The very important question--"What plants shall be grown in the
house?"--must be left for the individual to answer. In selecting a few
to describe somewhat in detail in the first part of this chapter, I do
not mean to imply that the others
are not as beautiful, or may not, with
proper care, be successfully grown in the house. However, most of those
described are the more popular--very possibly because as a rule greater
success is attained with them.
The same is true of the treatment of the other groups--shrubs, foliage
plants, palms, ferns, vines, cacti and bulbs, which are classed not upon
a strict botanical basis but with reference to their general habits and
requirements, my sole object in this book being to make the proper
cultural directions as definite and clear as possible.
I think if I were restricted to the use of one class of plants for
beautifying my home in winter I should without hesitation choose the
begonias. No other plants so combine decorative effect, beauty of form
and flower, continuity of bloom and general ease of culture.
There are three types: the flowering fibrous-rooted begonias, the
decorative leaved begonias and the tuberous-rooted, with their abundant
and gorgeous flowers and beautiful foliage. (These latter are described
more fully in Chapter XV on Bulbs.)
Begonias are rather difficult to raise from seed and the best way to get
them is to go to some good florist and select a few specimens; after
that you can easily keep supplied by cuttings (see page 29). The large
fancy-leaved begonias (Rex begonias) are increased by "leaf-cuttings."
Take an old leaf and cut it into triangular pieces, about three inches
each way and with a part of one of the thick main ribs at one corner of
each piece; this is the corner to put into the sand. These--seven or
eight of which can be made from one leaf--should be inserted about an
inch into the sand of the cutting box or saucer, and treated as ordinary
page 40). Some of the foliage begonias have long, thick stems, or
"rhizomes" growing just above the soil; from these the leaves grow.
Propagate by cutting the rhizome into pieces about two inches long and
covering in the rooting medium.
The most satisfactory way to select your begonias is to see them
actually growing at the florist's. In case selection cannot be made,
thus, however, the following brief descriptions may be helpful. The
begonia with the most showy flowers is the "coral" begonia--(in
catalogues B. maculata, var. Corallina). The flowers, which grow in
large clusters, reach half an inch across.
Begonias rubra, Alba, Vernon, nitida and N. alba, Luminosa,
Sandersoni and semperflorens, gigantea rosea, are all good sorts.
For foliage, Begonia metallica, is the most popular. The flowers while
not conspicuous are very pretty. B. Thurstoni, albo-picta, and
argenteoguttata are also very attractive, the two latter having small
silvery spots upon the leaves.
Of the large leaved Rex begonias new varieties are frequently
introduced. They are seldom improvements over the old favorites,
Philadelphus, Silver Queen, Fire King, Mrs. Rivers and others.
One of the most glorious of all flower sights is a plant of begonia
Gloire de Lorraine in full bloom. It makes a graceful hanging mass of
the most beautiful pink flowers. I cannot, however, conscientiously
recommend it as a house plant. The best way is to get a plant, say in
October, which is just about to bloom. Even if you lose it after it is
through blooming--they continue in flower for several months--it will
have been well worth the expense. But it is not necessary to lose it.
When through flowering give it less water and keep in a cool light
place. During summer keep it as cool as possible, on the veranda, or
plunged in the shade of a tree. About September rapid growth will be
made and it may gradually be given full sunlight.
Gloire Cincinnati is a splendid begonia of very recent introduction and
it is claimed to be much hardier than Gloire de Lorraine, but whether it
will prove satisfactory as a house plant I cannot say. There are many
other beautiful kinds of begonias besides the few described above. If
you have room, by all means try some of them.
As to soil, add about one-third of thoroughly pulverized leaf-mould to
the potting soil described on page 15, if you would give them the best
conditions. In watering keep them if anything a little on the "dry
side." They like plenty of light but will do best if kept out of the
direct rays of the sun.
