Bulbs furnish one of the most satisfactory classes of winter-blooming
house plants, especially for city houses and apartments where conditions
are not apt to favor the longevity of plants.
They may be considered in two classes:--the forcing bulbs, such as
narcissus and freesia, and
those given natural conditions of growth in pots, such as amaryllis or callas. Most of the forcing bulbs are included in what florists term the "Dutch" and "Cape" bulbs. They may be had in a succession of bloom from Thanksgiving to Easter, and yet all the work is done at one time. The task of bringing them to bloom is an easy one. If you want to have the enjoyment of attending to the whole process yourself, procure your supply of bulbs from a reliable seed store, or order by mail. The bulbs should be firm and plump. The easiest to grow and the most satisfactory are hyacinths, tulips, narcissus and freesia. They can be grown in pots, but success will be more certain with small boxes four to six inches deep and any size up to the regular "flat" (about 13x22 inches), according to the number you wish in bloom at one time. All the paraphernalia you will need is a supply of light, rich soil (one-third old rotted manure, two-thirds rotted turf-loam is good) a few fern or bulb pans, boxes, and your bulbs. Begin operations early in October. Cover the bottoms of your pots and boxes, which should have ample drainage (see illustration) with an inch or so of coarse screenings, charcoal lumps, pot fragments or sifted coal cinders to assure good drainage. Cover this with an inch or so of soil, and put the bulbs in place, setting them firmly, right side up, and near enough almost to touch each other. The "extra size" bulbs can go a little further apart, but not more than two or three inches. Then cover over and fill with the same soil, until the bulbs are an inch or so below the surface of the potting soil. The Dutch or Cape Bulbs.--The next step is to select your storage place, where the bulbs are to be kept while making roots, and until they are wanted to flower in the house. A dark, cold, dry cellar, free from mice, will do. If this is not available use the coldframe, if you have one, or simply dig a trench, in any well drained spot, about one foot deep, and long enough to hold your boxes and pots. After placing them here give them a thorough watering, and cover with six or eight inches of soil. Cover freesias only two inches, with a light soil. If you wish to keep tabs on your plantings, use a long stake, with place for tag at the top, in each pan or box. Don't trust to your memory. Your bulbs will need no further care until they are ready to be brought in, except, on the approach of freezing weather, to cover the trench with leaves, or litter if they are kept outdoors. In four or five weeks bring in hyacinths and polyanthus narcissi. Von Thol tulips may be had in bloom by Christmas. Success will be more certain with the other tulips and large flowered narcissi if you wait until the last of November before bringing them into the house. Their growth outside will have been almost entirely root growth; the first leaves may have started, but will not be more than an inch or two high. Immediately upon bringing them in, the bulbs should be given another good watering, and from this time on should never be allowed to suffer for water. When the flower spikes are half developed, a little liquid manure, or nitrate of soda, or one of the prepared plant foods, dissolved in water, will be of great benefit applied about once a week. The temperature for bulbs just brought in should be at first only 45 to 50 degrees; after a few days 10 degrees more. In the ordinary living-room a little ventilation by opened windows will readily lower the temperature, but care should be taken not to expose the growing plants to any draft. Forcing bulbs, like almost all other plants, will be better and healthier with the maximum amount of fresh air compatible with a sufficiently high temperature. The plants thus brought into water, light and warmth, will grow with remarkable rapidity. Just as the first buds are opening out is the ideal time to use them as presents, as they will continue subjects of daily attraction for a long time. Those that are kept can be saved, either to plant out or use another year. Let the soil gradually dry out when they are through blooming, and when the tops are dead take the bulbs from the soil, clean them and store in a perfectly dry place, or in boxes, in dry sand. The colors and other qualities of the many varieties of hyacinths, narcissi and tulips will be found described in the fall catalogues of all the best seedhouses. As before stated, hyacinths, tulips, narcissi and freesias are the most readily forced and the most satisfactory bulbs. The beginner will do well, for his first attempt, to confine himself to these. There are, however, several more that respond to practically the same treatment, and whose various types of beauty will repay handsomely the trouble of forcing them. Ixias and sparaxias are two more of the Cape group easily