large clusters. In a sunny situation the plant will produce flowers during three or four of the winter months.
Another begonia, nearly as good as the coral begonia, is B. semperflorens, var. gigantea rosea. A young plant started in the late winter or early spring months will grow so fast that during the succeeding winter it will need a seven Or eight inch pot. The plant will be eighteen inches to two feet in height, and will produce many clusters of large, rosy red flowers.
Probably the best variegated foliaged begonia is B. metallica. It is a very attractive plant, either in or out of flower. The leaves are from three to six inches long, about half as wide, and the general outline is a sort of oblique heart-shape. The edges are more or less notched. The upper surface of the leaves is green shaded with bronze, giving a lustrous bronze-green effect. The large veins are depressed and very dark red, adding, naturally, to the effect. The Rowers are borne in medium-sized clusters, are quite numerous, and bluish white in colour.
As a result of crossing Begonia metallica with B. sanguinea, a beautiful hybrid (B. Thurstoni) has been produced. The leaves are much the same shape as in metallica, but are a little larger; the colouring is also similar to metallica. The flowers, which are small and rosy white, are insignificant.
There are two spotted-leaved begonias, B. albo-picta and B. argentea-guttata, either one of which is worth having. The leaves are glossy green with small, silvery-white spots. They will make plants one and one-half to two feet high.
Some of the fibrous-rooted begonias do not have stems, the leaves coming directly from woody rhizomes which grow at, or just above, the surface of the soil. There is one of this class of which I am quite fond, B. heracleifolia. The beauty Of the plant lies in its deeply divided leaves. They look like huge five or six inch pointed stars. The leaf stalks are anywhere from six to eighteen inches long, depending, of course, on the size of the plant; the leaves vary from six to twelve inches across. The upper surface is rich green, the under side reddish, and on one of its varieties the leaf stalk is covered with long, reddish, fleshy hairs.
In the late winter months the begonias produce long flower stalks which are crowned with a large cluster (often measuring six to nine inches across) of pink flowers. These will last in good condition for a long time.
Another of these begonias which is sure to be a success is the so-called beefsteak begonia (B. sanguinea). The leaves are roundish, leathery in texture, dark green above and red below, and often measuring six to eight inches in diameter. This seems to thrive in darker places than where most begonias will grow. It is an admirable plant for a north window. In the early spring months it sends up some spikes bearing pinkish white flowers. In addition to the kinds mentioned above there is a host of others sure to do well in the house with-out going to a lot of extra work and fussing in order that they may thrive.
Begonias are easy to grow. All those having stems may be increased by cuttings. Those having rhizomes are cut into pieces about an inch or two long; these are put in the cutting bench, much as you would plant so many large seeds. A good soil is made by mixing together two parts well rotted sod, one part peat or leafmould, one part well-decayed horse manure, and one part of sand. Give ample drainage.
The best time to repot begonias is in the spring, but it may be done any time during the summer. Never attempt to do it during the winter. In summer put the plants outdoors where they will be protected from heavy winds and the midday sun. In the winter grow them in a sunny window. If the glass has an unequal surface you will need to be very careful that the foliage is not damp when the sun shines through the glass as the rays may be focussed, causing burning.
THE BEGONIA FOR WINTER FLOWER
The most popular winter-flowering begonia on the market at the present time is Gloire de Lorraine. It is, however, not the easiest to grow, even professional gardeners some-times having difficulty with it; but I have seen good specimens grown in the house. If you attempt it at all, be prepared to give special care. If it succeeds you will be amply repaid, for the plant is a mass of soft, rosy pink flowers from October until April. The best way will be to buy a plant from the florist when it is in flower, and grow it on. When the plants are through flowering in the early spring months, give them a rest, i. e., do not give them so much water; but, of course, they must never get dry. Keep them in a cool, but light place. By May they will be ready tO start into growth once more. Comparatively speaking, little growth will be made during the summer, but the plants must be kept in a shaded position. After the hot summer weather is past, they will make a rapid growth, and should be gradually inured to full sunlight. If you. are growing them in a small greenhouse or window conservatory, get them as near the glass as possible.
The best plants of this begonia are those which are started from cuttings in the early winter (December). At that time there are plenty of good healthy leaves from which to propagate and a few will not be missed. Cut off the leaf stalk to within one-quarter of an inch or so of the leaf blade, and place it in sand. A little bottom heat is better, but the leaf will root even without it. Keep the temperature of the cutting bench about 70 degrees, and the atmosphere humid by putting a sash or light glass over it. When the plants have rooted, pot them off into small pots. One of the secrets of success with this begonia is never to over-pot; when shifting advance one size at a time.
A lighter form of Gloire de Lorraine is called Turnford Hall. The flowers are light pink and white — about the shade of apple blossoms. It is well worth growing for variety. There are other varieties of this very desirable begonia that have been introduced recently. They are all sports and vary only in the color of the flower.
FUCHSIAS FOR THE PORCH
The lady's ear drops (Fuchsia) has been one of the most popular house plants for years. It is an easily grown plant, is a fast grower, will remain in bloom for several months during the winter, and does not need to be grown in the sun. A north window has sufficient light for its development. Very shapely plants can be grown without much difficulty. All that is necessary is a little pinching and the plant must be frequently turned so that all sides will have an equal amount of light.
