GARDENING INDOORS AND UNDER GLASS
A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO THE PLANTING,
CARE AND PROPAGATION OF HOUSE
PLANTS, AND TO THE CONSTRUCTION
AND MANAGEMENT OF HOTBED,
COLDFRAME AND SMALL GREENHOUSE
F. F. ROCKWELL
Author of _Home Vegetable Gardening_
McBRIDE, NAST & COMPANY
Copyright, 1911, 1912, by
McBride, Nast & Co.
Published September, 1912
* * * * *
[Illustration: Too few people realize the possibilities for enjoyment in
prolonging the garden through the winter months indoors]
There is nothing which adds so much sunshine and cheer to the rooms of a
house besieged by winter and all his dreary encampment of snow and ice,
as the greenery, color and fragrance of blossoming plants. There is no
pastime quite so full of pleasure and constant interest as this sort of
horticulture; the rooting of small slips, the repotting and watering and
watching, as new growth develops, and buds unfold. Some have the magic
gift, that everything they touch will break into blossom; others
strive--perhaps too hard--only to gain indifferent results. It is hoped
that this book will aid those of the second class to locate past
mistakes and progress to future success; and further that it may
indicate to those more fortunate ones of the first class the way to more
extensive achievements in the work they love.
This is not a technical book; simply an attempt to tell in so plain a
way that they cannot be misunderstood the everyday details of the
successful management of plants in the house and within such small glass
structures as may be made, even with limited means and time, a part of
the average home.
There is another aspect of the case worth considering; so much so in
fact, that it is one of the reasons for writing this book. By the use of
such modest glass structures as almost everyone can afford not only is
the scope of winter gardening enlarged and the work rendered more easy
and certain, but the opportunity is given to make this light labor pay
for itself. Fresh vegetables out of season are always acceptable and
well grown plants find a ready sale among one's flower-loving friends.
CRANMERE, August 1st, 1912.
F. F. R.
PART I--PLANTS IN THE HOUSE
I INTRODUCTION 1
II THE PROPER CONDITIONS: LIGHT, TEMPERATURE AND MOISTURE 6
III SOILS, MANURES AND FERTILIZERS 14
IV STARTING PLANTS FROM SEED 22
V STARTING PLANTS FROM CUTTINGS 29
VI TRANSPLANTING, POTTING AND REPOTTING 35
VII MANAGEMENT OF HOUSE PLANTS 44
VIII FLOWERING PLANTS 51
IX SHRUBS 70
X FOLIAGE PLANTS 81
XI VINES 90
XII FERNS 97
XIII PALMS 103
XIV CACTI 110
XV BULBS 116
XVI VERANDA BOXES, WINDOW-BOXES, VASES AND HANGING BASKETS 128
XVII HOUSE PLANT INSECTS AND DISEASES 132
XVIII ACCESSORIES 140
PART II--HOME GLASS
XIX ITS OPPORTUNITIES 146
XX THE COLDFRAME AND THE HOTBED 149
XXI THE CONSTRUCTION OF CONSERVATORIES AND SMALL GREENHOUSES 156
XXII METHODS OF HEATING 167
XXIII MANAGEMENT 172
XXIV FLOWERS 180
XXV VEGETABLES 193
XXVI VEGETABLE AND BEDDING PLANTS FOR SPRING 197
A flourishing flower bay _Frontispiece_
An isolated bay-window conservatory 8
A tiled window-sill garden 9
Preparing flats for the "sub-irrigation" method of watering 28
Cuttings ready for sand 29
Geranium cuttings ready for potting 29
Potted cuttings ready for their first shift 40
Striking Rex begonia leaf cuttings 40
"Crocking" in a flower pot 41
Seedlings ready to transplant 48
A flower bay protected with heavy curtains 49
Pride of Cincinnati begonia 60
Pansy geranium 61
Primrose (_Primula obconica_) 61
The Silk Oak (_Grevillea robusta_) 72
Otaheite orange 73
Baby rambler rose 80
_Araucaria excelsa_ 81
Screw Pine (_Pandanus Veitchii_) 88
Rubber plant (_Ficus elastica_) 89
Vines on an indoor trellis 96
Crested Scott Fern (_Nephrolepis exaltata_, var. _Schoizeli_) 97
Propagation of Boston Fern by division 100
A variety of the Fan Palm (_Phoenix Roebelenii_) 101
Weddell's Palm 101
A pan of forced crocuses 116
Victory gladiolus 117
A second story window-box 128
Iceland poppies and trailing vines in a window-box 128
A movable plant table 129
Inside a small greenhouse 148
A small lean-to greenhouse 149
A three-sash coldframe 164
The simplest type of window greenhouse 165
Tomatoes in the greenhouse 196
Cucumbers and lettuce in the greenhouse 197
AND UNDER GLASS
Part One--Plants in the House
To-day the garden is in the zenith of its glory. The geraniums and
salvias blaze in the autumn sun; the begonias have grown to a small
forest of beautiful foliage and bloom; the heliotropes have become
almost little trees, and load the air with their delicate fragrance.
To-night--who knows?--grim winter may fling the first fleet-winged
detachment of his advance across the land, by every roadside and into
every garden-close; and to-morrow there will be but blackening ruins and
burned bivouacs where the thousand camps of summer planted their green
and purple in the golden haze.
And what provision, when that inevitable day of summer's defeat comes,
have you made for saving part of the beauty and joy of your garden, of
carrying some rescued plants into the safe stronghold of your house,
like minstrels to make merry and cheer the clouded days until the long
siege is over, and spring, rejuvenescent, comes to rout the snows?
I do not know which is the more commonly overlooked, the importance and
fun of keeping the living-rooms of the house cheerful with plants and
flowers in winter, or the certainty and economy with which it may be
done if one will use the plain common-sense methods necessary to make
plants succeed. Too much care and coddling is just as sure to make
growth forlorn and sickly as too much neglect. That may be one reason
why one frequently sees such healthy looking plants framed in the dismal
window of a factory tenement, where the chinks can never be stopped
tight and the occupants find it hard enough to keep warm, while at the
same time it is easy to find leafless and lanky specimens in the
superheated and moistureless air of drawing-rooms.
It certainly is true that many modern houses of the better sort do not
offer very congenial conditions to the healthy growth of plants. It is
equally certain that in many cases these conditions may be changed by
different management in such way that they would be not only more
healthy for plants to live in, but so also for their human occupants. In
many other cases there is nothing but lack of information or energy in
the way of constructing a place entirely suitable for the growth of
plants. To illustrate what I mean, I mention the following instance of
how one person made a suitable place in which to grow flowers. Two
narrow storm windows, which had been discarded, were fastened at right
angles to the sides of the dining-room windows, and the regular storm
sash screwed on to these. Here were the three glass sides of a small
conservatory. Half-inch boards made a bottom and roof, the former being
supported by brackets to give strength, and the latter put on with two
slanting side pieces nailed to the top of the upright narrow sash spoken
of, to give the roof a pitch. Top and bottom were covered with old
flexible rubber matting which was carried back under the clapboards
making a weather-proof, tight joint with the side of the house. Six-inch
light wooden shelves on the inside gave a conservatory of considerable
capacity. How many houses there are where some such arrangement could be
made as the result of a few hours' work and thought, and a very small
expense. And yet how infrequently one sees anything of the kind. In many
instances such a glassed-in window would be all that is needed,
sufficient heat being furnished by a radiator under the window within
the house. In the case mentioned, however, it was necessary to heat the
small greenhouse. This was done by installing a small gas stove in the
cellar, as nearly as possible under the window greenhouse. Over this
stove a large tin hood was fitted, with a sliding door in front to
facilitate lighting and regulating the stove. From the hood a six-inch
pipe, enclosed in a wood casing for insulation, ran through the cellar
window and up into the floor of the conservatory, ending in a small
These details are given not with the idea that they can be duplicated
exactly (although in many instances they might), but to show what a
little ingenuity and effort will accomplish in the way of overcoming
Nor is the reward for such efforts as these restricted to the growing of
a few more plants. From the actual accomplishments described in the
second part of this book, the reader must see that it is entirely
possible and feasible for one with only average advantages to have
during a large part or even all of the year not only flowers which
cannot be grown to advantage in the house, but also such vegetables as
lettuce, radishes, tomatoes and cucumbers, and others if desired; and
also to give the flower and vegetable gardens such a start as would
never be possible otherwise.
Do not attempt too much, but do not be content with too little, when
only a slight increase in planning and work will bring such a tremendous
increase in results and happiness. I feel confident that there is not
one home out of ten where more thought and more information brought to
bear on the things whereof this book treats, would not yield a greater
return in actual pleasure than any other equal investment which could be
Do not be impatient to get to a description of all the results at once.
Do not skip over the chapters on dirt and manures and pots and other
seemingly uninteresting things, because in a thorough understanding of
these essentials lies the foundation of success. And if a condition of
soil, or an operation in handling plants does not seem clear to you as
you read it over, remember that in all probability it will become so
when you actually attempt the work described. Nothing worth while is
ever won without a little--and often a great deal--of patient work. And
what is more worth while than to keep busy in the constant improvement
and beautifying of one's daily surroundings?
THE PROPER CONDITIONS:--LIGHT, TEMPERATURE AND MOISTURE
After so much advice as to the possibility of making conditions right
for the growing of plants in the house, the inexperienced reader will
naturally want to know what these conditions are.
In the first place, almost all plants, whether they flower or not, must
have an abundance of light, and many require sunshine, especially during
the dull days of winter. Plants without sufficient light never make a
normal, healthy growth; the stems are long, lanky and weak, the foliage
has a semi-transparent, washed-out look, and the whole plant falls an
easy victim to disease or insect enemies. Even plants grown in the full
light of a window, as everyone with any experience in managing them
knows from observation, will draw toward the glass and become one-sided
with the leaves all facing one way. Therefore even with the best of
conditions, it is necessary to turn them half about every few days,
preferably every time they are watered, in order that they may maintain
an even, shapely growth.
As a rule the flowering plants, such as geraniums and heliotropes,
require more light and sunshine than those grown for foliage, such as
palms, ferns and the decorative leaved begonias. It is almost
impossible, during the winter months, to give any of them too much
sunlight and where there is any danger of this, as sometimes happens in
early fall or late spring, a curtain of the thinnest material will give
them ample protection, the necessity being not to exclude the light, but
simply to break the direct action of the sun's rays through glass.
A great variety of plants may be grown in the ordinary window garden,
for which the sunniest and broadest window available should be selected.
There are two methods of handling the plants: they may be kept as
individual specimens in pots and "dishes" or "pans" (which are nothing
more or less than shallow flower pots), or they may be grown together in
a plant box, made for the purpose and usually more or less decorative in
itself, that will harmonize with and set off the beauty of the plants.
The latter method, that of growing in boxes, offers two distinct
advantages, especially where there is likely to be encountered too high
a temperature and consequent dryness in the air. The plants are more
easily cared for than they are in pots, which rapidly dry out and need
frequent changing; and effects in grouping and harmonious decoration may
be had which are not readily secured with plants in pots. On the other
hand, it is not possible to give such careful attention to individual
plants which may require it as when they are grown in pots; nor can
there be so much re-arrangement and change when these are required--and
what good housekeeper is not a natural born scene shifter, every once in
so often rolling the piano around to the other side of the room, and
moving the bookcase or changing the big Boston fern over to the other
window, so it can be seen from the dining-room?
If the plants are to be kept in pots--and on the whole this will
generally be the more satisfactory method--several shelves of light,
smooth wood of a convenient width (six to twelve inches) should be
firmly placed, by means of the common iron brackets, in each window to
be used. It will help, both in keeping the pots in place and in
preventing muddy water from dripping down to the floor or table below,
if a thin, narrow strip of wood is nailed to each edge of these shelves,
extending an inch or two above them. A couple of coats of outside paint
will also add to the looks and to the life of these shelves and further
tend to prevent any annoying drip from draining pots. Such a shelf will
be still further improved by being covered an inch or two deep with
coarse gravel or fine pebbles.
[Illustration: If possible it is well to have the house plants in a
place where the moisture and temperature can be regulated for them
[Illustration: In almost any house it is possible to arrange a wide sill
with a metal or tile bottom where house plants may be properly cared
This is much better than the use of pot saucers, especially for small
pots. Where a bay-window is used, if cut off from the room by glass
doors, or even by curtains, it will aid greatly in keeping a moist
atmosphere about the plants and preventing dust from settling on the
leaves when sweeping or dusting is being done.
A window-box can readily be made of planed inch pine boards, tightly
fitted and tightly joined. It should be six to ten inches wide and six
to eight inches deep. If a plain box is used, it will be necessary to
bore inch holes every six inches or so through the bottom to provide for
carrying off of any excess of water--although, with the method of
filling the box described in a later chapter, those holes would hardly
ever be called into service. Plants in the house in the winter, however,
are as likely to suffer from too much water as from too little, and
therefore, to prevent the disagreeable possibility of having dirty
drainage water running down onto several feet of floor, it will be
almost as easy, and far better, to have the box constructed with a
bottom made of two pieces, sloping slightly to the center where one hole
is made in which a cork can be kept. A false bottom of tin or zinc, with
the requisite number of holes cut out, and supported by three or four
inch strips of wood running lengthways of the box, supplies the
drainage. These strips must, of course, be cut in the middle to allow
all the water to drain out. The false bottom will take care of any
ordinary surplus of water, which can be drained off into a watering can
or pitcher by taking out the cork. The details of construction of such a
box are shown in figure 1. It will be best to have the box so placed
upon its supporting brackets that it can be changed occasionally end for
end, thus keeping the plants growing evenly, and not permitting the
blooms continually to turn their backs to the inside of the room.
[Illustration: Fig. 1--Box for plants. AC--false zinc bottom; AB,
CB--slanting bottom to drain water out at hole B.]
With the above simple provisions one may take advantage of all the light
to be had in an ordinary window. Occasionally a better place may be
found ready to hand, such as the bay-window illustrated facing page 8 or
such as that described in the preceding chapter, or those mentioned in
the first chapter of Part II (page 146). The effort demanded will always
be repaid many times by greater ease and greater success in the
management of plants, and by the wider scope permitted.
Next in importance to light, is the matter of temperature. The ordinary
house plants, to be kept in health, require a temperature of sixty-five
to seventy-five degrees during the day and fifty to fifty-five degrees
at night. Frequently it will not be possible to keep the room from going
lower at night, but it should be kept as near that as possible;
forty-five degrees occasionally will not do injury, and even several
degrees lower will not prove fatal, but if frequently reached the plants
will be checked and seem to stand still. Plants in the dormant, or
semi-dormant condition are not so easily injured by low temperature as
those in full growth; also plants which are quite dry will stand much
more cold than those in moist soil.
The proper condition of temperature is the most difficult thing to
regulate and maintain in growing plants in the house. There is, however,
at least one room in almost every house where the night temperature does
not often go below forty-five or fifty degrees, and if necessary all
plants may be collected into one room during very cold weather. Another
precaution which will often save them is to move them away from the
windows; put sheets of newspaper inside the panes, not, however,
touching the glass, as a "dead air space" must be left between. Where
there is danger of freezing, a kerosene lamp or stove left burning in
the room overnight will save them. Never, when the temperature outside
is below freezing, should plants be left where leaves or blossoms may
touch the glass.
As with the problem of light, so with that of temperature--the specially
designed place for plants, no matter how small or simple a little nook
it may be, offers greater facility for furnishing the proper conditions.
But it is, of course, not imperative, and as I have said, there is
probably not one home in twenty where a number of sorts of plants cannot
be safely carried through the winter.
It would seem, at first thought, that the proper condition of moisture
could be furnished as easily in the house as anywhere. And so it can be
as far as applying water to the soil is concerned; but the air in most
dwellings in winter is terribly deficient in moisture. The fact that a
room is so dry that plants cannot live in it should sound a warning to
us who practically live there for days at a time, but it does not, and
we continue to contract all sorts of nose and throat troubles, to say
nothing of more serious diseases. No room too dry for plants to live in
is fit for people to live in. Hot-air and steam heating systems
especially, produce an over-dry condition of the atmosphere. This can
be overcome to a great or complete extent by thorough ventilation and by
keeping water constantly where it can evaporate; over radiators, etc.
This should be done for the sake of your own health, if not for that of
Further information as to watering and ventilation will be found in
Chapter VII (page 45), but before we get anxious about just how to take
care of plants we must know how to get them, and before getting them we
must know what to give them to grow in--the plant's foundation. So for a
little we must be content with those prosaic but altogether essential
matters of soil, manures and fertilizers, which in the next chapter I
shall try to make clear in as brief manner as possible.