There is perhaps no plant which more perfectly combines gracefulness and
beauty of color than a well grown fuchsia in full bloom. Well-grown in
this case does not simply mean that it should have been given the proper
care as regards food and temperature. The fuchsia is naturally a
somewhat trailing and very brittle-wooded plant. It needs support and
the problem is to give it this support and at the same time not destroy
its natural gracefulness of form, as is usually done when it is tied up
stiffly to a wooden stake. If tied carefully to an inconspicuous green
stake by means of green twine this may be accomplished. A better way
will be to use one of the stakes described on page 144.
Fuchsias are shade plants. The full direct sunlight is likely to prove
fatal to their existence. In winter they may be kept in an east or north
window, or on the inside of other plants in a south window. If they are
wanted to bloom early in the fall keep well pinched back and disbudded
during the summer which is the natural blooming season for all the best
varieties. For summer blooming, dry off gradually in the fall and keep
during the winter--until February or March--in a frost-proof room or
cellar. After they have been brought into the light, repot and water and
new growth will start. Prune back the old branches severely, as the next
crop of flowers will be borne on the new wood. This is also a good time
to start cuttings for a new supply of plants.
Old plants--two or three years--will, however, give a far greater
abundance of flowers.
The most serious enemy of the fuchsia indoors is the pernicious red
spider. For details of the proper reception to be given him see page
The varieties of the fuchsia, in both single and double flowers, are
many. Among popular sorts are Elm City, Black Prince, speciosa,
Phenomenal. Florists' catalogues list many others, new and for the most
part well worth trying.
The geranium has been for years, and is likely to remain, the most
popular flowering plant of all, whether for use in summer flower beds or
for the winter window garden. To some people this wide popularity
renders it less desirable, but with those who grow plants for their
intrinsic beauty and not because they may or may not be in vogue the
geranium with its healthy vitality, its attractive foliage and its
simply marvelous range of color and delicate shadings will always be a
favorite. I even venture to predict more; to prophesy that it is going
to be used, as one seldom sees it now, as a cut flower for decorative
purposes. I have grown some of the newer varieties with stems from
twelve to eighteen inches long, supporting enormous trusses of dull red
or the most delicate pink and keeping fresh in vases for days at a time.
I find that very few people, even old flower lovers, have any conception
of the improvement and variety which the last few years have brought,
especially in the wonderful new creations coming from the hands of the
French hybridizers. The latest news is that a German plant-breeder has
produced the first of a new race of Pelargoniums (Pansy or Lady
Washington geraniums) that continues to bloom as long as any of our
ordinary bedding sorts. It has not yet been offered in this country, but
doubtless soon will be, and it will be an acquisition indeed.
The culture of the geranium is simple. For its use as a house plant
there are just two things to keep in mind; first give it a soil which is
a little on the heavy side; that is, use three parts of good heavy loam,
one of manure and one of sand; secondly do not over-water. Keep it on
the "dry side"--(see page 45).
To have geraniums blooming in the house all winter prepare plants in
two ways, as follows: First, in May or June pot up a number of old
plants. Cut back quite severely, leaving a skeleton work of old wood,
well branched, from which the new flowering wood will grow. Keep plunged
and turned during the summer and take off every bud until three or four
weeks before you are ready to take the plants inside. Secondly, in March
or April, start some new plants from cuttings and grow these, with
frequent shifts, until they fill six-or seven-inch pots, but keep them
pinched back to induce a branching growth, and disbudded, until about
the end of December. These will come into bloom after the old plants.
The best time for propagating the general supply of geraniums is from
September 15th to the end of October. Cuttings should be taken from
wood that is as firm and ripe as possible, while still yielding to the
"snapping test" (see page 30). In all stages of growth the geranium is
remarkably free from any insect or disease.
The varieties of geraniums now run into the hundreds--a wonderful
collection. I shall name but a few, all of which I know from my own
experience in selling several thousand every spring, are sure to be
well-liked and good bloomers.
S. A. Nutt leads them all. It is the richest, darkest crimson--usually
ordered as "the darkest red." It is a great bloomer, but one word of
caution where you grow your own plants:--You must keep it cut back and
make it branch, otherwise it will surely grow up tall and spindling. E.