The charm of the fuchsia is in its flowers. The most common one, F. speciosa, has a long, white, or creamy white, calyx tube, one to one and a quarter inches long, with four narrow, pointed lobes. The petals are red. There are many forms of this, both single and double, the chief point of difference being the colour, which varies to flowers having red calyx tubes and red to purple petals.
The flowers vary in length; in some it is very short, while in one variety, Earl of Beaconsfield, it is three inches long.
To get good plants for winter bloom start the old plants (which have been resting) into growth in December. By January or February, there will be plenty of new shoots from which to make new cuttings. Do not use old, hard wood or even new growth which has become hardened. Make the cutting two joints long. As soon as the cuttings have rooted, put them in two-inch pots, using a rich soil. Keep the plants growing along rapidly, shifting them to larger pots as needed, and frequently pinch out the ends of the new growth in order to produce stocky plants. These will make good plants in five or six inch pots the following fall. The fuchsia is easily grown from seed. A night temperature of about 55 degrees is needed for its best development, but if the temperature goes a few degrees lower at night, no harm will be done.
For porch decoration, or for planting in shaded places about the porch in the summer, start the plants indoors from cuttings in the fall. After flowering, the plants need a rest for several months. If this resting period is during the early spring put the plants in a cool, dry place, and withhold water; if it is during the summer, place them outdoors in a shaded place and give no water, for they will get sufficient from the summer rains to keep the wood from shrivelling too much.
Many people do not care to carry their fuchsias over from year to year, but I always do, drying them off during the summer and starting them into growth again in September. When starting into growth old plants which have been resting knock the plants out of the pots, shake out from among the roots as much of the old soil as possible, and replace in the same pots with new, rich soil. Keep the plants in a rather humid atmosphere, but do not give much water until the roots have taken hold of the new soil and growth begins to break. At the time of repotting cut back, leaving only an inch or two of the last season's growth. This is done to keep the plants small and compact.
AN EASY FAVOURITE
Another plant which will give much pleasure, and which is as easily grown as either the geranium or the fuchsia, is the so-called flowering maple (Abutilon). The common species or type is A. striatum. The leaves are thin, dark green, about three inches across, five-parted, and very closely resemble the leaf of a maple. The plant will remain in bloom all winter. The flowers are rather odd and very attractive. They are bell-shaped, about an inch and a half across, borne on long, drooping pedicles, and are red or orange, marked with many brownish-red veins. The stamens are borne in a large bunch on the end of a column which is as long as the petals. A larger, stronger-growing kind is A. Thompsoni, in which the leaves are only three-parted, and mottled with lighter green and yellow. The flowers are yellow or orange, with red veins.
In addition to these there are many named kinds in the trade, the most common of which are Savitzii and Souvenir de Bonn. They are used chiefly as bedding plants in the summer, but may be grown for foliage during the winter. Species can be grown readily from seed, but it is hardly worth the trouble, because they are so easily increased by green-wood cuttings taken at any time of the year.
The best results, however, will be had from spring struck cuttings. The abutilon is so easily grown that the old plants may be thrown away as soon as they get ungainly, and new plants started. They can be kept small enough for the window, however, if occasionally cut back.
The best yellow-flowered plant for early winter bloom is the yellow flax (Reinwardtia trigyna, but almost always spoken of among gardeners as Linum trigynum). The plants grow nine inches to a foot high, and are quite symmetrical. The bright yellow flowers are from one to one and a quarter inches across, and stand out in sharp contrast against the beautiful dark green foliage.
The yellow flax is not a difficult plant to grow if one can give it a night temperature of 55 or 60 degrees, and lots of sunlight; it will not succeed in windows having but few or no direct rays from the sun. If you wish to grow your own plants, it is easily done. They can be raised from seed, or from cuttings. Make cuttings from the growths which start from the base of the plants; cuttings taken from top growths have a tendency to flower prematurely.
Do this in the late winter or early spring, when the plants are through flowering, and plant them out during the summer. Such plants will be large enough for a five or six inch pot in late August or early September. When lifting the yellow flax, be very careful as it resents much disturbance of the roots.
SOME UNUSUAL BULBS
No window garden would be complete without some bulbous plants like amaryllis, calla, etc. The common calla (Richardia Africana) has been a favourite house plant for years, but, unfortunately, it has not always bloomed satisfactorily. The calla is a gross feeder, so needs rich soil. Let it contain, if possible, about one-third of well-rotted horse manure and the balance of rotted sod with enough sand to make good drainage. I believe it is the summer treatment of the bulbs which, to a large degree, determines whether the plants will flower or not. If water is withheld from them, the pots laid over on their sides in a dry, shaded place, so that the bulbs may rest, amateurs will have no trouble about non-flowering during the winter. . Start the bulbs into growth in September. At first give them one good watering (which will be sufficient until the roots have started growth), and place the pots in a warm window. Until the plants are in good growth, water sparingly; after that, copious amounts of water will be needed until late in the following spring or early summer, when the bulbs are to be dried off again. The Little Gem calla is a dwarf form — twelve to sixteen inches high — which is well worth cultivation in the window.