SOILS, MANURES AND FERTILIZERS
The soil must furnish the whole foundation of plant life. For centuries
those who have grown things have realized the vital importance of having
the soil rich or well supplied with plant food; and if this is important
in growing plants in the field or flower garden, where each vegetable or
flower has from one to several cubic feet of earth in which to grow, how
imperative it is to have rich soil in a pot or plant box where each
plant may have but a few cubic inches!
But the trouble is not so much in knowing that plants should be given
rich soil, as to know how to furnish it. I well remember my first
attempt at making soil rich and thinking how I would surprise my
grandmother, who worked about her plants in pots every day of her life,
and still did not have them as big as they grew in the flower garden. I
had seen the hired man put fertilizer on the garden. That was the
secret! So I got a wooden box about two-thirds full of mellow garden
earth, and filled most of the remaining space with fertilizer, well
mixed into the soil, as I had seen him fix it. I remember that my
anxiety was not that I get too much fertilizer in the soil, but that I
would take so much out of the bag that it would be missed. Great indeed
was my chagrin and disappointment, twelve hours after carefully setting
out and watering my would-be prize plants, to notice that they had
perceptibly turned yellow and wilted. And I certainly had made the soil
So the problem is by no means as simple as might at first be supposed.
Not only must sufficient plant food be added to the soil but it must be
in certain forms, and neither too much nor too little may be given if
the best results are to be attained.
Now it is a fact established beyond all dispute that not only food, but
air and water, as well, must be supplied to the roots of growing plants;
and this being the case, the _mechanical_ condition of the soil in which
the plant is to grow has a great deal to do with its success or failure.
It must be what is termed a porous and friable soil--that is, one so
light and open that water will drain through it without making it a
compact, muddy mass. One of the things I noticed about my special
fertilizer soil, mentioned above, was that it settled, after being
watered, into a solid mass from which water would not drain and into
which air could not penetrate.
It is next to impossible to find a soil just right for house plants, so,
as a general thing the only way to get a good soil is to mix it
yourself. For this purpose several ingredients are used. If you live in
a village or suburb, where the following may be procured, your problem
is not a difficult one. Take about equal parts of rotted sod, rotted
horse manure and leaf-mould from the woods and mix thoroughly and
together, adding from one-sixth to one-third, in bulk, of coarse sand.
If a considerable quantity of soil will be required during the year, it
will be well to have some place, such as a bin or large barrel, in which
to keep a supply of each ingredient. The sod should be cut three or four
inches thick, and stacked in layers with the grassy sides together,
giving an occasional soaking, if the weather is dry, to hasten rotting.
The manure should be decomposed under cover, and turned frequently at
first to prevent burning out; or sod and manure can be rotted together,
stacking them in alternate layers and forking over two or three times
after rotting has begun. The manure furnishes plant food to the compost,
the rotted sod "body," the leaf-mould water-absorbing qualities, and the
sand, drainage qualities.
If the soil is wanted at once, and no rotted sod is to be had, use good
garden loam, preferably from some spot which was under clover-sod the
year before. If it is difficult to obtain well-rotted manure, street
sweepings may be used as a substitute, and old chip-dirt from under the
wood pile, or the bottom of the woodshed if it has a dirt floor, will do
in place of leaf-mould. Peat, or thoroughly dried and sweetened muck
are also good substitutes for leaf-mould. Finely screened coal ashes may
take the place of sand.
If you live in the city, where it is difficult to obtain and to handle
the several materials mentioned, the best way is to get your soil ready
mixed at the florists, as a bushel will fill numerous pots. If you
prefer to mix it yourself, or to add any of the ingredients to the soil
you may have, most florists can supply you with light soil, sand, peat
or leaf-mould and rotted manure; and sphagnum moss, pots, saucers and
other things required for your outfit. If a large supply is wanted, it
would probably be cheaper to go to some establishment on the outskirts
of the city where things are actually grown, than to depend upon the
retail florist nearer at hand.
Potting soil when ready to use should be moist enough to be pressed into
a ball by the hand, but never so moist as not to crumble to pieces again
readily beneath the finger.
Manure of some sort is essential to the growing of plants in pots or
boxes, both because of the plant-food it adds to the soil, and because
it improves its mechanical condition and sponginess or water-holding
quality. Thoroughly rotted horse manure or horse and cow manure mixed is
by far the best. Cow manure alone, or pig manure, is lumpy and cold,
and hen, sheep, pigeon or other special manures are not safe in the
hands of the beginner, as they are one-sided, being especially rich in
nitrogen and likely either to burn the plants or to cause too soft and
This brings us to the point where it is necessary to say a few words
about the theory of manures, for they are not all alike and what would
be wise to give a plant under some circumstances under others would be
quite wrong, just as you would not think of feeding beefsteak to a baby
just recovering from the colic, while it might be a very good thing for
a hungry man who was going to saw up your wood-pile.
Plants of all sorts--in pots, in the garden or in a ten-acre
lot--require three kinds of food elements: nitrogen, phosphoric acid and
potash. These elements may be fed to the plants in various forms; for
instance, the nitrogen in hen manure, or in cottonseed meal, or in salts
from the nitrate fields of Chile, known as nitrate of soda; the
phosphoric acid from bone, or from acid phosphate (a ground rock treated
with acid); the potash from wood ashes or from German potash salts
(muriate or sulphate of potash). Plants, to do their best, require that
all three elements shall be present in sufficient amounts to supply
It is not necessary, however, to go very deeply into the science of
plant foods in order to grow plants successfully. Fortunately, manure
rotted as described above, furnishes all three elements in about the
right proportions. Cow, sheep, hen and pigeon manure are best used as
described later, under "Liquid Manuring."
There are many brands of mixed fertilizers prepared specially for use in
the greenhouse or on plants in pots. There is a temptation to use these
on account of their convenient compact form, and because they are more
agreeable to handle. As a general rule, however, much better results
will be obtained by relying on rotted manure.
If you want to use fertilizers at all--and for certain purposes they
will be very valuable--I would advise restricting the list to the
following pure materials which are not mixed, and which are always
uniform; nitrate of soda, cottonseed meal, pure fine ground bone, and
wood ashes. (Several of the other chemicals are good, but not so
Ground bone is the most valuable of these. It should be what is known as
"fine ground," or bone dust. It induces a strong but firm growth, and
can be used safely in the potting soil, supplementing the manure as a
source of plant food. From two to three quarts to a bushel of soil is
the right amount to use. It should be thoroughly mixed through the
soil. It may also be frequently used to advantage as a top dressing on
plants that have exhausted the food in their pots, or while developing
buds or blooming. Work two or three spoonfuls into the top of the soil.
Nitrate of soda is the next in importance. It is very strong and must be
carefully used, the safest way being to use it as a liquid manure, one
or two teaspoonsful dissolved in three gallons of water. If first
dissolved in a pint of hot water, and then added to the other, it will
be more quickly done. Use a pint or so of this solution in watering. The
results will often be wonderful.
Cottonseed meal may be safely mixed with the soil, like ground bone, but
requires some time in which to rot, before the plant can make use of it.
Wood ashes are also safe, and good to add to the potting soil. They help
to make a firm, hard growth, as a result of the potash they furnish.
Where plants seem to be making a too rapid, watery growth, wood ashes
may be applied to the surface and worked in.
With a soil prepared as directed in the first part of this chapter,
there will be very little need for using any other of the fertilizers,
until plants have been shifted into their last pots and have filled them
with roots. When this stage is reached the use of liquid manures as
described later will frequently be beneficial. If, however, a plant for
any reason seems backward, or slower in growth than it should be, an
application or two of nitrate of soda will often produce results almost
marvelous. Be sure, however, that your troubles are not due to some
mistake in temperature, ventilation or watering, before you ascribe them
to improper or exhausted soil.
Now, having had the patience to find out something about the conditions
under which plants ought to succeed, let us proceed to the more
interesting work of actually making them grow.
STARTING PLANTS FROM SEED
One of the ways of getting a supply of plants for the house is to start
them from seed. With a number of varieties, better specimens may be
obtained by this method than by any other. Most of the annuals, and many
of the biennials and perennials, are best reproduced in this way.
Simple as the art of starting plants from seed may seem, there are a
number of things which must be thought of, and done correctly. We must
give them a proper situation, soil, temperature, covering and amount of
moisture, and when once above ground they need careful attention until
lifted and started on their way as individual plants.
The number of plants of one sort which will be required for the house is
naturally not large, and for that reason beginners often try starting
their seeds in pots. But a pot is not a good thing to try to start
plants in: the amount of earth is too small and dries out quickly. Seed
pans are better, but even they must be watched very carefully. A wooden
box, or flat, is better still. Cigar boxes are often used with good
results; but a more satisfactory way is to make a few regular flats
from a soap or cracker box bought at the grocer's. Saw it lengthwise
into sections two inches deep, being careful to first draw out nails and
wire staples in the way, and bottom these with material of the same
sort. Either leave the bottom boards half an inch apart, or bore seven
or eight half-inch holes in the bottom of each, to provide thorough
drainage. If they are to be used in the house, a coat or two of paint
will make them very presentable. Of course one such box will accommodate
a great many seeds--enough to start two hundred to a thousand little
plants--but you can sow them in rows, as described later, and thus put
from three to a dozen sorts in each box.
Where most beginners fail in attempting to start seeds is in not taking
the trouble to prepare a proper soil. They are willing to take any
amount of trouble with watering and heat and all that, but they will not
fix a suitable soil. The soil for the seed box need not be rich, in fact
it is better not to have manure in it; but very porous and very light it
must be, especially for such small seeds as most flowers have. Such a
soil may be mixed up from rotted sod (or garden loam), leaf-mould and
sharp sand, used in equal proportions. If the loam used is clayey, it
may take even a larger proportion of sand. The resulting mixture should
be extremely fine and crumbling, and feel almost "light as a feather"
in the hand. If the sod and mould have not already been screened, rub
the compost through a sieve of not more than quarter-inch mesh--such as
a coal-ash sifter. This screening will help also to incorporate the
several ingredients evenly and thoroughly.
While we provided holes in the seed box for drainage, it is best to take
even further precautions in this matter by covering the bottom of the
box with nearly an inch of coarse material, such as the roots and half
decayed leaves, screened out of the sods and leaf-mould. On the top of
this put the prepared soil, filling the box to within about a quarter of
an inch of the top, and packing down well into the corners and along
sides and ends. The box should not be filled level full, because in
subsequent waterings there would be no space to hold the water which
would run off over the sides instead of soaking down into the soil.
The usual way is to fill the boxes and sow the seed, and then water the
box on the surface, but I mention here a method which I have used in my
own work for two years. When filling the box, set it in some place where
it may be watered freely, such as on the cellar floor, if too cold to
work outdoors. After putting in the first layer of coarse material, give
it a thorough soaking and then put in about two-thirds of the rest of
the soil required and give that a thorough watering also. The balance
of the soil is then put in and made level, the seeds sown, and no
further watering given, or just enough to moisten the surface and hold
it in place, if dry. The same result can be obtained by filling and
sowing the box in the usual way, and then placing it in some place--such
as the kitchen sink--in about an inch of water, and leaving it until
moisture, not water, shows upon the surface. Either of these ways is
much surer than the old method of trying to soak the soil through from
the surface after planting, in which case it is next to impossible to
wet the soil clear through without washing out some of the small seeds.
After filling the box as directed, make the soil perfectly smooth and
level with a small flat piece of board, or a brick. Do not pack it down
hard,--just make it firm. Then mark off straight narrow lines, one to
two inches apart, according to the size of the seed to be sown.
The instructions usually given are to cover flower seeds to from three
to five times their own depth. You may, if you like, take a foot-rule
and try to measure the diameter of a begonia or mignonette seed; but you
will probably save time by simply trying to cover small seeds just as
lightly as possible. I mark off my seed rows with the point of a lead
pencil--which I have handy back of my ear for writing the tags--sow the
seed thinly, and as evenly as possible by shaking it gently out of a
corner of the seed envelope, which is tapped lightly with the lead
pencil, and then press each row down with the edge of a board about as
thick as a shingle. Over the whole scatter cocoanut fiber (which may be
bought of most seedmen) or light prepared soil, as thinly as
possible--just cover the seeds from sight--and press the surface flat
with a small piece of board. A very light moistening, with a plant
sprinkler, completes the operation.
The temperature required in which to start the seeds of any plant will
be about the same as that which the same plant requires when grown.
Germination will be stronger and quicker, however, if ten to fifteen
degrees more, especially at night, can be supplied. If this can be given
as what the florists term "bottom heat," that is, applied under the seed
box, so much the better.
Until germination actually takes place, there is little danger of
getting the soil too warm, as it heats through from the bottom very
slowly. The box may be placed on the steam radiator, on a stand over the
floor radiator, or on a couple of bricks on the back of the kitchen
range; or the box may be supported over a lamp or small kerosene stove,
care being taken to have a piece of metal between the wood and the
direct heat of the flame. For the first few days it may be kept in the
shade, but as soon as the seeds push through they must be given all the
If the seed flats or pans are prepared by the newer method suggested
above, they will probably not need any further watering, or not more
than one, until the seeds are up. The necessity of further watering, in
any case, will be shown by the soil's drying out on the surface. In the
case of small seeds, such as most flower seeds are, the moisture in the
soil will be retained much longer by keeping the box covered with a pane
of glass, slightly raised at one side. If the box is to be kept in
bright sunlight, shade the glass with a piece of paper, until the
seedlings are up, which will be in a day or so with some sorts, and
weeks with others.
From the time the little plants come up, until they are ready to prick
off in other flats or into pots, the boxes should never be allowed to
dry out. If they are being grown in winter or early spring, while the
days are still short and the sun low, they will require very little
water, and it should be applied only on bright mornings. In autumn and
late spring, especially the latter, they will require more, and if the
boxes dry out quickly, you should apply it toward evening. In either
case, do not water until the soil is beginning to dry on the surface,
and then water thoroughly, or until the soil will not readily absorb
more. If you will take the pains, and have the facilities for doing it,
by far the best way to keep the seed boxes supplied with moisture is to
place them, when dry, in an inch or so of water (as described for seed
sowing) and let them soak up what they need, or until the surface of the
soil becomes moist. This does the job more evenly and thoroughly than it
can be done from the surface, and is also a safeguard against damping
off, that dreaded disease of seedlings which is likely to carry away
your whole sowing in one day--a decaying of the stem just at or below
From the time the seedlings come up they should be given abundance of
light, and all the air possible while maintaining the required
temperature. It will be possible, except on very cold dark days, to give
them fresh air. Never, however, let a draft of air more than a few
degrees colder than the room in which they are blow directly upon them.
The secret of growing the little plants until they are ready for their
first shift is not so much in the amount of care given, as in its
_regularity_. Tend them every day--it will take only a few minutes time.
When the second true leaf appears they will be ready for their first
change, which is described in Chapter VI.
[Illustration: A new scheme of sub-irrigation for flats. Some porous
material such as sphagnum moss or excelsior (as here) is put on the open
bottom and the flat watered by allowing it to stand in a sink or tub for
a few minutes]
[Illustration: Cuttings ready for sand; the leaves have been clipped
back. From left to right, heliotrope, geranium, "patience plant"]
[Illustration: Geranium cuttings ready to pot. Notice the roots, which
should not be allowed to grow more than half or three-quarters of an
inch long before potting]
STARTING PLANTS FROM CUTTINGS
While many plants are best started from seed, as described in the
preceding chapter, there are many which cannot be so reproduced;
especially named varieties which will not come true from seeds, but
revert to older and inferior types.
Also it very frequently happens that one has a choice plant of some sort
of which the seed is not to be obtained, and in this case also it
becomes necessary to reproduce the plant in some other way.
Where large numbers of plants are to be started, and they may be had
from seed, that is usually the best way in which to work up a supply:
but where only a few are wanted, as for house plants or use in a small
garden, propagation by cuttings is the quickest and most satisfactory
method. Practically all of the house plants, including most of those
which can be started from seed, may be increased in this way.
The matter of first importance, when starting plants by this system, is
to have strong, healthy cuttings of the right degree of hardiness. Take
your cuttings only from plants that are in full vigor, and growing
strongly. They should be taken from what is termed "new growth," that is
the terminal portions of shoots, which have not yet become old and hard.
The proper condition of the wood may be determined by the following
test: if the stem is bent between the fingers it should snap (like a
green bean); if it bends and doubles without breaking it is either too
old and will not readily root, or too soft and will be almost sure to
wilt or rot.
The cutting should be from two to four inches long, according to the
plant and variety to be propagated. It should be cut off slant-wise, as
this will assist in its being pushed firmly down into the cutting box.