forced and well worth growing. They like a cool temperature, 35 to 40 degrees at night, even after having been brought in. They should not be put in the dark or covered with earth after potting, but started in a cool temperature, with light. Oxalis. Another very beautiful effect is had by getting a hanging basket, or a pot-hanger with which to suspend a six-inch or eight-inch bulb-pan, and in it start some oxalis bulbs. They do not need to be rooted first, but should be placed at once in the light and heat (about 55 degrees). They will send out spray after spray of beautiful flowers, continuing in bloom for months. Dry off and rest about June, if started in October; start again in the fall. Freesias and oxalis, to be had in bloom by Christmas, should be started in August. Easter Lily (Lillium Harrisii) is universally popular. It is usually bought from the florist in bud or bloom, but may be grown in the house. Large firm bulbs should be procured, and potted at once in five or six inch pots, and given the same treatment as above until root growth has been made, when they will still be several months from flowering. When wanted for Easter they should be brought into the house the first or second week in November. Keep rather cool for two or three weeks. Later they may be given a much higher temperature. When the pots are covered with roots, it is a good plan to carefully repot, setting rather deep, so that the new roots starting above the soil, may be of use. Lillium candidum and L. longiflorum may be given the same treatment but will require a longer time in which to mature. Calla (Richardia Aethiopica) The soil for callas should, where possible, be about one-third rotted cow manure. Otherwise make very rich soil with bone and whatever may be had but get the cow manure if possible. It also likes a great deal of water. Pot at once in large pots, give a thorough watering and keep cool and shaded for four or five weeks, until active growth begins. Then give more heat, keeping it about 60 degrees if you can. They will continue to bloom a long time. In the spring, after flowering ceases, dry off gradually and lay the pots on their sides in a shaded spot, and rest until August. Beside the large white calla most commonly seen, there are several other forms which will be found described in good catalogues, among them Tom Thumb or Little Gem, a dwarf sort; Elliottiana, the Yellow calla; Godfrey, a dwarf ever-blooming sort, especially desirable as a pot plant where, as is often the case, the ordinary large white sort is too big to be managed conveniently; albomaculata, white with purple throat, etc. The red and black callas are arums. Cyclamen. While these beautiful flowers may be grown from seed it is much easier for the amateur to get the bulbs or a growing plant. If the former, pot in four-or five-inch pots, using a light compost and giving little water at first. Repot as needed. Shade during summer and syringe frequently, give 55 to 60 degrees in winter, with liquid manure while flowering. When the leaves begin to look yellowish, dry off, and give a short rest but don't let them get dry enough to shrivel. The Gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa) may receive much the same treatment but is a summer bloomer. The bulbs or dried roots should be potted up in February or March and kept growing on and repotted. One of their valuable characteristics is the great range of colors and combinations in the flowers, which are freely produced. The Amaryllis-like Group. Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) is altogether too little known in its modern varieties. Everyone has seen one of the old forms, red or red with a white stripe, with the lily-like flowers borne well aloft above scant foliage. But the new named sorts are tremendous improvements and should by all means be tried, even if they seem expensive beside other bulbs, of which you can get a dozen for the price of one good amaryllis. Remember, however, that the amaryllis is of the very easiest culture and will last for years. Pot the bulbs up as soon as received--they come in November--and let them stay dormant awhile. In a month or two they will begin growth and flower (unfortunately) long before the leaves have made much of a show. Do not dry off just because the flowers fade,--the plant has got to make its growth and store up food for next season. Continue to water and feed--outdoors in the summer--until the leaves begin to turn yellow; then dry off and store in a cool place until the bulbs again show signs of growth. The flowers are generally borne from January until May and come in shades of crimson, blood-red and white and attractive combinations of these colors. Vallota purpurea is little known, but a very useful plant for the window garden, resembling the amaryllis, but having evergreen foliage which, of course, gives it a distinct advantage. The flowers are reddish scarlet. Imantophyllum miniatum is another very desirable evergreen foliaged bulb, having large amaryllis-like flowers, red with a yellow throat. There are several