There are several kinds of calla in the trade besides the common one. The best of these is the golden calla (Richardia Elliottiana), a summer blooming kind. Keep the bulbs over winter in a cellar, or other convenient place, in a temperature of 45 degrees. In April pot into rich soil and give a watering. For the following week or two they can be left in any cool, dark place, such as in the cellar, or under a bench, until the roots have started. Having once started, the plants will make a rapid growth and come into bloom in ten or twelve weeks. The habit is the same as that of the common calla. The foliage is a rich, dark green. The plants produce seed quite freely.
Another very popular bulbous plant is the amaryllis, or rather the hippeastrum. The most popular, and the one that will best withstand the conditions of house culture, is Johnsoni, a garden hybrid. This has been cross-fertilized times innumerable, so that now one may secure varieties in almost any shade of red. The lily-like trumpets are four to five inches across, and are borne on stems eighteen inches to two feet high. The best named varieties arrive from abroad in November. They cannot be secured before because the bulbs must be thoroughly ripened before shipping. Very good American grown bulbs can be secured about a month earlier, however.
As soon as received pot the bulbs in a good soil composed of three parts rotted sod, two parts well-decayed horse manure, and one part of sand. Allow the bulbs to lie dormant until along in January, when, if they are good, strong bulbs, they will flower. As soon as the flower bud is seen emerging from the bulb put the plant in a window where it can get plenty of sunlight and water.
The plants flower before much leaf-growth is made, that developing after the flowering season. During the period of growth water the soil once or twice a week with manure water. When all danger of frost is past plunge the potted plants out-doors in coal ashes, soil, or anything else handy, to prevent the rapid evaporation of water through the pots. When the leaves begin to turn yellow it is a sign that the bulbs are ripening. Then gradually withhold water and when they are ripe store them in a cool, dry place until the flower scapes begin to push out of the soil the following winter.
THE BLUE AFRICAN LILY
Agapanehus umbellatus has many long, narrow, dark leaves, from among which rises a stem two or three feet high, bearing a large umbel of very handsome blue flowers. Unlike the amaryllis, it flowers with its leaves, which adds to its beauty. The easiest way to handle it is to grow it in pots or tubs which are stored in a light cellar or other dry place during the winter. During the resting period give the plant just enough water to prevent the leaves from falling. In the spring, when danger of frost is past, the plants are put Outdoors to flower and make their growth.
The agapanthus is, however, easily forced into bloom at other seasons of the year, for the flowering season is controlled by the resting period. The earlier you wish it to flower, the earlier you dry it off; and then it does not have to rest all winter if the growth was made outdoors the previous summer, for it can be brought into the window after the turn of the year, and started into growth. When once established, the plants need not be repotted for several years if they are fed with manure water during the period of growth. The blood flower (Haemanthus) requires the same treatment.
AN EVERGREEN BULB
Clivia (Ciminiata, or Imantophyllum miniatum) is an evergreen bulbous plant, well worth growing for the beauty of its dark green foliage. It flowers during the spring or early summer months. The flowers are funnel-shaped, as in the amaryllis, and are bright red with a yellow throat, and about three inches across. Pot in a strong, well-drained soil, which will not wear out for a couple of years, and which will not become sodden or sour; for it is not necessary to repot it each year. During the winter store the Clivia in a light, cool place, the temperature of which does not go below 40 degrees; under such conditions it needs but little water.
Some other plants which the window gardener can' grow with comparative ease, and from which a great deal of pleasure can be had, are:
Shrubs: Acacia armata, flowers yellow; succeeds under the same treatment as is given azaleas. Chinese hibiscus (H. Rosa-Sinensis), flowers red; but there are several varieties the colourings of which vary to salmon and pink. Sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans, but known in the trade as Olea fragrans), very small white flowers which emit a very delightful odour. Swainsona galegifolia, and its varieties albifora and violacea; flowers red, white, or rose-violet respectively.
Herbaceous plants: Lantana, Strobilanthes anisophyllus, and coral plant (Russelia juncea), which is good for edging boxes, etc.
Vines: Clerodendron Balfouri; Maylayan jasmine (Rhynchospermum jasminoides); Potato vine (Solanum jasminoides); Stephanotis floribunda, and the Wax plant (Hoya carnosa).
Annuals tO be grown from seeds or cuttings each year: Monkey flower (Mimulus tigrinus); stocks, wallflower (Cheiranthus Cheiri); sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica).
For summer flowers in the house grow tuberous rooted begonias. These must be started in March, and in September, when the bulbs have ripened, store in a cool, dry place.
A word of encouragement may be wise here: While the soil recommendations given in the preceding pages are sound, and desirable for the best results, still the plant lover need not forego the pleasure of his favourites because the exact conditions cannot be sup-plied. With intelligent care and loving attention much is often accomplished with very ordinary soils indeed. Therefore I say, try with the best approach to the ideal that you can have.