It may be cut either near, or between a joint or eye--with the exception
of a few plants, noted later. The lower leaves should be taken off
clean; those remaining, if large, shortened back, as shown in the
illustration facing page 29. Then the plant will not be so likely to
If the cuttings cannot be put in the propagating medium immediately
after being made; keep them in the shade, and if necessary sprinkle to
prevent wilting. I once obtained a batch of chrysanthemum cuttings from
a brother florist who said that they were so badly wilted that they
could never be rooted. I immersed them all in water for several hours,
which revived them, and had the satisfaction of rooting almost every
The medium most commonly used in which to root cuttings is clean,
medium-coarse sand, such as builders use. It must not be so fine as to
pack tightly, nor so coarse as to fit loosely about the cuttings, and
admit air so freely as to dry them out.
Make a flat similar to that used for starting seeds, but four or five
inches deep. Place in the bottom an inch or two of gravel or coal ashes,
covered lightly with moss or a single thickness of old bag, and then
fill nearly full of clean sand. Make this level, and give a thorough
soaking. After drying out for an hour or so, it is ready for the
Mark the box off in straight lines, two or three inches apart, and
insert the cuttings as closely as possible without touching, and to a
depth of about one-third or one-half their length. A small, pointed
stick, or dibber, will be convenient in getting them in firmly. Wet them
down to pack the sand closely around them.
The best temperature for the room in which the cutting box is to be kept
will be from fifty to fifty-five degrees at night. Like the seed box,
however, it will be greatly helped by ten or fifteen degrees of bottom
heat in addition. For method of giving this extra bottom heat, see page
If the box is kept in a bright sunny place, shade the cuttings with a
piece of newspaper during the heat of the day, to prevent wilting, and
if the weather is so hot that the room is warmer than seventy degrees,
an occasional light sprinkling will help to keep them fresh.
Never let the sand dry out or all your work will be lost. As a rule, it
will require a thorough soaking every morning.
With these precautions taken, the cuttings should begin to throw out
roots in from eight to twenty days, according to conditions and
varieties. Do not let them stay in the sand after the roots form; it is
much better to pot them off at once, before the roots get more than half
an inch long. If some of the cuttings have not rooted but show a
granulated condition where they were cut, they will be safe to pot off,
as they will, as a rule, root in the soil.
The above method is the one usually employed. There is another, however,
just as easy and more certain in results, especially where bottom heat
cannot easily be had. It is called the "saucer" system of propagation.
Make the cuttings as described above. Put the sand in a deep,
water-tight dish, such as a glazed earthenware dish or a deep soup
plate, and pack the cuttings in as thickly as necessary. Wet the sand to
the consistency of mud and keep the dish in a warm light place. The
temperature may be higher than when using the sand box, and there will
not be a necessity for shading. _The sand must be kept constantly
saturated_: that is the whole secret of success with this method of
rooting cuttings. Pot them off as soon as the roots begin to grow.
Cuttings made by the two systems described above are usually taken in
autumn, or in spring. When it is necessary to get new plants during
June, July or August, a method called "layering in the air" will have to
be resorted to if you would be certain of results. Instead of taking the
cutting clean off, cut it nearly through; the smallest shred of wood and
bark will keep it from wilting, but it should be kept upright, for if it
hangs down the end of the shoot will immediately begin to turn up,
making a U-shaped cutting. The cuttings are left thus partly attached
for about eight days or until they are thoroughly calloused, when they
are taken off and potted, like rooted cuttings, but giving a little more
sand in the soil and not quite so much water. They are, of course,
shaded for several days.
Some of the plants ordinarily grown in the house, such as Rex begonias,
rubber plants, sword ferns, are best increased by leaf cuttings,
topping, layering or other methods differing from seed sowing or rooting
cuttings. These several operations will be described in treating of the
plants for which they are used.
Having carried our little plants safely through the first stage of their
growth, it is necessary that we use some care in getting them
established as individuals, and give them the best possible preparation
for successful service in their not unimportant world.
TRANSPLANTING, POTTING AND REPOTTING
Directions have already been given for preparing the best soil for house
plants. This soil, sifted through a coarse screen--say a one-half inch
mesh--is just right for "pricking off" or transplanting the little
Use flats similar to those prepared for the seeds, but an inch deeper.
In the bottom put an inch of the rough material screened from sods and
manure. Give this a thorough watering; cover with an inch of the sifted
soil, and wet this down also. Then fill the box nearly level full of the
sifted soil, which should be neither dry nor moist enough to be sticky.
Take care also that this soil is not much--if any--colder than the
temperature in which the seedlings have been kept.
It is usually best to transplant the seedlings just as soon as they are
large enough to be handled, which is as soon as the second true leaf
appears. Nothing is gained by leaving them in the seed boxes longer, as
they soon begin to crowd and get lanky and are more likely to be
attacked by the damping off fungus than they are after being
Find a table or bench of the right height upon which to work
comfortably. With a flat stick, or with a transplanting fork (which can
be had for fifteen cents) lift a bunch of the little plants out, dirt
and all, clear to the bottom of the box. Hold this clump in one hand and
with the other gently tear away the seedlings, one at a time, discarding
all crooked or weak ones. Never attempt to pull the seedlings from the
soil in the flat, as the little rootlets are very easily broken off.
They should come away almost intact, as shown facing page 48. Water the
seed flats the day previous to transplanting, so that the soil will be
in just the right condition, neither wet enough to make the roots
sticky, nor so dry as to crumble away.
Take the little seedling by the stem between the thumb and forefinger,
and with a small round pointed stick or dibber, or with the forefinger
of the other hand, make a hole deep enough to receive the roots and
about half the length--more if the seedlings are lanky--of the stem. As
the little plant is dropped into place, the tips of both thumbs and
forefingers, by one quick, firm movement, compress the earth firmly both
down on the roots and against the stem so that the plant sticks upright
and may not readily be pulled out. Of course there is a knack about it
which cannot be put into words--I could have pricked off a hundred
seedlings in the time I am spending in trying to describe the
operation--but a little practice will make one reasonably efficient at
When the flat is completed, jar it slightly to level the surface and
give a watering, being careful, however, to bend down the plants as
little as possible. Set the plants on a level surface, and if the sun is
bright, shade with newspapers during the middle of the day for two or
From now on until ready for potting, keep at the required temperature,
as near as possible, and water thoroughly on bright mornings when
necessary, but only when the drying of the surface shows that the soil
needs it. Above all, give all the air possible, while maintaining the
necessary heat. The quality of the mature plants will depend more upon
this precaution than upon anything else in the way of care.
The little seedlings are sometimes put from the seed flat directly into
small pots. I strongly advise the method described above. The flats save
room and care, and the plants do much better for a few weeks than they
will in pots. Where room is scarce, it is well to transplant cuttings
into flats instead of potting them off. As soon, however, as either the
transplanted plants or cuttings begin to crowd in the flats, they must
be put into pots. How soon this will be depends largely, of course, upon
the amount of room they have been given. As many as a hundred are often
set in a flat 13x19 inches, but it is well to give them twice as much
space as that if room permits.
Cuttings and small plants are put into two-inch or "thumb" pots. Some of
the larger growing geraniums or very sturdy plants require
two-and-one-half inch pots, but the smaller size should be used when
The soil for pots up to three inches should be screened, but not made
too fine. A coal-ash sifter, or half-inch screen will do. The soil
should be made up as directed in Chapter III.
The pots should be thoroughly cleaned with sand and water, or by a
several days' soaking, and then wiping out with a cloth, if they have
been used before. An old pot, with dirt sticking to the inside and the
pores all clogged up, will not do good work. Old or new, they should be
immersed in water until through bubbling just before using; otherwise
they will absorb too much moisture from the soil.
The method of potting should depend somewhat upon the condition of the
roots of the cutting. If they are less than half an inch long, as they
should be, fill the pot level full of soil, make a hole with the
forefinger of one hand; insert the cutting to about half its depth with
the other, rap the bottom of the pot smartly against the bench to settle
the earth, and then press it down firmly with the thumbs, leveling it
as the pot is placed to one side in an empty flat. (The jarring down of
the soil should precede the firming with the thumbs, as this will
compact the soil more evenly within the pot.) This should leave the soil
a little below the rim of the pot, making a space to hold water when
watering; and the cutting should be so firmly embedded that it cannot be
moved without breaking the soil.
With cuttings whose roots have been allowed to grow an inch or more in
length, and plants with a considerable ball of roots--as they should
have when coming from the transplanting flats--it is better partly to
fill the pot. Hold the plant or cutting in position with the left hand
and press the soil in about it with the right hand--firming it as
directed in the former case. With a little practice either operation can
be performed very rapidly. Florists do four to five hundred pots an
When for any reason it is necessary to put a small or weakly rooted
plant or cutting, or a cutting that is just on the point of sending
forth roots, in a pot that seems too large, _put it near the edge of the
pot_, instead of in the middle. This will often save a plant which would
otherwise be lost, and at the next shift it can, of course, be put in
the center of the pot.
If no small pots are at hand, several small plants or cuttings can be
put around the edge of a four-or five-inch pot, with good results. Care
must be taken, however, not to give too much water.
As soon as the little plants or cuttings are potted up, give them a
thorough watering and place them where the holes in the bottoms of the
pots will not be clogged with soil. A large flat, in the bottom of which
an inch of pebbles, coarse sand or sifted cinders has been put, will be
a good place for them. Keep shaded during the hot part of the day for
three or four days. At first the pots may be placed as close together as
possible, but in a very short time--two weeks at the most, if the
growing conditions are right--they will need to be put farther apart.
Nothing will injure them so quickly as being left crowded together where
they cannot get enough air. Better, if necessary, give or throw away
half of them than to attempt to grow fifty plants where you have room
for only two dozen.
As before, water only when necessary, _i.e._, when the surface of the
soil begins to look whitish and dry. Then water thoroughly. Until by
practice you know just what they need, knock a few out of the pots, say
fifteen minutes after watering, and see if the ball of earth has been
wet through to the bottom; if not, you are not doing the job thoroughly.
If the pots do not dry out between waterings, but stay muddy and heavy,
either your soil is not right or you have used pots too large for your
In the course of a week or two, if a plant is knocked out, the small
white roots may be seen coming through the ball of earth and beginning
to curl around the outside of it. The time for repotting the young
plants will have been reached when these roots have made a thick network
around the ball of earth, but before they become brown and woody; that
is, while they are still white and succulent--"working roots," as the
florists term them.
[Illustration: Potted cuttings ready for shifting to a larger pot. From
left to right, ivy geranium, snapdragon, geranium and dusty miller]
[Illustration: Some plants, like Rex begonia, will strike root from
their leaves if perforated with a knife into damp sand]
[Illustration: In all potted plants an important detail is the placing
of rough drainage material, such as broken pieces of pot, charcoal,
ashes, etc., at the bottom, to prevent moisture from settling in the
soil and souring it]
The shift, as a general rule, should be to a pot only one size larger,
that is, from a three to a four, or a four to a five.
Remove the plant from the old pot by holding the stem of the plant
between the index and middle finger of the left hand, and with the right
inverting the pot and rapping the edge of the rim sharply against the
edge of the bench or table.
Before putting the plant into the new pot, remove the top half inch of
soil and gently loosen up the lower half of the ball of roots, if it is
Put soil in the bottom of the pot to such a depth that when the ball of
roots is covered with half an inch or so of new soil, the surface
thereof will still be about half an inch below the rim of the pot. Hold
the plant in place with the left hand, and with the right fill in around
it, making the soil firm as before. Water and care is the same as after
the first potting.
Pots four inches or over in size should be crocked to make certain of
sufficient drainage. The best material to use is broken charcoal, in
pieces one-half to an inch in diameter. Pieces of broken pots, cinders
or rough pebbles will do. Be sure that the drainage hole is not covered;
if pieces of pots are used, put the concave side down over the hole, as
illustrated facing page 41. The depth of the drainage material, or
crocking, will be from half an inch to three inches, according to the
size of the pot. Over this rough material put a little screenings, leaf
mould or sphagnum moss, to prevent the soil's washing down into it. Then
fill in with soil and pot in the regular way.
The time for repotting house plants is at the beginning of their growing
season. It varies, of course, with the different kinds. The great
majority, however, start into new growth in the spring and should be
repotted from the middle of March to the middle of May. Plants kept
through the winter for stock plants are usually started up and repotted
early in February to induce the abundant new growth that furnishes
cuttings. The method of repotting will depend on the nature of the
plant. Soft-wooded plants, like geraniums, are put in in the ordinary
way and firmed with the fingers. The palms do best with the new soil
more firmly packed about the old ball of roots. Hard-wooded plants with
very fine roots, like the azaleas, should have the soil rammed down
firmly about the old ball; for which purpose it is necessary to use a
blunt, flat piece of wood, of convenient size. In repotting such
plants, it is well to let the ball of roots soak several minutes in a
pail of water before putting into the new pot. If very densely matted,
make several holes in it with a spike, working it around, and leave the
soil a little lower at the center of the pot to induce the water to run
down through the root ball.
Plants that have been crocked in the old pots should have this material
removed, if possible, before going into their new quarters.
Plants in large pots often use up all the plant food available, and
where they cannot be given still larger pots become quite a problem.
They are usually handsome specimens which one does not like to lose.
Remove such a plant from its pot and carefully _wash_ all the soil from
the roots; clean the pot and carefully repot in fresh soil in the same
pot. The result will be extremely satisfactory.
Until one has become proficient in the art of potting, it will pay well
to practice with every plant and cutting that may be had. If you have
mistakes to make, make them with these, so that your favorite plants may
be handled safely.
MANAGEMENT OF HOUSE PLANTS
There are some general rules that will apply to taking care of all
plants in the house; then there are several groups, the different sorts
in which are handled more or less alike; and lastly there are the
individual requirements of the plants in the several groups to be
Information about all these varieties, as given in the usual way,
results in a more or less confusing mass of detail. It is for the
purpose of getting this information into as plain a form as possible
that the instructions in the first chapters of this book have been given
in such detail; and those instructions should be used in conjunction
with the following pages. The beginner cannot expect to fully comprehend
the suggestions given until the plain everyday operations of plant
growing have become familiar.
Much of what has been said in the previous pages has borne upon the
several points of managing plants successfully in the house. It will be
of use, however, to have those various suggestions brought together in
In the first place it must be remembered that at best it is hard to get
conditions in the living-room that will be suitable for the healthy
growth of plants. Every effort should be made to prepare a place for
them in which such conditions may be made as nearly ideal as possible:
plenty of light, evenly regulated temperature; moisture in the air.
For most house plants the temperature should be 50 to 55 at night and 65
to 75 during the day. An occasional night temperature of 45 or even 40
will not do great harm but if reached frequently will check the growth
of the plants.
Air should be given every day when the temperature of the room will not
be too greatly lowered thereby. Avoid direct drafts, as sudden chills
are apt to produce bad results. Even on very cold days, fresh air may be
let in indirectly, through a window open in an adjoining room or through
a hall. It is better, when possible, to give a little ventilation during
an hour or two, than to rush too sudden a lowering of the temperature by
trying to do it all in fifteen minutes.
The amount of water which should be given will depend both upon the
plant and upon the season. During the dull days of winter and during the
"resting season" of all plants, very little water will be required. It
should be given on bright mornings. During early fall and late spring,
when the pots or boxes dry out very rapidly, water in the evening. In
either case, however, withhold water until the soil is beginning to get
on the "dry side" and then water thoroughly. Water should be given until
it runs down through into the saucers but should not be allowed to
Sometimes it will be beneficial to moisten the foliage of plants without
wetting the soil. Just after repotting and in fighting plant lice, red
spider and other insect enemies (see Chapter XVII) this treatment will
be necessary. A fine-rose spray on the watering-can may be used but a
rubber plant-sprinkler costing about sixty-five cents, will be very much
better, as with it the water will be applied in a finer spray with a
great deal more force and to either the upper or under surface of the
leaves--a point of great importance.
Plants growing in windows, where the light strikes them only, or mostly,
from one side, should be frequently turned to prevent their growing
Also do not hesitate to use knife, scissors and fingers in keeping them
symmetrical and shapely. One of the greatest mistakes that amateurs make
is in being afraid to cut an ungainly or half leafless branch. Instead
of injuring a plant, such pruning frequently is an actual benefit.
If neglected, dust will quickly gather on the leaves and clog their
pores, and as the plants have no way of breathing but through their
leaves, you can see what the result must be. Syringing, mentioned
above, will help. They should also be wiped clean with a soft dry cloth,
especially such plants as palms, rubbers, Rex begonias. Do _not_ use
olive oil or any other sticky substance on the cloth. Always remove at
once any broken, dead or diseased leaf or flower. Do not let flowering
plants go to seed: nothing else will so quickly bring the blooming
period to a close.