H. Trego is the most brilliant of the reds that I have grown. Marquis de
Castellane is the richest of the reds--a dull, even, glowing color with
what artists term "warmth" and "depth." The trusses are immense and the
stems long, stiff and erect. It is the best geranium for massing in
bouquets that I know.
Beaute Potevine is the richest, most glorious of the salmon
pinks--perhaps the most popular of all the geraniums as a pot plant for
the house. It is a sturdy grower and a wonderful bloomer.
Dorothy Perkins is a strong growing bright pink, with an almost white
center. Very attractive.
Roseleur is one of the most lovely delicate pinks. Mme. Recamier,
perhaps the best of the double whites, making a very compact, sturdy
Silver-leafed Nutt, very recently introduced, is, I believe, destined to
be one of the most popular of all geraniums. It has the rich flowers of
S. A. Nutt and leaves of a beautiful dull, light green, bordered with
silver white. I am chary of novelties, and got my first plants last
spring with the expectation of being disappointed. So far it has proved
a great acquisition.
New-life is another new sort which has won great popularity, the center
of the flowers being white in contrast to the red of the outer petals.
This is one of a new type of geranium having two more or less distinct
colors in each flower. Another new type is the "Cactus" section, with
petals narrower and recurved. In fact, the geranium seems to have by no
means reached its full development.
Foliage Geraniums. The foremost of these is Mme. Salleroi (Silver-leaf
geranium). It is unequaled as a border and for mingling with other
plants in the edge of boxes and vases. Well grown specimens make
beautiful single pot plants. Mrs. Pollock and Mountain of Snow are other
Sweet Scented Geranium. This type has two valuable uses; their
delicious fragrance and also the beauty and long keeping quality of the
leaves when used in bouquets or to furnish green with geranium blossoms.
Rose and Lemon (or Skeleton) are the two old favorites of this type. The
Mint geranium, with a broad, large leaf of a beautiful soft green, and
thick velvety texture, should be better known. All three must be kept
well cut back, as they like to grow long and scraggly.
The ivy-leafed geraniums have not yet come into their own. To me they
are the most beautiful of all. The leaves are like ivy leaves, only
thicker and more glossy. The flowers, which are freely borne, contain
some of the most beautiful and delicate shades and markings of any
flowers, and the vines are exceedingly graceful in habit when given a
place where they can spread out or hang down. Like the common or Zonal
geranium, the ivy-leafed section has within the last few years been
greatly improved. There is space here to mention but one variety
(L'Elegantea), whose variegated white and green foliage, in addition to
its lovely flowers, gives it a wonderful charm.
The Pelargoniums (Pansy Geraniums)--This section contains the most
wonderful flowers of all the geraniums. Imagine, if you can, a rather
graceful shrub with attractive foliage, eighteen inches or so high and
broad, covered with loose clusters of pansies in the most brilliant and
harmonious contrasts of color, and the most delicate blendings of
rare shades, such as snow white and lilac. Unfortunately, these
marvelous blossoms remain but a few weeks at most, and then there is a
year's care and waiting. As with the fantastic cacti, all their
blossoming energy and beauty seems to be concentrated into one brief but
glorious effort. It certainly is to be hoped that the new strain,
mentioned on a former page, will successfully be developed. Pelargoniums
are propagated by cuttings, and cared for as the ordinary geraniums,
except that they should be kept very cold and dry during their winter
resting spell. Cut back after blooming.
The heliotrope has long been the queen of all flowers grown for
fragrance. It is grown readily from either seeds or cuttings; the latter
generally rooted in the spring. For blooming in winter, start young
plants in February, or cut back old ones after flowering, and keep
growing but pinched back and disbudded, in partial shade during the
There are several varieties, from dark purple to very light and white.
Lemoine's hybrids have the largest flowers, but are not so fragrant as
some of the smaller sorts.
By pinching off the side shoots and training to a single main stalk, the
plants may be grown as formal standards, with the flowering branches
several feet from the pot, like the head of a tree. For certain uses
they are appropriate, but I think not nearly as beautiful as when well
trimmed to shape and grown in the ordinary way.