varieties. The African blue lily (Agapanthus umbellatus) is quite like the above but the flowers are bright blue, a large number forming each umbel, so that it is one of the most striking of plants. It naturally flowers in the summer (being carried through the winter by storing in the cellar), but by changing the resting season may be flowered in the spring. Unlike most of the other bulbs in this group, they should be repotted in rich soil every year, to do their best. Beside the above there are varieties with white and with double flowers and one with variegated leaves. They form a most interesting group. The Blood Flower (Haemanthus) has very beautiful flowers but they are produced in advance of the foliage. Give the same treatment as amaryllis. The above group will make a very unusual and desirable collection, easily managed, and giving satisfaction for a good many years. Tuberous Begonia. While this is not a bulb, strictly speaking, it is treated in about the same way as the bulbs. The tubers should be started in pots and not much larger than themselves, in a light, rich soil, using old cow manure and leaf-mould, if available, to secure these characteristics. Repot as often as necessary until seven or eight-inch pots are filled. Then feed while blooming. The tubers are dried off after growth, taken from the pots and stored in sand or sawdust to prevent shriveling. They are among the most satisfactory of flowers, but as their development has taken place largely within the last ten years or so, they are not yet nearly so widely known as they deserve. For flowering either in pots or outdoors they rank among the very best. Avoid direct sunlight. Gladiolus. This magnificent flower has gained rapidly during recent years, but few flower-lovers seem to realize as yet that it may be easily forced indoors. Pot up the bulbs in December, using a rich soil and setting them just even with it and covering with half an inch of gritty sand. America, May and Shakespeare are three of the best varieties for forcing but new ones are being produced every year. Keep cool until a good root growth is made, then shift to four-or five-inch pots and keep in a room of 45 to 50 degrees at night. Caladiums. While the fancy-leaved caladiums require a higher temperature than most house plants, they will repay the extra care and heat demanded in cases where it can be given. Start in February. Cover under and over with fine sphagnum moss, kept moist, and give 60 degrees until the roots start, which they will do quickly. Then pot in rather small pots, using a rich, light soil, with plenty of leaf-mould and sand. Water sparingly at first; shift on and give manure water as the leaves develop. Give all the light possible without letting the direct sunlight strike them during the heat of the day. Fifty-five degrees at night is the minimum temperature to allow. When the leaves begin to die dry off and treat as for begonias. Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis) may be forced in the house where sufficient bottom heat can be given and they are very desirable flowers, possessing a grace, beauty and fragrance seldom combined. Get "cold storage pips" and place in deep flats of pure sand. They may be stored in the cold and brought in as desired. Increase the temperature gradually until by placing over a radiator or in some other exceptionally warm place, 75 to 80 degrees is given at the bottom of the box. Keep covered from the light until the buds show when the shading should be gradually removed. Iris. The Spanish iris makes a very desirable plant for forcing and the plants are easily managed. A list of colors, etc., will be found in most of the fall bulb catalogues. They are quite distinct from the Japanese and German irises ordinarily seen outdoors. Start same as caladium, but they do not require so much heat. Spirea (Astilbe Japonica). Several varieties of this beautiful flower are good for forcing. When the roots are received pot up in light, rich soil, water thoroughly, and set in a shaded place. Remove to the cellar or a deep coldframe as freezing weather comes on. Do not let the soil dry out. After the first of January bring into heat gradually. Sprinkle frequently as growth develops. Ranunculus or buttercups, listed in the catalogues as Turkish, Persian and French, are very easily grown flowers. They have fleshy roots which are given the same treatment as Cape bulbs, i.e., started in light. Poppy-flowered Anemones (A. fulgens and A. coronaria) are also easily grown in the same way. They come in a variety of colors, including reds, whites, and blues. They are very cheery little flowers, two inches or so across, and well worth giving a few pots to. Several of the bulbs are easily grown in water, or pebbles and water, with no soil at all. The best known of these is the Chinese Sacred Lily. The Golden Chinese Lily is not so well known but very desirable. Hyacinths are easily grown in pure water; a special vase called the "hyacinth glass" being made for the purpose.
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