Do not try to force your plants into continuous growth. Almost without
exception they demand a period of rest, and if you do not allow them to
take it when nature suggests, they will take it themselves when you do
not want them to. The natural rest period is during the winter. During
this time a _very_ little water will do and no repotting or manuring
should be attempted.
It is, however, desirable in some cases, as with many of the flowering
plants, to change the season bloom, as we want their beauty during the
winter. In such cases they should be _made_ to rest during the summer,
by withholding water and keeping them disbudded.
Many beginners get the idea that as soon as any plant has filled its pot
with roots it must be immediately shifted to a larger one. While this is
as a rule true with small plants, being grown on, it is not at all true
of mature plants, especially those wanted to bloom in the house. When a
shift has been given, at the beginning of the growing period, no
further change should be necessary during the winter. It will, however,
be well, if not imperative, to furnish food in the form of liquid
manures when the soil in the pot has become filled with roots. It should
be applied from one to three times a week--the former being sufficient
for a plant showing ordinary growth.
All the animal manures, cow, horse, sheep, hen, etc.,--are good to use
in this way, but cow manure is the safest and best. Place three or four
inches of half-rotted manure in a galvanized iron pail, fill with water,
and after standing a few hours it will be ready for use. The pail can be
refilled. As long as the liquid becomes the color of weak tea it will be
strong enough to use. Give from a gill to a pint at each application to
a six-or eight-inch pot. The other manures should not be made quite so
strong. For liquid chemicals see page 19 or mix up the following: 5 lbs.
nitrate of soda, 3 of nitrate of potash and 2 of phosphate of ammonia,
and use 1 oz. of the mixture dissolved in five or six gallons of water.
At the beginning of the growing period and at frequent intervals during
the early growth of plants they must be repotted. The operation is
described on page 40.
[Illustration: From left to right, cabbage seedlings just right for
transplanting; seedlings of stocks; lanky seedlings that have been too
thickly sown. These last should be set deeply, as indicated by the cross
[Illustration: An attractive and efficient flower bay was made here by
waterproofing the floor, building plant shelves and isolating the whole
when necessary with the curtains]
As soon as danger of late frost is over in the spring the plants should
be got out of the house. It is safest to "harden them off" first by
leaving them a few nights with the windows wide open or in a sheltered
place on the veranda. Those which require partial shade may be kept on
the veranda or under a tree. Most of them, however, will do best in the
full sun and should, if wanted for use in the house a second season, be
kept in their pots. The best way to handle them is to dig out a bed six
or eight inches deep (the sod and earth taken out may be used in your
dirt heap for next year) and fill it with sifted coal ashes. In this,
"plunge," that is, bury the pots up to their rims. If set on the surface
of the soil it will be next to impossible to keep them sufficiently wet
unless they are protected from the direct rays of the sun by an overhead
screening of lath nailed close together, or "protecting cloth"
waterproofed. Where many plants are grown for the house such a shed,
open on all sides, is sometimes made.
Care must be taken not to let plants in "plunged" pots root through into
the soil. This is prevented by lifting and partly turning the pots every
week or so. They will not root through into the coal cinders as rapidly
as into soil and better drainage is secured. Watch the soil in the pots,
not that in which they are plunged, when deciding about watering. For
most plants a thorough watering, tops and all, once every afternoon
ordinarily will not be too much.
Plants such as geraniums and heliotrope, which are wanted for blooming
in early winter, should be kept rather dry and all buds pinched off. Do
not shift them to new pots until two or three weeks before time to take
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
cuttings. The new growth will come up from the rib. (Illustration facing
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.
[Illustration: Begonias combine more fully than any other house plant
the three important factors of beauty of form and flower, continuity of
bloom and ease of culture. This is the variety Pride of Cincinnati]
[Illustration: The pansy geraniums bear the most beautiful flowers of
the whole geranium family, but as yet the flowering season is rather
[Illustration: _Primula obconica._ Primroses need no particular care.
Buy small plants from the florist each spring]
_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
OTHER FLOWERING PLANTS
_Ageratum_--Valuable for its bright blue flowers and dwarf growth, going
in well with other plants. There is also a white variety. Make cuttings
in August, or cut back and pot up old plants.
_Alyssum_--Good with other plants to produce a light bouquet-like
effect. White. Fall and dwarf varieties. Seed or cuttings.
_Balsam_--Beautiful colors. Take up and pot after blooming in garden.
Only double sorts worth while.
_Candytuft_--Colors. Good for cut flowers. Seed or cuttings.
_Cannas_--New dwarf hybrids, named varieties have beautiful flowers.
Give rich soil, lots of sun and water. Dry off after flowering.
_Carnation_--This beautiful flower is not well adapted for house
culture. It may, however, be grown in five-or-six-inch pots, using a
heavy soil, keeping in a cool temperature, about forty-five degrees at
night, watering regularly and spraying daily with as much force as
possible. For further information about growing the plants, see Part
II., page 181.
_Carnation Marguerite_--These are much better suited for the trials of
house culture. While not as large, they are in other respects fully as
beautiful. Take up the best sorts from the flower garden, cut back
severely and keep shaded until new growth starts.
_Chrysanthemum_--This is another beautiful flower not well suited to
house culture. However, if you have room,--it will take an eight-,
nine-or even ten-inch pot for each plant--and want to go to the trouble,
you can have it indoors. For cultural directions see Part II, page 185.
_Daisies_, Double English Daisies--The bright little short-stemmed
daisies, seen so frequently in spring (_Bellis perennis_) are not often
used as a house plant, but make a very agreeable surprise. Start from
seed in August; transplant to boxes of suitable size, and on the
approach of freezing weather cover gradually with leaves and rough
manure or litter in a sheltered, well drained place. Bring them in as
wanted from January on.
_Daisy_, Paris or Marguerite--Beautiful daisy-like flowers, very freely
borne, in two colors, pure white and delicate yellow. Root cuttings in
spring and keep pinched back for winter flowering. Grow in rather heavy
rich soil, with plenty of water.
_Patience Plant (Impatiens)_--This old-fashioned but cheery flowered
plant resembles the flowering begonias in looks and habit. It grows very
rapidly and is one of the most indefatigable bloomers of all plants.
Spring cuttings grown on will make good flowering plant for winter.
Give plenty of water.
_Lobelia_--This favorite little plant bears starry blossoms of one of
the most intense blues found anywhere in the realm of flowers. Grown
easily from fall sown seed, or cuttings. Star of Ishmael and Kathreen
Mallard are two named varieties recently introduced and great
_Mahernia_--(Honey-bell)--Of great value for its fragrance. Grow on from
_Mignonette_--Another flower owing its popularity to its fragrance.
Start winter plants by sowing in two-inch pots in July or August,
several seeds to a pot. As soon as well started, thin to the best plant.
Grow on, keeping cool and well pinched back. Give support. There are
several newer named varieties that are great improvements over the old
type, especially in size of spike. Colossal, Allan's Defiance, Machet,
are all fine sorts.
_Pansy_--If wanted for winter blooming, take cuttings or start from
seed, as described for Daisy (_Bellis perennis_). The seed bed must be
kept cool and shaded.
_Salvia_--One of the most brilliant of all flowering plants. For winter
make cuttings in August, or take off suckers with roots at base of
plant. They like heat. Keep thoroughly sprayed to ward off red spider.
_Piqueria or Stevia serrata_--Another fragrant flower. Root cuttings in
January or February and grow on for blooming from November to February.
_Stocks_--What I said about snapdragons on page 64 might well be
repeated here. Start from seed in August or September. They are very
easily grown. In addition to their beauty--they resemble a spray of
small roses--is their entrancing fragrance. Only the double sorts are
good. There are many fine new sorts. Abundance, a beautiful delicate
pink, will be sure to arouse your enthusiasm.
_Verbena_--If any of these old brilliant favorites are wanted, start
from cuttings, being sure to use strong new growth which may be induced
by spading up and enriching the soil in August, and cutting back the
_Verbena, Lemon_--See page 77.
_Violets_--See Part II (page 183).
There is one thing which the beginner cannot be told too often, and
which I repeat here, as it has much to do with the success of many of
the above plants. Do not fail to pinch back seedlings and cuttings
during their early stages of growth, to induce the formation of stocky,
well-branched plants. This must be the foundation of the winter's
The shrubs of dwarf habit available for growing inside in winter are
numerous and valuable. They include a number of the most attractive
plants one may have, and as a rule will stand more hardships in the way
of poor light, low temperature and irregular attention than any of the
other flowering plants.
They differ from the other flowering plants in several ways. They are
harder wooded; the resting spell is more marked and they make growth and
store up energy for flowering _ahead_ of the blossoming season.
Their differences in habit of growth naturally involve differences in
treatment. In the first place, they are harder to propagate; in many
cases it is better for the amateur to get plants from the florist than
to try to raise them. This is not such a disadvantage as might at first
appear, because most of them can be kept for several years, only
improving with age.
The "snapping" test (page 30) will not apply to many of the shrubs when
taking cuttings. In this case they are made from the new growth after
it becomes firm and well ripened. It should be fresh and plump, and
rooting will be made more certain by bottom heat. Often cuttings of
hard-wooded plants, such as oleander, are rooted in plain water, in
wide-mouthed bottles hung in a warm place in the sun, the water being
frequently renewed or kept fresh with a lump or so of charcoal.
Many of the shrubs are beautiful for summer blooming on the veranda or
in large pots or tubs. These may be kept over winter safely by drying
off and keeping in a frost-proof cellar where they will get little
light. In this way they will come out again in the spring, just as hardy
shrubs do out-of-doors. The earth should not be allowed to get dust dry,
but should not be more than slightly moist; very little, and often no,
water is required, especially if mulching of some sort is put over the
earth in pots or boxes; but it should not be any material that would
harbor rats or mice. The leaves will fall off, but this is not a danger
signal, such plants being deciduous in their natural climates. It will
be best to keep such plants as are to be stored in the cellar, from the
time there is danger of frost until about November first, in an
outbuilding or shed, where they will not freeze. This makes the change
more gradual and natural. The temperature of the cellar should be as
near thirty-four to thirty-eight degrees as possible. About March first
will be time to start giving most plants so treated heat, light and
water again, the latter gradually.
The fact that growth is made in advance of the flowering period means
that the summer care and feeding of such plants is very important.
Plenty of water must be given, and frequent applications of liquid
manure or fertilizers, or top dressing. Flowering shrubs that bloom on
last season's wood, like hydrangeas, should be pruned just after
_Abutilon_--The Flowering Maple (Abutilon) is an old favorite, but well
worthy of continued popularity. It is practically ever-blooming, which
at once marks it as highly desirable. The pendulous flowers are very
pretty, coming in shades of pink, white, yellow and dark red. The
foliage is also beautiful, especially that of the variegated varieties,
than which very few plants are more worthy of a place in the window
New plants, which will grow and bloom very rapidly, are propagated by
cuttings rooted in the fall or spring. Give the plants when indoors
plenty of light. Old plants, for which there is not room in the window
garden, may be wintered almost dry in a cool place and allowing the
leaves to fall off.
[Illustration: _Grevillea robusta_, the Silk Oak, is easily grown and an
exceedingly graceful shrub for growing indoors]
[Illustration: Otaheite orange. Their rest period should be given during
November, December and January]
The varieties are numerous. Some of the best are Santana, deep red;
Boule de Neige, pure white; Gold Bell, yellow; _Darwini tesselatum_;
Souvenir de Bonn and Savitzii (the latter the most popular of all
variegated); Eclipse and vexillarium, trailing in habit.
_Acalypha_--Valuable for its variegated foliage. For use in the house
root cuttings in early fall. The old roots, after cutting back, may be
kept on the dry side to furnish cuttings in spring for the garden
_Aralia_--Aralia (_Fatsia Japonica_) and _A. J. variegata_, especially
the last, are two of the most decorative plants one may have. They are
not widely known--very likely because they are difficult to propagate.
Easily kept. Get from florist.
_Ardisia_--(_Ardisia crenulata_) is the best red berried plant for the
house. It is a dwarf, with very beautiful dark green foliage. While kept
healthy it will be laden constantly with its attractive clusters of
berries, one crop lasting over the next. Seedlings make the best plants,
and are readily grown. Sow in January to April, and plants will flower
within a year and thereafter be perpetually decorated. Old plants can be
topped (see page 86) and make fine specimens. By all means give the
ardisia a place in your collection.
_Aucuba_--The Gold Dust Plant: one of the beautiful shrubs and
especially valuable for decoration because doing well in such shaded
positions as inner rooms, or by doorways. Strong tip cuttings--six to
ten inches--can be rooted readily in the fall. Give a soil on the heavy
_Azalea_--The azalea is the most beautiful flowering shrub--if not the
most beautiful of all winter flowering plants. With proper treatment an
azalea should do service for several years, becoming more splendid each
You will probably get your plant when it is in full bloom. At this time,
and during the whole growing season, it requires abundant water. The
best way to make sure of giving it a thorough one, is to stand it for
half an hour in a pail of water. Keep it in a rather cool place, say
forty-five at night, and the flowering season, which should last several
weeks, will be prolonged.
With the azaleas you must do the work for next year's success as soon as
the flowering season is over. After repotting, keep in a temperature of
fifty to fifty-five degrees at night.
There are three types of azalea suitable for winter blooming, the
Indian, Ghent and Mollis, of each of which there are several kinds. The
Indian type has the advantage of not blooming without its leaves, as the
others do. The best way to select the varieties wanted is to purchase
when in bloom. It will not pay the amateur to attempt propagation.
_Bouvardia_--Pink, white or red flowers, sweet scented. Propagated by
root cuttings, but as the plants are good for a number of years, the
best way is to get them from the florist. Old plants may be divided,
small enough to go into number three pots. Give either cuttings or
divisions about sixty degrees at night after potting, which should be in
spring, until put outdoors. Keep pinched to shape. Then bloom from late
fall to February.
_Browallia_--A very attractive flowering shrub, easily grown in a cool
room, with plenty of sunlight. Sow seeds in 4-inch pots in August,
thinning to three or four. Repot to 6 inches. Cuttings make good plants.
Best grown as standards.
_B. elata_ is especially valuable because of its deep blue flowers. _B.
Jamesonii_ is orange. Roezlii and Grandiflora, blue or white.
_Daphne_--_D. odora_ is easily grown and very fragrant. As ornamental as
orange or lemon and very free flowering. Give almost no water in winter,
or store in cellar. Plants good for many years.
_Genista_--A beautiful evergreen shrub, bearing freely in spring
clusters of pea-shaped yellow flowers, richly fragrant. Cut back after
flowering, and in fall put in a cold room, forty degrees, or a frame,
giving several weeks rest. Cuttings may be rooted readily in spring,
when pruning the plants.
_Grevillea robusta_--The Silk Oak is grown with the greatest ease and
makes an extremely graceful, beautiful plant, either by itself or as a
center for fern dishes, etc. Sow in March and grow on with frequent
_Hibiscus_--One of the most brilliant flowering shrubs outside of the
azaleas, with single and double flowers. Give a warm, sunny spot. Large
plants can be stored in the cellar. Cuttings in spring or summer will
furnish new plants.
_Hydrangea_--This is another popular flowering shrub, often had in bloom
inside in the spring, but personally I do not consider it suited for
such use. The flowers are rather coarse to bear close inspection, such
as a house plant must be subject to: they are far more effective in
masses out-of-doors or used as semi-formal decorations about paths or
stoops, for which purpose they are unsurpassed.
If you care to have them bloom indoors, get small plants from the
florist, or start cuttings of new growth in spring, taking shoots which
do not have buds. After flowering, cut back each branch and grow on, in
a cool airy place with slight protection from noonday sun. Take into the
house before frost, and gradually dry off for a rest of six weeks or
more in a cold room. Then start into growth.
Plants for flowering early in the spring outdoors should be treated in
the same way during summer, and wintered in the cellar, as directed
above. Take up to the light any time after first of March in the spring,
but be careful to harden off before setting outside.
The varieties of the hydrangea are several, some being entirely hardy
farther north than New York, but the sorts best for house and tub
culture are not. Most of them will come through some winters, but it
doesn't pay to take the chance.
_H. Hortensia_ Japonica is the blue flowering variety; the color will
depend much, however, upon the soil. To make sure of the color, dissolve
one pound of alum in two quarts of ammonia, dilute with twenty gallons
water and use as a liquid fertilizer. Thomas Hogg is a beautiful pure
white, quite hardy. _H. h._ Otaksa, pink, is one of the most popular.
_Lantana_--Easily grown flowering shrub, trailing in habit, with small
flower clusters of white, pink, red, yellow or orange. New dwarf
varieties best for pot culture. Cuttings root easily. I have never cared
for this plant, and its odor is not pleasant to most people.
_Lemon_--The best lemon for house culture is the Ponderosa, or American
Wonder, of comparatively recent introduction. Most florists now have it.