The heliotrope objects to any sudden change, whether of temperature,
watering or soil, and will readily turn brown and drop all its leaves.
Giving it proper care and cutting back, however, will quickly bring it
into good humor again.
The petunia is one of the most easily grown and generous bloomers of all
house plants. It is, however, a little coarse and some people object to
its heavy odor. The flowers are both single and double, each having its
advocates. Both have been vastly improved within the last few years.
Certain it is that some of the new ruffled giant singles are remarkably
beautiful, even as individual flowers; and the new fringed doubles,
which come in agreeable shades of pink, variegated to pure white
(instead of that harsh magenta which characterized the older style)
produce beautiful mass effects with their quantities of bloom.
They are grown either from seed or cuttings, the latter frequently
blooming in the cutting box, if allowed to. In raising seedlings, be
sure to save all the slowest growing and delicate looking plants, as
they are fairly sure to give some of the best flowers, the worthless
singles growing strong and rank from the start. Plants growing outdoors
during the summer may be cut back, potted up and started into new
growth. The singles bloom more freely than the doubles, especially
indoors. After blooming, cut the plants back to within a few inches of
the root, repot or give liquid manure and a new growth will be sent up,
and soon be in blossom again.
Of the deservedly popular primrose there are two types, the Chinese
primrose (Primula Sinensis) and Primula obconica. Both are
favorites, because of their simple beauty and the remarkable freedom and
constancy with which they bloom. Another advantage is that they do not
require direct sunlight. Primroses need no particular care. The soil may
have a little extra leaf-mould and should slope toward the edges of the
pot, to prevent the possibility of any water collecting at the crown of
the plant, which must be left well above the soil when potting.
The easiest way to get plants is to buy small ones from the florist
every spring. They may be raised from seed successfully, however, if one
will take care to give them a shaded, cool location during the hot
summer months, such as a coldframe covered with protecting cloth, or any
light material that will freely admit air. From seed sown in February
or March they should be ready to bloom by the following Christmas. It
does not pay to keep the plants over for a second season.
There are numerous varieties. One very small sort, P.
Forbesi--sometimes called Baby Primrose--is exceedingly floriferous.
Several plants of this sort put together in a large pan make a most
beautiful sight, and will do well as a decoration for a center table.
Until recently P. obconica was inferior in size of flower to the
Chinese primrose, but the newer strains, under the name P. grandiflora
fimbriata, or Giant Fringed, are quite wonderful. Some of the
individual flowers are over an inch and a quarter across, and range from
pure white to deep rose. If you cannot obtain other plants of this type
from your florist they will well repay the trouble of starting from
I feel somewhat doubtful about giving this comparatively little known
flower a place among the especially recommended plants. Not on the basis
of my own experience with it, but because in the several books in my
possession which deal with house plants, I do not find it mentioned.
There certainly can be no question that the long spikes of flowers in
pure white, light and dark reds, deep wines and clear yellows, with
combinations of two or more of these in many cases, are among our most
beautiful flowers. They stay in blossom a long time, each stalk opening
out slowly from the bottom to the top of the spike, like a gladiolus.
They seem, in my own experience at least, to stand almost any amount of
abuse; this spring several old plants that I had abandoned to their fate
insisted on coming to life again and trying to vie with their younger
progeny in flowering.
Snapdragons are easily raised from seed, or propagated by cuttings. For
winter blooming sow the former in March or April, grow on in a cool
place and keep pinched back to make bushy plants. If you have limited
room, let one stalk blossom on each plant, so that you can avoid
selecting duplicates. Cuttings may be taken at any time when the weather
is not too hot. Take the tops of flowering shoots which have not yet
matured so far as to become hollow.
The varieties have been greatly improved, that now sold as
Giant-flowered Hybrids being the best. There is also a dwarf type and of
still later introduction a double white. This will undoubtedly break
into the other colors and give us a valuable new race.
With the directions given for the foregoing, and also on pages 6 to 50,
the following brief instructions should be necessary to enable success
with the other flowering plants which are worth trying in the house for
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