Easily grown and a very attractive plant. The fruit is good to use.
_Lemon Verbena_ (_Aloysia citriodora_)--Many people consider this the
most delightfully fragrant plant grown. Certainly no window garden
should be without it. Early in September cut back old plants, if in the
garden, and pot up. New growth will quickly be made. Plants kept in pots
should be rested in early winter by keeping dry and cool. Spring
cuttings root easily.
_Oleander_--A beautiful old-time favorite, with fragrant blossoms of
red, pink, yellow or white. Give a very rich soil and plenty of water
when growing. Rest after flowering. Cuttings are rather hard, but will
root with care.
_Orange_--There are several sorts suited to house culture, and they
should be more frequently tried, as a well grown plant will have
flowers, green fruit and attractive golden oranges almost all the
time--to say nothing of its foliage beauty and delightful fragrance.
Their rest period should be given during November, December and January.
Otaheite Orange is the one most commonly grown for house culture, and
while the fruit is of no use for eating, it has the more valuable
advantage of remaining on the tree (which is eighteen to twenty-four
inches high) for months. Satsuma is another good sort. Kumquat (_Citrus
Japonica_) is also very attractive.
_Reinwardtia_ (known usually as _Linum trigynum_)--Another attractive
flowering shrub, with light or bright yellow flowers. Cuttings will root
with bottom heat in April. _L. tetragynum_ is a companion variety.
_Roses_--Those who will take the proper pains can grow roses
successfully in the house; but as a general rule satisfactory results
are not obtained. The first essential to success is the use of the right
varieties and those only. The second is a moist atmosphere; the third is
cleanliness,--insect enemies must be kept off. For soils, growing in
summer, etc., see Part II, page 188.
The best varieties for house culture are the Crimson Baby Rambler (Mme.
Norbert Levavasseur), Pink Baby Rambler (Anchen Muller), Crimson
Rambler, Clothilde Soupert, Agrippina, Hermosa, Safrano, Maman Cochet,
White Maman Cochet and La France.
If the plants are set in a window-box (see page 9) about one foot apart,
they will be more easily cared for than in pots. They may be treated in
two ways. (1) After blooming, cut away most of the old growth and
enforce rest during the summer. Start again in October and grow on in
the house. (2) Grow on through the summer and dry off in the fall as the
leaves drop. Store in a cold place (a little freezing will not hurt)
until about January first. Then prune back severely--about half--and
bring into warmth and water. A combination of the two methods will give
a long flowering season.
_Swainsona_--A shrub of vine-like habit, bearing flowers, white and
light pink, which greatly resemble sweet peas. The foliage is unusual
and very pretty. It should be trained up to stakes or other supports and
cut back quite severely after flowering.
_Sweet Olive_ (_Olea fragrans_)--This is still another fragrant
flowering shrub and one of the very easiest to grow.
The house shrubs, having harder stems and tougher leaves than other
classes of plants, will stand many hardships that to the latter would
prove fatal. They are, however, particularly susceptible to attacks of
red spider and scale. _Keep your shrubs clean._ If you do not, in spite
of their seeming immunity to harm, you will have no success with them.
Syringing, showering, washing, spraying with insecticides, even giving a
next-to-freezing rest,--all the remedies mentioned in Chapter XVII on
Insects and Diseases--may at times have to be resorted to. But, at
whatever trouble, if you want them at all, keep your shrubs clean.
[Illustration: Baby rambler rose. Few varieties of rose will stand the
dry air and dust that oppress most house plants]
[Illustration: _Araucaria excelsa._ Give little water in winter and a
cool, even temperature]
The foliage plants depend very largely for their beauty upon making a
rapid, unchecked growth and being given plenty of sunlight. In many of
those having multi-colored and variegated leaves, the markings under
unfavorable conditions of growth become inconspicuous and the value of
the plant is entirely lost. Therefore, where the proper conditions
cannot be given, it will be far wiser to devote your space to plants
more suited to house culture.
Aspidistra, araucaria, Pandanus and the rubber plant are exceptions; two
of them being remarkable for their hardihood under neglect and
ignorance. While many of the foliage plants will live under almost any
conditions, it must be remembered, however, that the better care they
receive the more beautiful they will be.
_Achyranthes_--Achyranthes are still popular as bedding plants, as they
furnish good coloring. They may be used as house plants also, but in my
opinion are a little coarse. Take cuttings in August for new plants and
keep on the warm side and rather dry in winter.
_Alternanthera_--These little plants are unique and brilliant, and a few
will be worth having in any collection. They make dense, shrubby
miniature bushes a few inches high, very attractively colored. Take
cuttings in August; give rich soil, on the sandy side, plenty of light
_A. versicolor_ has leaves bearing a happy contrast of pink, crimson and
bronzy-green. _Tricolor_ is dark green, rose and orange. There are
numerous other attractive varieties.
_Anthericum_ (_A. variegatum_)--The foliage is shaped like a broad blade
of grass and very prettily bordered with white. Of the easiest culture,
doing well in the shade. Propagated by division. _A. medio-picta_ is
another variety, often considered more attractive than the above.
_Araucaria_--The several araucarias should be much more widely known
than they are. Their beauty has made them popular as Christmas gifts,
but most of the fine specimens which leave the florists during the
holiday season find their end, after a few weeks in a gas-tainted,
superheated atmosphere, with probably several times the amount of water
required given at the roots, in the ash barrel. They are, when one knows
something of their habits of growth, very easily cared for. Little water
in winter, and a cool even temperature, are its simple requirements.
The araucaria is, I think, the most beautiful of all formal decorative
plants. Its dignity, simplicity and beautiful plumelike foliage place it
in a class of its own. The branches leave the main stem at regular
intervals, in whorls of five, and the foliage is a clean soft green,
lighter at the tips. Propagated by cuttings from leading shoots, not
The two varieties ordinarily used are _A. excelsa glauca_ and _A. e.
robusta_. Some time ago I saw a specimen of a new variety, not yet put
on the market, and the name of which I have forgotten. (I think it was
_stellata_) The outer half of each branch was almost white, giving the
whole plant a wonderful star-like effect.
_Aspidistra_--The aspidistra is the toughest of all foliage plants--if
not of all house plants. It has proved hardy out-of-doors as far north
as Philadelphia. The long flat leaves grow to a height of eighteen to
twenty-four inches, springing directly from the ground. Its chief
requirement is plenty of water during the growing season. New plants are
readily obtained by dividing the old roots in February or August.
There are several varieties and those familiar only with the common
green sort (_A. elatior_) will be surprised and pleased with the
striking effectiveness of the variegated, (_A. e. varigata_) and with
the spotted leaved _A. punctata_.
_Caladium_--This is another popular plant for which I have never cared
greatly myself. It seems to have no personality. Well grown plants,
however, give most gorgeous color effects. Buy bulbs of the fancy-leaved
section, and start in February or March, giving very little water at
first. Take in before the first sign of frosts. When growth stops, dry
off gradually and store in warm cellar; or better, take out of pots and
pack in sand. Do not let them dry out enough to shrivel.
_Coleus_--The best of all the gay colored foliage plants, but tender. To
keep looking well in winter they must have plenty of warmth and
sunlight. Root cuttings in August. They grow on very rapidly. Make
selections from the garden or a florist's, as they come in a great
variety of colors and markings.
_Dracaena_--The best of all plants, outside the palms, for centers of
vases, boxes and large pots. Small plants make very beautiful centers
for fern dishes. The colored section need to be kept on the warm side.
Give plenty of water in summer, but none on the leaves in winter, as it
is apt to lodge in the leaf axils and cause trouble.
_Dracaena_ (_Cordyline_)--_Indivisa_, with long, narrow, recurved green
leaves, is the one mostly used. The various colored sorts are described
in most catalogues.
_Leopard Plant_--_Farfugium grande_, better known as Leopard Plant, has
handsome dark green leaves marked with yellow. It is of the easiest
culture, standing zero weather. Old plants may be divided in spring and
rooted in sand. There is a newer variety with white spots, very
beautiful. The farfugium is now more commonly listed as _Senecio
_Pandanus_--The Screw Pine is another favorite decorative plant, easily
grown. The leaves are two or three feet long and come out spirally, as
the name indicates. As they get older they curve down gracefully, giving
a very pleasing effect.
The soil for pandanuses should contain a generous amount of sand. Give
plenty of water in summer, little in winter, and be sure that none of it
lodges in the axils of the leaves, as rot is very easily induced.
New plants are produced from suckers at the base of the old ones.
_Pandanus utilis_ is the variety most commonly seen. _P. Veitchii_, dark
green bordered with broad stripes of pure white, is much more
decorative, a really beautiful plant. _P. Sanderi_ is another good sort,
with golden yellow coloring, that should be given a trial.
_Pepper_--Some of the peppers make very attractive pot plants on account
of their bright fruit, which is very pretty in all stages of growth from
the new green pods, through yellow to bright red. Buy new plants or
start from seed in spring. They are easily grown if kept on the warm
side. Celestial and Kaleidoscope are the two kinds best suited for
_The Rubber_ (_Ficus._) This is the most popular of all formal
decorative plants. At least part of the secret of its success
undoubtedly lies in the fact that--almost literally--you cannot kill it!
But that is no excuse for abusing it either, as there is all the
difference in the world between a well cared for symmetrical plant and
one of the semi-denuded, lop-sided, spotted leaved plants one so
frequently sees, and than which, as far as ornamentation is concerned,
an empty pot would be far more decorative.
The rubber requires--and deserves--a good rich soil, and in the spring,
summer and fall, all the water that the soil will keep absorbed. Give
less in winter, as an excess at this time causes the leaves to turn
yellow and droop.
As the rubber is more difficult to propagate than most house plants, and
specimens will not get too large for several years, it will be best to
get plants from the florist. It frequently happens, however, that an old
plant which has been grown up to a single stem, becomes unwieldy, and
bare at the bottom. In such cases the upper part may be removed by
"topping" and the main trunk cut back to within six to eighteen inches
of the pot or tub, and water withheld partly until new growth starts.
The old stem may thus be transformed into a low, bush plant and
frequently they make very handsome specimens. The topping is performed
by making a deep upward slanting cut, with a sharp knife, at the point
you want in the pot for your new plant. In the cut stuff a little
sphagnum moss; remove this after a few days and wash the cut out with
warm water, removing the congealed sap. Insert fresh moss and with
strips of soft cloth tie a good handful over the wound. _Keep this
moist_ constantly until the roots show through the moss, which may be
several weeks. Then pot in _moist_ earth, not wet, and syringe daily,
but do not water the pots for two or three days. Sometimes pots cut in
halves and the bottoms partly removed are used to hold the moss in
place. August is a good time to propagate.
_Ficus elastica_ is the common rubber plant. The "fiddle-leaved" rubber
plant (_F. pandurata_) is another variety, now largely grown. It differs
from the former in having very broad, blunt leaves, shaped like the head
of a fiddle, which are marked by the whitish veins. Two other beautiful
plants are _F. Cooperia_, having large leaves with red mid-ribs, and
_F. Parcelli_, with leaves marbled with white. They should be given a
higher temperature than _F. elastica_.
_Saxifraga_: _S. sarmentosa tricolor_ is the commonly known strawberry
geranium, or beefsteak plant. It has a quite unique habit of growth and
is best displayed where its numerous runners have a chance to hang
down, as from a basket or hanging pot. The runners are easily rooted in
soil. There are numerous varieties, with flowers of red, white and pink.
_Sensitive Plant_ (_Mimosa pudica_)--This is a pretty little
green-leaved plant, the never-failing interest in which lies not in its
beauty, however, but in the fact that it shrinks and folds up when
touched, as though it belonged to the animal kingdom. It is easily grown
_Tradescantia_--This is otherwise known as spiderwort, Wandering Jew,
Creeping Charles and under other names. It is a very pretty running or
trailing plant, of the easiest culture, its chief requirement being
plenty of water. Cuttings root easily at any time. There are several
varieties, among them being _discolor_, a variegated leaf, and _Zebrina
multi-color_, the leaves of which give almost a rainbow effect in their
wonderful diversity and blending. For those familiar only with the old
green variety it will prove a great surprise.
[Illustration: _Pandanus Veitchii_, the Screw Pine. The soil for this
family should have a generous amount of sand]
[Illustration: The rubber plant (_Ficus elastica_), perhaps the most
popular of all formal decorative house plants]
_Zebra Plant_ (_Maranta zebrina_)--This is another easily grown
decorative plant with tropical looking, large leaves. While usually
listed as _Maranta zebrina_, it is really a calathea and the plants of
this genus show a variation in their markings unsurpassed by any.
Zebrina and most of the varieties, of which there are many, should be
grown in the shade, with plenty of water and a minimum temperature of
sixty degrees all the year. _C. pulchella_ and _C. intermedia_ resembles
_C. zebrina_ and can be grown in a cooler temperature. Do not allow the
plants to flower. Increase by division.
A number of the vines make very excellent house plants, though one
seldom sees them. This seems rather strange when one takes into
consideration the facts that they are easily grown and can be used for
decorative effects impossible with any other plants.
If there is one particular caution to be given in regard to caring for
plants in the house, it is to _keep the foliage clean_. Naturally a vine
that runs up the window trim, and maybe halfway across the wall to a
picture frame, cannot well be sprinkled or syringed; but the leaves can
be occasionally wiped off with a moist, soft cloth. Keep the pores open;
they have to breathe.
_Cissus discolor_--This altogether too little known vine has the most
beautiful foliage of any. The leaves are a velvety green veined with
silver, the under surfaces being reddish and the stems red. It is a
rapid grower and readily managed if kept on the warm side. New plants
may be had from cuttings at almost any season. _C. antarctica_ is better
known and easily grown.
_Clematis_--This popular outdoor vine is sometimes successfully used as
a house plant, and has the advantage of doing well in a low temperature.
Cuttings rooted in June and grown on will make good plants, but the best
way will be to get at the florist's two or three plants of the splendid
new varieties now to be had.
_Coboea scandens_--The Coboea is sometimes called the cup-and-saucer
flower. It is very energetic, growing under good conditions to a length
of twenty to thirty feet. The flowers, which are frequently two inches
across, are purplish in color and very pretty. They are borne quite
The coboea is easily managed if kept properly trained. As the plant in
proportion to the pot room is very large, liquid manures or fertilizers
are desirable. Either seeds or cuttings will furnish new plants. The
former should be placed edge down, one in a two-inch pot and pressed in
level with the surface. They will soon need repotting, and must be
shifted frequently until they are put in six-or eight-inch pots.
_Coboea scandens variegata_ is a very handsome form and should without
fail be tried.
_Hoya carnosa_--This is commonly known as the wax plant on account of
its thick leaves and wax-like flowers, which are a delicate pink and
borne in large pendulous umbels. It is easily cared for; give full sun
in summer and keep moderately dry in winter. Leave the old flower stalks
on the plant. Cuttings may be rooted in early spring in pots, plunged
in bottom heat.
_The Ivys_--The ivys are the most graceful of all the vines, and with
them the most artistic effects in decoration may be produced. I have
always wondered why they are not more frequently used, for they are in
many respects ideal as house plants; they produce more growth to a given
size pot than any other plants, they thrive in the shade, they withstand
the uncongenial conditions usually found in the house, and are among the
hardiest of plants suitable for house culture. And yet how many women
will fret and fume over a Lorraine begonia or some other refractory
plant, not adapted at all to growing indoors, when half the amount of
care spent on a few ivys would grace their windows with frames of living
green, giving a setting to all their other plants which would enhance
their beauty a hundred percent.
The English ivy (_Hedera helix_) is the best for house culture. A form
with small leaves, _H. Donerailensis_, is better for many purposes. And
then there is a variegated form, which is very beautiful. Large
cuttings, rooted in the fall, will make good plants. _Hedera helix
arborescens_ is known as the Irish ivy and is a very rapid grower.
The German ivy (_Senecio scandens_) has leaves the shape of the English
ivy, and is a wonderfully rapid grower and a great climber. It lacks,
however, the substance and coloring of the real ivy. It is,
nevertheless, valuable for temporary uses, and a plant or two should
always be kept. Cuttings root freely and grow at any time.
_Manettia_--This is a cheery, free flowering little vine, especially
good for covering a small trellis in a pot. The brilliant little
flowers, white, blue or red and yellow, are very welcome winter
visitors. Cuttings root easily in summer and the plants are very easily
cared for, being particularly free from insect pests. Give partial shade
_Mimosa moschatus_--This is the common Musk Plant which, according to
one's taste, is pleasant--or the opposite. It is of creeping habit and
has very pretty foliage.
There are a number of varieties. That described above is covered with
small yellow flowers. _M. m. Harrisonii_ has larger flowers. _M.
cardinalis_, red flowers and is dwarf in habit. _M. glutinosus_ is erect
in habit, with salmon colored flowers, very pretty.
_Moneywort_ (_Lysimachia Nummularia_)--This is a favorite basket plant,
as it is a rapid grower and not particular about its surroundings, so
long as it has enough water. While the flowers are pretty, being a
cheery yellow, the plant is grown for its foliage. New plants may be had
by dividing old clumps.
_Morning-Glory_--This beautiful flower is seldom seen in the house, but
will do well there if plenty of light can be given. Neither vines nor
flowers grow as large as they do out-of-doors, but they make very pretty
_Nasturtium_--Another common summer flower that makes a very pretty
plant in the house. Start seeds in August and shift on to
five-or-six-inch pots. There is also a dwarf form and other sorts with
variegated ivy leaves that make splendid pot plants. Of the tall sorts
some of the new named varieties, like Sunlight and Moonlight, give
beautiful and very harmonious effects. They will be a very pleasant
surprise to those familiar only with the old bright mixed colors.
_Othonna crassifolia_--This pretty little yellow flowered trailing
plant, sometimes known as "little Pickles" is quite a favorite for
boxes, or as a hanging or bracket plant. It should be given the full sun
but little water in winter. When too long, it it may be cut back freely.
Root cuttings, or the small tufts along the trailing stems, in spring.
_Smilax_--In some ways this is the most airily beautiful and graceful of
all the decorative vines. And it is valuable not only for its own
beauty, but for its usefulness in setting off the beauty of other
flowers. It is very easily grown if kept on the warm side, and given
plenty of root room. Care should be taken to provide green colored
strings for the vines to climb up, as they make a very rapid growth
when once started. The best way to provide plants is to get a few from
the florist late in the spring, or start from seed in February. New
plants do better than those kept two seasons.
_Sweet Peas_--Of late years a great deal has been done with sweet peas
in winter, and where one can give them plenty of light, they will do
well inside. Plenty of air and a temperature a little on the cool side,
with rich soil, will suit them. Start seed in very early fall, or in
winter, according as you want bloom early or late. There are now a
number of varieties grown especially for winter work such as Christmas
Pink, Christmas White, etc. Five or six varieties will give a very
satisfactory collection. The fragrant, beautiful blossoms are always
welcome, but doubly so in winter. Do not let the flowers fade on the
vines, as it increases the number of flowers to have them taken off.
_Thunbergia_--The Thunbergia, sometimes called the "butterfly plant," is
the best all-round flowering vine for the house. The flowers are freely
produced, average an inch to an inch-and-a-half across, and cover a wide
range of colors, including white, blue, purple, yellow and shades and
combinations of these. Its requirements are not special: keep growing on
during summer into a somewhat bushy form, as the vines will grow rapidly
when allowed to run in the house. It can be grown from seed but
cuttings make the best plants. Root early in spring, and by having a
succession of rooted cuttings blossoms may be had all winter.
_Thunbergia laurifolia_ has flowers of white and blue; _T. fragrans_,
pure white; and _T. Mysorensis_, purple and yellow.
[Illustration: One too seldom sees vines used indoors, although they are
easily grown and can be made most decorative]
[Illustration: The Crested Scott Fern (_Nephrolepis exaltata_, var.
_Scholzeli_) is one of the most beautiful developments from the Boston
Ferns, although there are not many varieties of them available for
culture indoors, are probably more universally used as house plants than
any other class of plants. Their culture is not difficult, although it
differs somewhat from that given most of the plants described in the
In the first place, ferns want a porous soil, say two parts screened
leaf-mould, one sand and one old manure or rich loam, the latter being
preferable. In the second place, they should be given a warmer
temperature, a minimum of fifty-five degrees at night being very
desirable, although not absolutely essential.
The third requisite in success with ferns is a moist atmosphere, as well
as plenty of water at the roots. If the pots are carefully drained
(facing page 41) as they should be, and the soil properly porous, it
will be almost impossible to over-water at the roots. Great care should
be taken, however, not to wet the foliage, particularly where the sun
can shine on the leaves. When the fronds must be wet, to keep them
clean, try to do it on a warm day, that they may dry off quickly near
an open north or east window. They should always be given as much light
as possible, without direct sunlight, and as much air as possible while
maintaining the proper temperature.
Many of the ferns can be increased either by runners or division, and
these are easily propagated at home. Those which are grown from spores
(the fern's seeds) it will be better to get from the florist's.
Most of the ferns belong to one of three groups, the sword ferns
(_Nephrolepis_), the maidenhairs (_Adiantum_) or the spider ferns
(_Pteris_). The distinguishing feature of the sword ferns is their long
pointed fronds; the maidenhairs command attention by their beautiful
feathery foliage, in some varieties as delicate as the filmiest lace;
and the spider ferns, seen usually in mixed varieties in dishes or fern
pans, are attractive for their shades of green, gray, white and silver,
and compact growth.
THE SWORD FERNS
The old widely popular sword fern was _Nephrolepis exaltata_, but the
original form has been almost entirely replaced by new varieties
developed from it, the most widely known of which is the Boston fern
(_N. ex. var. Bostoniensis_). The wide popularity of this fern is due to
both its beauty and its hardiness, as it will stand more ill usage than
any other house fern. It grows rapidly and makes a handsome plant at
all stages of development.
THE SCOTT FERN
A well grown large Boston fern requires a good deal of room, and the
long fronds--three feet or more in length--are apt to get damaged at the
ends. For these reasons the _Scottii_ fern, a development of the Boston,
is for some purposes a better plant. Its fronds are like those of the
latter, but shorter and proportionately narrower, and the habit of the
plant is much more dense and compact. It makes a very satisfactory
THE PLUMED TYPE
Another fern developed from the Boston is _Whitmani_, in which the
fronds are not so long but the foliage is so finely divided that it
gives a decided plumey effect. The _Whitmani_ is perhaps the best of
this type for house culture as the others, under adverse conditions, are
likely to revert to the Boston type of frond. _Piersoni_ and
_Elegantissima_ are exceptionally beautiful, but must be given careful
attention. _Scholzeli_, sometimes called the Crested Scott fern, is very
beautiful and well worth trying.
Of the beautiful, but delicate, adiantums perhaps the one most
frequently seen in the florist's window is _A. Farleyense_, with its
drooping, lace-like, light green leaves. It is not, however, suited for
house culture and while it can be made to succeed, do not waste time in
trying it until you have mastered the growing of the hardier sorts.
However, just because _Farleyense_ is so delicate, do not feel that you
cannot have any maidenhair fern. _Croweanum_ is another beautiful
adiantum, and as its fronds are much firmer than those of most of this
class, it withstands the trying conditions of house culture very
satisfactorily. Another maidenhair, often called the hardy
_Farleyense_, is _Adiantum c. v. imbricatum_. As its name suggests, it
looks very much like the Farley fern, but it is suitable for house
culture. It is a very satisfactory fern. And just recently there is
another from England called the Glory fern (Glory of Moordrecht). I have
not seen it, but certainly from photographs and what the horticultural
journals have said of it, it will make a very fine fern for the winter
THE SPIDER FERNS
The name given _Pteris_ ferns is descriptive of only part of them, as
they vary greatly. They are commonly used in made up dishes, or with
other plants, but most of them will make fine single plants as well. _P.
Wilsoni_ is a popular sort making a compact plant with a unique tufted
foliage of light clear green. _P. cretica_ is dark green, or green lined
with white, according to the variety. _Victoriae_ is perhaps the best of
the several variegated Pteris'.
[Illustration: The Boston Fern is easily propagated at home by
[Illustration: _Phoenix Roebellenii_ is one of the more recent and
best developments of the old favorite Fan Palms]
[Illustration: _Cocus Wedelliana_ is a small palm but one of the most
graceful of all]
The Holly fern (_Cyrtomium falcatum_) is another very desirable house
plant and has been a favorite for years. It has very dark green
substantial glossy foliage, and stands up well. There is a new Holly
fern, however, which I think will replace _C. falcatum_; it is _C.
Rochfordianum_; its foliage is not only a richer deeper green, but the
pinnae, or leaflets, are deeply cut and also wavy, and have given it the
popular name of the Crested Holly fern. Be sure to try it among the next
ferns you get.
Fern balls, which are usually composed of one of the _Davallias_,
sometimes prove unsatisfactory. Be sure in ordering to get them fresh
from some reliable mail order house, rather than take chances on them at
the florist's. The best way, however, is to get them already started. If
you get them in dormant condition, soak in tepid water and then give a
temperature as near sixty degrees at night as possible until they start.
While not strictly members of the fern family, the asparagus used for
decorative purposes under the name of Asparagus Ferns, are commonly
classed with them. Since their introduction they have proved very
_Asparagus plumosus nanus_, the Lace fern. No foliage is more beautiful
than the feathery light green sprays of this asparagus. Notwithstanding
its delicacy, it keeps wonderfully well when cut. The plants can be
grown as pot plants, or as vines. If wanted for the former purpose, keep
the sprays pinched back at twelve inches, and the roots rather
restricted. For vines, keep in large pots or boxes--always well
drained--and keep well fed.
_Asparagus Sprengeri_ in both foliage and habit is very distinct from
_A. plumosus_. The leaves resemble small glossy pine needles, borne in
long sprays, and as it is trailing in habit it makes a unique and
beautiful plant for stands or baskets. The sprays keep well when cut,
and make an excellent background for flowers. It is now used more
universally for green by florists than any other plant.
Either of the above may be started from seed, or propagated by dividing
old plants, but small young plants may be had of the florists at a very
low price. They need about the same treatment as smilax (see page 94),
but will do well in a temperature of fifty to fifty-five degrees at
night. Shower frequently, but water only moderately.
For many years these two varieties have held the field to themselves,
but recently a new asparagus, of each type has put in an appearance.
_Hatcheri_ resembles _plumosus nanus_, but is more compact in habit and
the leaves are much closer together on the stems. If it remains true to
type, and is as hardy as _plumosus_, it will replace it, for it
certainly is a more beautiful plant. _A. S. variegata_ is a very pretty
"sport" with the leaves edged white.
The number of palms adapted to house culture is very limited but they
comprise the most elegant of the decorative plants.
Although popular now, they would be much more widely used if their
culture were better understood. Mistakes made in handling palms are
serious in results, for they produce for the most part only two or three
new leaves in a year, and so any injury shows for a long time; it is not
soon replaced by new growth and forgotten, as with many of the more
rapid growing house plants.
Nevertheless, if the few cultural requirements of palms are carefully
attended to, they are as easily grown as any plants and yield a solid
and lasting satisfaction.
The house palms, as I have said, grow very slowly. It is not only
useless, but dangerous, to try to force them into unnatural growth.
Palms do best when restricted as to root room. When your plant comes
from the florist, do not get impatient after a month or so and think
that a larger pot would make it grow faster. Repotting once a year while
palms are growing, and not so frequently as that after they are in
eight-or ten-inch pots, will be sufficient. The best time for repotting
is late spring--May or June. Use a pot only one size larger than that in
which the palm has been growing. Remove carefully, _do not disturb the
roots_, and put into the new pot carefully, ramming the new earth in
firmly about the old ball with a thin piece of wood (see directions for
repotting, page 40).
The soil for palms need not contain as much humus (leaf-mould or peat)
as that for most other house plants. Good rich garden loam, with sharp
sand added, and bone meal worked through it, will be right.
Be sure the drainage is perfect. Crock the pots carefully (facing page
41). If any of the crocking from the old pot comes out with the ball of
earth, remove it as carefully as possible and fill in the space with
soil. After potting, keep shaded for several days.
While palms require plenty of water, no plants are more fatally injured
by overwatering. Above all must care be taken never to let water
accumulate in saucers or jardinieres in which the pots are standing.
Water will soak up through a pot as well as down through it, and
water-saturated soil will quickly become sour. When you do water, water
thoroughly and then see that the pots are kept where they can drain out,
and do not water again until they show a tendency to get too dry. Much
water will cause the leaves to turn brown. In this case change the
treatment at once. (The looks of the leaves can be somewhat improved by
cutting them to shape with a pair of scissors.) The amount of water
required is much greater in summer than in winter, when the plants are
practically at rest.
Direct sunlight is not desirable for palms, but they should have plenty
of light. Do not stick them away in a dark corner or an inner room and
expect them to do well. They will stand such a situation several days
without injury, but should be brought back to the light as soon as
possible. They do well in north windows, providing the temperature of
the room is high enough. Remember, however, that pots kept in a shady
place will dry out much less quickly than those in the light or
sunlight. If they are to be kept permanently where the sun does not
strike, it is a good thing to add charcoal to the soil, as this aids
greatly in keeping it from getting sour.
Give plenty of air. The more the better, so long as a proper temperature
is kept up, as that counteracts the effect of the more or less poisonous
atmosphere of living-rooms kept closed during winter. Beware of drafts
blowing across the plants, but provide plenty of fresh air.
In the spring as soon as it warms up outdoors--say after the apple
blossoms fall--plunge the palms outside, in a sheltered position, where
they can be given plenty of water. At this time, if they are not
repotted, bone meal should be worked into the surface of the soil and a
liquid manure of bone meal given once a month or so during the growing
Both during winter and summer, _shower the leaves frequently_, with as
forceful a stream as possible, to prevent scale and mealy-bug getting a
start. (For treatment see page 135.) Keep the leaves and stems clean by
wiping off every once in a while with a soft cloth and soapy warm water,
syringing with clean water afterwards.
THE BEST HOUSE PALMS
Although the number of palms cultivated is very large, very few
indeed--only about a dozen--will give satisfactory results in the house.
The fact that a palm will live--or rather, takes a very long time to
die--under abuse, has misled people into thinking that they do not need
as much care as other house plants. This is a mistake.
Palms may be considered in two classes, the fan-leaved and the
feather-leaved, or deeply cut, sorts. Of the former there are but three
sorts good for house culture.
_Latania Borbonica_, the Chinese Fan-leaved palm, is the best known. It
is one of the hardiest, standing a temperature as low as forty-five
degrees at night. It is broad in habit, and the large leaves are deeply
cut and drooping at the edge, making a very attractive plant.
_Livistona rotundifolia_, the Miniature Fan palm, is a more compact type
of the above; not only the leaves but the whole plant being round in
habit and growing quite dense. It is a beautiful lively green in color,
and making a neater plant, is in many ways more desirable for the house
than _Latania Borbonica_. It requires more warmth, however, and should
be kept up to 55 degrees at night if possible.
_Chamaerops excelsa_ has the distinguished feature of forming shoots at
the base, thus having foliage where most palms are bare, and in old
specimens unattractively so. Its leaves are shaped like those of
_Borbonica_, but are smaller, and the leaf stalk in proportion is
longer. It is a good strong variety.
THE FEATHER-LEAVED PALMS
Many of these are of more recent introduction than the old favorite fan
palms, but they have won their way to a growing and deserved popularity.
_Phoenix Roebelenii_ is one of the newest. It is destined, I venture
to say, to become the most popular of all palms for the house. It has
frequently been described as having "the beauty of _Weddelliana_ and the
hardiness of _Kentia_." That perhaps describes it, but does not do it
full justice. It has several times the amount of foliage that _Cocos
Weddelliana_ has, and is a more robust grower. It has, unlike that
palm, leaf stalks growing all the way to the bottom, the lower ones
gracefully recurved and the upper ones spreading airily. It is very
easily cared for, and on the whole wins on a larger number of counts
than any other house palm.
_Phoenix Rupicola_ has gracefully arching, drooping foliage and is very
handsome, the dark green leaves being even more feather-like than those
of _Cocus Weddelliana_. It is also one of the hardiest.
_Areca Verschaffeltii_ is unique in having a creamy colored mid-rib. It
must be given the best of care, but will well repay any extra pains
taken with it.
The _Kentias_, _K. Belmoreana_, the Thatch-leaf palm, and _K.
Forsteriana_, the Curly palm, are the hardiest of all the house palms
and sure to give satisfaction. The former is of dwarf, sturdy habit,
with broadly divided, dark green leaves borne up well on stiff stems.
_K. Forsteriana_ is of stronger growth, spreads more, and the divisions
of the leaf are broader.
_Cocos Weddelliana_ is the most artistically graceful of the house
palms. The finely cut, feathery leaves spring well up from the pot and
from the slender erect stem. It is a small palm, and grows slowly. I
think I should give it a place among the three choicest palms for the
house, although, unfortunately, it is not as hardy as some of the
others. It is the best palm to use as a center for fern dishes.
_Seaforthia elegans_, the Australian Feather palm, is a tall growing
and stately variety, which does well in the house.
_Caryota urens_ is commonly known as the Fishtail palm, and on account
of that distinguishing characteristic deserves a place in any good
collection. It is a large growing sort and will utilize more root room
than most of the others. It is not so strong as most of the others
described, but will succeed well if precautions are taken not to let it
get chilled in cold weather.
Personally I am not an enthusiast over cacti. While a cactus in bloom is
a marvelous sight, so gorgeous in fact that it is almost unbelievable
and unreal, I prefer flowers a little less fervid and more constant.
There are, however, two distinct advantages which most of the cacti
possess, making them available for use where no other plants could be
kept. They are practically proof against any hardships that may be
imposed upon them, and they take up very little room. In addition to
that they are always an interesting curiosity, and for that reason alone
well worth the little attention they require. The low-growing sorts,
among which some of the most curious are to be found, may be given a
narrow shelf or the edge of the plant shelf in the winter window garden.
As far as care and soil are concerned, their requirements are simple.
The most important thing to see to is that they are given perfect
drainage. The soil should be sandy, and coal ashes, or better still, old
plastering or lime rubbish, should be added. Only a moderate amount of
water will be required in winter, but when the plants are set outside
in a well drained position in summer they should be showered frequently.
As to temperature, although they come from hot climates, most of the
sorts will stand as low as thirty-five degrees without injury. Just
before and during the blooming period about sixty degrees is desirable,
but forty-five to fifty degrees will be better at other times. Where
room is lacking, they may, for the most part, be wintered over in the
cellar, as described previously for other plants (page 71). Propagation
is performed either by seeds or cuttings, the latter being the more
generally used, as they root very readily--just break a piece off and
stick it in the sand.
Considered from the layman's point of view, cacti are made up of two
classes: those which are valued for their wonderful flowers and those
which excite curiosity by their weird habits of growth. Some of the
latter--such as the Crown of Thorns and the _Mammillaria_--have small or
Specimens of this class, well cared for, are worthy of a place in any
collection of flowering plants. They will stand, especially during the
flowering period, weak applications of manure water.
The _Epiphyllums_ or Crab cacti (_Ephiphyllum truncatum_ and its
varieties) are by far the most valuable, because of their profuse and
long flowering season, especially as it comes in the winter when bright
flowers are scarce. _E. t. coccineum_, with deep scarlet flowers, is
one of the best. _Ruckerianum_, light purple with violet center;
_Magnificum_, white, slightly pinkish at the edge; and _violaceum
superbum_, white with rich purple edge, are some of the other good
varieties of these beautiful plants. _Phyllocactus_ is perhaps the next
best flowering sort. The flowers are larger, more gorgeous, but borne
only for a very short time. _P. Ackermanni_ is one of the best of these.
It has very large flowers, lily-shaped, bright red shading to light red
with the inner petals, and the long gracefully curved stamens add to its
beauty. It blossoms in May or early June, but the season is usually
limited to two or three weeks. The night blooming _Phyllocactus_, with
white flowers, is commonly confused with the Night-Blooming cereus.
Cereus may be distinguished by its angular stems as compared to the
broad flat stems of _Phyllocactus_. _C. grandiflorus_ and _C.
Macdonaldiae_, the famous Night-blooming cereuses, have white flowers
which remain open only one night. They are, however, though so
transient, a marvelous sight. Prone to strange tasks indeed is the hand
of Nature which has fashioned these grotesque, clumsy, lifeless looking
plants to accumulate nourishment and moisture for months from the
niggardly desert sands, and to mature for a few hours' existence only
these marvelously fashioned flowers which collapse with the first rays
of the heat-giving sunshine. _C. flagelliformis_, and _C.
speciosissimus_, two very gorgeous flowered day blooming sorts, remain
longer, but they are not so hardy as most of the other cacti. _Opuntia_,
the Indian fig, is another flowering sort, though not so valuable. They
are grotesque in shape and the flowers, which are various shades of red
or yellow and two inches or so across, according to variety, look as
though they had been stuck onto the plant.
Of the other cacti commonly grown most are of dwarf form and a single
window will accommodate quite a number of them.
_Echinocactus_, the Hedge-hog cactus, is one of the best known of these.
_E. myriostigma_, the Bishop's Cap, is a quite familiar variety.
_Echinopsis_, the Sea-urchin cactus, is another queer dwarf type. The
flowers seem much too large for the plants, being sometimes half a foot
long. They are lily-shaped and rose pink or white, according to variety.
_Pilocereus senilis_, the Old Man cactus, is another sort which always
attracts attention in any collection. The stem is covered with fine
white hairy spines, three to five inches long, which give it a very
peculiar appearance. When kept in the house the hairs are likely to
become dusty and grimy. They may be protected by cutting two panes of
glass into four long pieces, just wide enough to square the pot, and
enclosing it, putting a fifth piece over the top.
_Opuntia senilis_, the dwarf prickly pear, is very similar to the above,
but indoors makes a larger plant usually, although much smaller in its
_Anhalonium fissuratum_, the Living Rock, is an other frequently
encountered and very interesting sort.
The _Mammillarias_ are compact, neat little plants quite unique and
attractive in spite of their spiral rows of vicious spines. They grow
only a few inches high and have inconspicuous pale flowers of yellow,
red or purple, followed by the bright red little fruits which are one of
the most interesting characteristics. _M. bicolor_ is one of the best
and most frequently encountered sorts. _M. plumosa_ has fuzzy spines,
like the Old Man cactus. It can be kept clean by growing under a large
There are several succulent plants quite closely resembling cacti, which
need about the same treatment.
The century plant (_Agave Americana_) is universally known. There are
two sorts frequently seen, that with the green leaves and a variety with
broad yellow bands which is much handsomer. They make excellent formal
tub plants, standing almost any hardships and lasting for years. They
are easily propagated from suckers and grow quite rapidly. They are,
however, in the larger sizes very difficult to handle, armed with spines
at leaf tips and edges. Tub specimens are usually wintered over in the
cellar, or at the florist's. There is an unfounded superstition that
they bloom once every hundred years. They rarely flower when
domesticated. Repot as often as needed, in fairly rich soil, while
growing. Small plants are quite attractive in the house in winter and
may be plunged outside in summer. The Crown of Thorns (_Euphorbia
splendens_) is also quite well known. It makes a long tangled vine, full
of wicked short thorns and small, pretty leaves. The flowers are not
large but the bright red bracts add a touch of color and the plant is
covered with them most of the year. It must be carefully staked up and
trained, a short wide pot trellis being the best thing to use.
"Little Pickles" (_Othonna crassifolia_) is quite a favorite basket and
hanging plant. The odd, thick foliage looks like small cucumbers. It
must be given plenty of light, sunshine if possible, to produce its
flowers, which are small and yellow, in shape like those of the sun
pink, but smaller.
There are a number of other succulents sometimes used for house plants,
among them the aloes, mesembryanthemums (fig marigolds), echeverias (_E.
metallica_ being the best sort), sedums and house leeks
(_Sempervivums_), among which _S. globiferum_, "hen-and-chickens," is
the most widely known. These do not occupy very important positions,
however, and space does not permit further description here.
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.
[Illustration: A pan of forced crocuses. The big secret of success lies
in securing a good root growth before a top growth starts]
[Illustration: Few people realize that the gladiolus is an easily forced
bulb for indoor bloom. This variety is named Victory]
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
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
_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
_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
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.
VERANDA BOXES, WINDOW-BOXES, VASES AND HANGING BASKETS
Many of the plants ordinarily set outdoors in pots, or planted in the
flower beds, could be much more effectively used in veranda boxes,
window-boxes, vases or hanging baskets.
The veranda boxes are generally about eight by six inches, made as
described on page 9, and of the right length to fit some window-sill, or
the corner or top of a veranda railing.
Arrangements for watering should be made as convenient as possible, as
this work is almost sure to be more or less neglected during the hot
months when it needs frequent and thorough attention. The soil used
should be porous and very rich, as many plants will have to get their
nourishment from a very limited space.
[Illustration: Window-boxes are at their best when containing only one
or two kinds of bloom, part of it hanging down]
[Illustration: Iceland poppies are not often seen in the window-box, as
it takes many blooms to make a good showing]
[Illustration: It is not necessary to have your window garden consist of
tomato cans or old saucers--a little ingenuity will suggest such
improvements as this movable plant table]
The majority of the plants described in the foregoing pages may be
utilized successfully in box work; which ones in any particular case
should depend on circumstances, such for instance as whether the boxes
will be in partial shade, or strong sunlight; or whether in a sheltered
or a windswept position. A favorite combination is dracaenas, Nutt or
Beaute Poitevine, with the variegated vinca as a front border. The lover
of plants desirous of artistic effects will not be content, however, to
go by fixed rules where so many opportunities for expression of
individual taste are offered.
There are two warnings to be given in addition to the suggestions above.
Do not attempt to crowd too many plants into the small space available;
remember that as a safe rule the most pleasing results will be obtained
by the use of a very few kinds and colors. A good way to be sure of not
making mistakes is to fill the boxes to within three or four inches of
the top, arrange the plants, still in their pots, until a satisfactory
picture is designed, and then fill up with soil and plant.
Vases usually have three serious drawbacks; they are very restricted in
size, are exposed to the most drying action of winds and sun, and are
not conveniently watered. The last two disadvantages can be to some
extent overcome by placing them in situations at least partially
sheltered and shaded, and by running a half-inch or three-quarter inch
pipe (which may be bought second hand for two to four cents a foot,
while good hose costs sixteen to eighteen), a few inches under the sod
and up to the top of the vase. Such a pipe should be detached and
drained in the fall and will last many years; the few feet running up to
the vase will be sufficiently concealed by the vines and reasonably
Where such precautions are not taken, restrict the plants used to those
doing well in the heat, and a dry soil; one of the best is the ice plant
(_Mesembryanthemum_) with flowers of pink or white, very freely
There is no prettier way of displaying plants than in the hanging
basket, either in the house or on the porch. That one so seldom sees
them is undoubtedly due to the fact that few people seem to know how to
fill and take care of them. In the first place, the basket should be as
large as possible--a size or so larger than you think you ought to have,
for what reason you will see in the following.
Get a supply of sphagnum moss, and line the entire inner surface, sides
as well as bottom, an inch in thickness; press down compactly, then fill
nearly full of light, rich prepared soil, and put in the plants;
something tall and graceful in the center, compact and dwarf-growing
around this, and vines around the edges. Astonishingly beautiful results
may be had with small baskets by using only one sort of plant in each,
such as oxalis, ivy geranium or some trailing flowering vines. Cover the
surface of the soil between the plants with clean live sphagnum moss.
This will both add to the appearance and conserve the moisture.
The best way by far to water hanging baskets is to have them so arranged
that they may be taken down easily and allowed to soak until thoroughly
wet in a tub or pail of water--which will take some time, as the moss
will be like a dry sponge. Let them drain until dripping ceases and hang
in place again.
If the above method is adhered to, you are sure to meet with success
that will prove most gratifying.
HOUSE-PLANT INSECTS AND DISEASES
If the suggestions for taking proper care of plants, detailed in a
former chapter, are carefully followed, and they are given plenty of
fresh air and not crowded together, insects should not cause serious
No matter how careful one may be, however, they are almost certain to
put in an appearance and steps to combat them must be taken immediately.
Remember, however, that the best remedy is prevention, and the best
prevention is to have good strong healthy plants.
The two troubles perhaps the most common are neither insects nor
disease. They are gas and sour soil.
The faintest trace of furnace gas or of illuminating gas will cause
trouble, indicated by the yellowing and falling of the leaves and
unsatisfactory development of buds. Where there is no way of eliminating
the presence of these gases the only way to success with the
plants--unless they can be entirely shut off in an enclosed place as
suggested in Chapter II--is to take every possible care about leaks, and
to give all the fresh air possible.
Sour soil is the result of improper drainage conditions, too much
water, or both. It causes the leaves to turn yellow and checks new
growth. Making right the harmful conditions will usually renew the
health of the plant, but in bad cases it will be far better to remove
the earth, wash the soil from the roots, carefully clean the pot--if the
same one is to be used--and repot in good porous fresh earth. Keep on
the dry side until growth is resumed.
As a rule, insects do much more damage to house plants than is caused by
diseases. One characteristic of nearly all plant insects which will
astonish the amateur is the marvelous rapidity with which they increase.
One to-day, and to-morrow a million, seems no exaggeration. While it may
be true that, as one of our erstwhile best-selling heroes said, "a few
fleas is a good thing for a dog; they keep him from broodin' on bein' a
dog," a few bugs are certainly not good for a plant, because in a day or
two there will be enough of them to endanger its life and surely,
quickly to ruin its appearance. Never let the bugs get a start. If you
take them in time they're easy: if not you have a very difficult and
disagreeable task on your hands.
_Aphis._ Aphis or green plant louse is the most commonly encountered of
all the insect pests. It used to be dreaded, but with modern methods it
may be readily and effectively exterminated. There are several forms and
colors of these pests. If you have attempted plant-growing you are
undoubtedly familiar with them. In the house, shaded places, crowded
plants, poor ventilation, dry plants, all furnish environment favorable
to the development of aphids. Change these conditions at once. The old
method of fighting used to be by burning moistened tobacco stems, or
steeping them in water and making a very weak tea for spraying. But
either was a difficult, disagreeable and unsatisfactory method. There
are now on the market three forms of tobacco all of which are easy to
use and efficient. Tobacco dust--but it must be strong and made
especially for the purpose; liquid nicotine, to be diluted and sprayed
on according to directions; and prepared paper for fumigating. The last
is perhaps the most effective. Besides these, and in my experience
pleasanter and quicker, is the comparatively new compound called Aphine,
which can be had from almost any seedsman in quart tins--enough to make
five gallons of very effective spray, which will not discolor flowers or
_Red Spider._ This very serious pest is about the size and color of a
grain of red pepper--although sometimes appearing brown or dull red. To
make himself inconspicuous, he works on the under side of the leaves and
behind a tiny web, but his presence is soon made manifest by the leaves
upon which he is at work, which first turn light green, then show
minute yellow spots, turn yellow and finally drop off.
The red spider is very tenacious of life, and hard to get rid of when he
is allowed time to become well established. The best weapon to use
against him, where it can be done, is clear cold water with as much
force as possible against the under side of the foliage. Damp atmosphere
assists in the work; so keep the air damp, and be on a sharp lookout.
Evaporated sulphur, or flowers of sulphur dusted upon the leaves will
Where the collection of plants is not too large a one, the quickest and
most certain way to be rid of the spider is to dip the top of each plant
quickly two or three times into hot water--140 to 165 degrees. Although
uncomfortable to the hand, water of this temperature will not injure the
tenderest plant. It is effective against aphis and mealy bug, as well as
against the spider.
_Mealy Bug._ The mealy bug inhabits a white, cottony looking mass, which
is easily seen. Remove this covering and the real intruder is there. It
is most fond of the soft-wooded plants, such as coleus and fuchsias,
thrives in a hot, dry atmosphere, and will keep out of sight, if not
watched for, in a mass of leaves or under some branch axis, until there
are a large number.
If they are discovered before multiplying to any great extent,
exterminate them with a fine brush or feather dipped in alcohol,
coal-oil or kerosene, any of which, if applied directly to them, will
kill them on the spot.
_Scale._ The scales infesting house plants are of two kinds. The more
common is the brown scale, which has a hard, slightly convex, circular
shell, one-quarter of an inch or so in diameter. The white scale is much
smaller, and soon forms quite dense colonies. Both attack the
thick-leaved, smooth-barked plants, such as palms, ferns, lemons, and
abutilons. They do not appear to be doing any damage, but invisibly suck
the juices of the plant. They should be destroyed at once. This is
accomplished by the use of fir-tree-oil soap, whale-oil soap, or
kerosene emulsion and a stiff brush.
_Thrips._ These do not often appear in the house, but may where plants
are crowded in a shady place. They eat the substance of the leaves,
leaving only the skeleton structure. They are small, about a quarter of
an inch long, and brown or black. Aphine, kerosene emulsion or Paris
green (one teaspoonful to twelve quarts of water) will keep them quiet.
_Root Aphis._ Sometimes the leaves of a healthy plant will begin to look
sickly with no apparent cause. It may be found upon examination that the
blue root aphis is at work, clinging in clusters to the rootlets. Remove
and wash away the soil, and then wash the roots in whale-oil soap suds,
and repot in fresh soil. If no fresh soil is available, tobacco tea or
tobacco dust should be washed into the soil every other day for a week.
_Soil Worms._ The common earthworms sometimes find their way into a pot,
and while they do not seem to bother the roots, I should judge from
observation that they render the soil next to useless, especially in
small pots. Another worm, or rather larva, sometimes to be found, is
very small and hatches into a small white fly. If numerous, they do a
good deal of damage. The treatment recommended for root aphis will get
rid of them; or lime water (slake a piece of fresh lime the size of an
apple in a pail of water, drawing off the water after settling), if used
freely will kill them.
There are but two plant diseases likely to attack plants in the house:
fungus and mildew. The first seems to be a sort of decomposition of the
leaf, leaving a black, powdery residue. It is combated by spraying with
bordeaux. Bordeaux can now be had in paste or powder form, which for
small quantities is much better than to try to mix it yourself.
Mildew causes the tenderest leaves to curl up and some of them seem to
be covered with a white powder. Flowers of sulphur, dusted over the
plants while the foliage is damp, is the standard remedy.
For the sake of ready reference, the foregoing is condensed in the
following simple table of plant insects and diseases.
INSECT | CONDITIONS |
OR | SUPPORTING | REMEDIES
DISEASE | GROWTH |
Aphis, green and | Shade; poor | Aphine; tobacco-dust
black | ventilation; | or tea; kerosene
| thick foliage | emulsion; hot
| | water bath; insect
| | powder.
Aphis, blue | Stunted growth; | Whale-oil soap
| lack of water | solution; repotting;
| | tobacco tea applied to
| | roots.
Thrips, 1/4 inch, | Shaded places; | Kerosene emulsion;
long, brown or | crowded plants | Paris green--1
black; they eat. | | teaspoon to 12 quarts
Mealy bugs } | | water.
Other scale } | Corners; close, | Brush off; coal-oil;
insects } | dry air | kerosene emulsion;
| | hot water.
Red spider | Hot, dry | Moisture, sulphur,
| atmosphere | hot water.
Rose-beetle | | Hand picking; wood
| | ashes.
White flies | Dry foliage | Kerosene emulsion.
(Aleyrodes) | |
Slugs | Dark corners; | Air-slaked lime.
| dampness; | sweetened bran and
| decaying wood | Paris green.
Ants | | Insect powder;
| | molasses traps.
Angleworms | Dampness; heavy | Lime; lime-water;
| soil | tobacco tea, and
| | tobacco dust washed
| | into soil.
White grub | Manure not old |
| enough. Destroy. |
Fungous leaf spot | Shocks; checks | Bordeaux; Fungine.
Mildew | Checks | Flowers of sulphur;
| | Fungine.
To make the kerosene emulsion, use 2 ounces of soap (whale-oil is much
better than the common), 1 quart of boiling water (over brisk fire), 2
quarts of kerosene oil. Dissolve the soap in boiling water, remove from
fire, and add oil. Churn or beat until of the consistency of cream. If
correctly mixed, the emulsion, on cooling, will adhere without oiliness
to glass. Use rain water, if possible; if not, add a little baking soda
to the water.
For scale insects, dilute with 10 parts of water; for aphis and soft
insects, with 15 or 20 parts water. In using kerosene emulsion, apply in
fine spray. Remember it must come in contact with the insect to be
The following list of implements and materials is suggestive rather than
imperative. While all these things are useful many successful flower
growers get along without many of them. At the same time, if one adds to
the garden outfit from time to time, the expense will hardly be noticed
and in the course of two or three years a fairly complete set will be
accumulated. Do not feel in the least that in the meantime you cannot
grow flowers successfully.
FOR MIXING SOIL
_Spade._ A good long-bladed sharp instrument should be procured, for use
both in taking up plants and in cutting out sod, etc., for the compost
heap and in "cutting down" the same for repiling.
_Hoe._ Get a long blade with a straight edge. See that the ferrule and
shank are of one piece if you do not want to be bothered with a loose
_Sieve._ For small amounts of soil, an ordinary round coal ash sieve is
just the thing. It is a good thing to have as it will insure getting
soil for seeds and small pots to the proper degree of fineness.
_Trowel._ Don't buy a cheap trowel. They may be had for fifteen or
twenty cents but a fifty-cent one will outlast a dozen of these and not
break just when you need it most.
A sufficient quantity of soil constituents should be kept on hand in
barrels or covered boxes. Store where they will not dry out.
_Rich Loam or Rotted Sod._ This is the basis of most plant soils. Keep a
good supply ahead, that it may be thoroughly decomposed.
_Sand._ What is known as "Builders' Sand," medium, coarse and gritty, is
the proper kind. Contrary to some horticultural superstitions, it makes
no difference what the color is, "silver" or gray, red, white or yellow.
_Leaf-mould._ Easily procured by scraping aside the top layer near some
stone wall or hollow in the woods where leaves collect and rot from year
_Sphagnum moss_ is another very valuable accessory. It can be gathered
in most swampy places or bought cheaply at the florist's.
_Peat._ Not obtainable in all localities, but it can be bought cheap
from florists. Found under mucky bog-swamps but must be thoroughly dried
and pulverized before use.
_Bone meal._ This is invaluable for enriching plant soil. (See page
19.) The fine sort, sometimes called bone flour, is the quickest acting.
For plants that stay potted for several years, it is best to use about
two-thirds of the coarse-ground.
FOR PLANTING AND TRANSPLANTING
_Transplanting fork._ This can be had in malleable iron for fifteen
cents and as it is not submitted to hard strains, like a trowel, will do
as well as the seventy-five-cent imported sorts. It will save the life
of innumerable seedlings, in lifting them from the seed box.
_Dibber._ You can make two or three of various sizes in a few minutes
from a piece of soft pine. They are used for pricking off and repotting.
It will often be convenient to have one end bluntly pointed and the
other rather flat.
_Sub-irrigation tray._ The use of this convenient method of watering is
described on page 24 and illustrated facing page 28. The tinsmith will
make you a tray for fifty or seventy-five cents. It will certainly pay
to have one if you attempt to grow many fine-seeded flowers.
_Watering can._ As this accessory is more used perhaps than any other,
and as the quality of the work it does is very important, it is poor
economy to buy a cheap one. The Wotherspoon type, sold by most seed
houses, is the best. It has brass fittings which will not rust, tighten
or rot out and a coarse and a fine brass nozzle with each pot. They
cost from two to three dollars, according to size, but are well worth
_Pots._ A good smooth red pot adds not a little to the looks of a plant.
For the ordinary collection of house plants three shapes, quite
distinct, are desirable: "Standard" the sort ordinarily seen; "Pans,"
very shallow for their width and used for bulbs, or ferns (facing p.
116); and "Rose" pots, or those exceptionally deep. The latter are good
for plants requiring large root room, such as single bulbs, or plants
demanding exceptionally thorough drainage.
_Bulb glasses._ These are constructed especially to support the bulb,
while permitting the roots to grow down into the water. They come in
different shapes and colors and are not expensive.
_Hanging baskets._ Attractive baskets can now be had cheaply. They are
made of wire, rustic work or earthenware, and no plant lover should be
without one or two, as they offer a most effective way of displaying
plants. Use picture wire to support them, as cord is apt to rot and
break. They should be hung so as to be easily taken down.
_Boxes._ While these may be homemade, as described on page 9, it is
often desirable to purchase one of the ornamental sorts now on the
market. Many of them are hideous, but there are artistically designed
ones. The "self-watering" box is a great labor-saver and well worth
getting where one can afford the investment, as they will last for
FOR HANDLING PLANTS
In addition to the above there are a number of other devices often
convenient to use.
_Brackets_, frequently make possible the accommodation of a number of
extra plants and show them off to the best advantage, especially vines
and drooping plants. They are readily secured by screws to the window
_Pot-hangers_, can be had for a few cents each and used to convert pots
of any size into "Hanging baskets." They very often solve the problem of
what to do with a choice plant that is beginning to take up too much
_Pot-covers_, made of water-proof material are now to be had in a great
assortment of styles and colors and are very useful, especially in
connection with potted plants used as gifts.
_Plant-stakes._ Often any old stake is used for supporting drooping
plants, such as fuchsias. A much better one can easily be made by taking
a round stick, say one-half or three-fourths of an inch in diameter and
boring small holes through it with a gimlet. Stout pieces of wire, of a
size that will fit snugly are inserted and twisted once around to
reinforce the wood. These may then be bent readily to any angle and thus
made to conform with needs of the particular plant being supported. If
one has a soldering outfit, the main stake may be made of heavy wire.
_Raffia._ This may be bought cheaply at the florist's and is much better
than twine for tying up plants and similar purposes, as it is soft and
broad--a dried, ribbon-like grass. It may be had stained green and with
green stakes makes the support of a plant practically invisible.
_Syringe._ If only a few plants are kept, a rubber bulb plant sprinkler
may do for syringing them. But if one wants to combat insects and keep
plants healthy with the least trouble, a small florist's brass syringe
will prove a good investment. With ordinary care they will last a
lifetime. It will also be useful for applying insecticides in liquid
_Fertilizers._ In addition to the chemicals, etc., described in Chapter
III, there are to be had concentrated plant foods in tablet form. These
are very convenient to use, and a box kept on hand will frequently prove
useful. If any number of plants are kept, however, an old metal pail and
a small dipper, for mixing and applying liquid manure, should have a
place in the tool outfit and be used frequently. Never apply liquid
manure when the soil is dry.
Part Two--Home Glass
It cannot be said that America has yet reached the gardening age. There
is no doubt, however, that the appreciation of flowers, and the liking
for things horticultural in general, is growing rapidly. The stimulus
that compels hundreds to turn with delight to the joy in the creative
work of growing things arises from a sound foundation. Comparatively few
people, however, realize that this pleasure can be had by them around
the entire circle of the months. They look forward to planting time in
the spring and accept as inevitable the cessation of their gardening
adventures with the first frost.
It is to such people that the message of home glass must come as good
tidings indeed. For them the gentle art of gardening under glass has
seemed a distant and mysterious thing. Little indeed have they realized
how easily it might be brought within reach; that instead of being an
expensive luxury it would be by no means impossible to make it a paying
investment, yielding not only pleasure but profit as well.
As a matter of fact, when one's mind is once made up not to sacrifice
the pleasures of gardening for six months every year, a little energy,
ingenuity and a very few dollars will go a long way in providing the
Nor is the care of the ordinary flowers, and the vegetables suited for
winter use, such a complicated profession that the beginner cannot
achieve quite a considerable measure of success with his or her very
first attempts, provided that regular care is given the work in hand. It
is a much easier task than succeeding with plants in the house,
notwithstanding the fact that general opinion is to the contrary.
It is not necessary to start in on a large scale. A very few square feet
of soil, where all the conditions can be controlled as they are under
glass, will produce an amazing amount. Take for instance lettuce grown
for the home table. How good it is right fresh and crisp from the soil
compared to the wilted or artificially revived bunches one can get at
the grocer's! Outdoors you put it a foot apart in rows a foot and a half
apart; a patch 3 x 10 feet would give you twenty heads. In the home
garden under glass you set out a batch of Grand Rapids lettuce plants,
one of the very best in quality, six inches each way, so that a little
piece of bench 3 x 10 feet would give you one hundred heads (which
incidentally at the grocer's would cost you $10. or $12.--enough good
money to buy glass for a quite roomy little lean-to). (See page 164.)
Details of construction, etc., are given in the following pages, but the
most important thing of all is just to make up your mind that you will
have a little greenhouse of your own. If you once decide to have it the
way can be found, for the necessary cash outlay is very small indeed.
Think of the variety of ways you could use such a winter garden! Not
only may lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets and other
vegetables be had out of season, but you can get a better start with
your garden than ever before--put it weeks and weeks ahead of the old
sow-out-in-the-ground way. And then consider the flowers! A dozen
carnation plants, for instance, would occupy about six square feet of
room, say 2 x 3 feet of bench, and would supply you comfortably with
blossoms all winter long--nice fresh ones outlasting twice over the cold
storage blooms from the retail florist's--to say nothing of the added
value of having them actually home grown.
[Illustration: It is surprising how most people over-estimate the
difficulties and expense of maintaining a small greenhouse. In relation
to the pleasure one brings, the cost is exceedingly small]
[Illustration: A lean-to type of greenhouse, such as has been built on
the east wall of this house, is within reach of almost any owner of a
small country place]
THE COLDFRAME AND THE HOTBED
The simplest form of home glass is the coldframe. The simplest hothouse
is the manure heated coldframe or hotbed.
The following directions for making the frames and preparing the soil
for them are taken from the author's _Home Vegetable Gardening_.
For the ordinary garden, all the plants needed may be started
successfully in hotbeds and coldframes. The person who has had no
experience with these has usually an exaggerated idea of their cost and
of the skill required to manage them. The skill is not as much a matter
of expert knowledge as of careful regular care, daily. Only a few
minutes a day, but every day. The cost need be but little, especially if
one is a bit handy with tools. The sash which serves for the cover, and
is removable, is the important part of the structure. Sash may be had,
ready glazed and painted, at from $2.50 to $3.50 each, and with care
they will last ten or even twenty years, so you can see at once that not
a very big increase in the yield of your garden will be required to pay
interest on the investment. Or you can buy the sash unglazed, at a
proportionately lower price, and put the glass in yourself, if you
prefer to spend a little more time and less money. However, if you are
not familiar with the work, and want only a few sash, I would advise
purchasing the finished article. In size they are three feet by six.
Frames upon which to put the sash covering may also be bought complete,
but here there is a chance to save money by constructing your own
frames--the materials required being 2 x 4 inch lumber for posts, and
inch-boards; or better, if you can easily procure them, plank 2 x 12
So far as these materials go the hotbed and coldframe are alike. The
difference is that while the coldframe depends for its warmth upon
catching and holding the heat of the sun's rays, the hotbed is
artificially heated by fermenting manure, or in rare instances, by hot
water or steam pipes.
In constructing the hotbed there are two methods used; either placing
the frames on top of the manure heap or by putting the manure within the
frames. The first method has the advantage of permitting the hotbed to
be made upon frozen ground, when required in the spring. The latter,
which is the better, must be built before the ground freezes, but is
more economical of manure. The manure in either case should be that of
grain-fed horses, and if a small amount of straw bedding, or leaves--not
more, however, than one-third of the latter--be mixed among it, so much
the better. Get this manure several days ahead of the time wanted for
use and prepare by stacking in a compact, tramped down heap. Turn it
over after three or four days, and re-stack, being careful to put the
manure from the top and sides of the pile now on the inside.
Having now ready the heating apparatus and the superstructure of our
miniature greenhouse, the building of it is a very simple matter. If the
ground is frozen, spread the manure in a low, flat heap nine or ten feet
on each side, a foot and a half deep, and as long as the number of sash
to be used demands. A cord of manure thus furnishes a bed for about
three sash, not counting for the ends of the string or row. This heap
should be well trodden down and upon it should be placed the box or
frame upon which the sash are to rest. In using this method it will be
more convenient to have the frame made up beforehand and ready to place
upon the manure, as shown in one of the illustrations. This should be at
least twelve inches high at the front and some half a foot higher at the
back. Fill in with at least four inches--better six--of good garden soil
containing plenty of humus so that it may allow water to soak through
The other method is to construct the frames on the ground before severe
freezing, and in this case the front should be at least twenty-four
inches high, part of which--not more than half--may be below the ground
level. The 2 x 12 inch planks, when used, are handled as follows: stakes
are driven in to support the back plank some two or three inches above
the ground,--which should, of course, be level. The front plank is sunk
two or three inches into the ground and held upright by stakes on the
outside, nailed on. Remove enough dirt from inside the frame to bank up
the planks about halfway on the outside. When this banking has frozen to
a depth of two or three inches, cover with rough manure or litter to
keep frost from striking through. The manure for heating should be
prepared as above and put in to the depth of a foot, trodden down, first
removing four to six inches of soil to be put back on top of the
manure,--a cord of the latter, in this case, serving seven sashes. The
vegetables to be grown, and the season and climate, will determine the
depth of manure required--it will be from one to two feet,--the latter
depth seldom being necessary.
It must not be overlooked that this manure, when spent for heating
purposes, is still as good as ever to enrich the garden, so that the
expense of putting it in and removing it from the frames is all that you
can fairly charge up against your experiment with hotbeds, if you are
interested to know whether they really pay.
The exposure for the hotbeds should be where the sun will strike most
directly and where they will be sheltered from the north. Put up a fence
of rough boards, five or six feet high, or place the frames south of
The coldframe is constructed practically as in the hotbed, except that
if manure is used at all it is for the purpose of enriching the soil
where lettuce, radishes, cucumbers or other crops are to be grown to
maturity in it.
All this may seem like a lot of trouble to go for such a small thing as
a packet of seed. In reality it is not nearly so much trouble as it
sounds, and then, too, this is for the first season only. You will have
a well built frame lasting for years--forever, if you want to take a
little more time and make it of concrete instead of boards.
But now that the frame is made, how to use it is the next question.
The first consideration must be the soil. It should be rich, light,
friable. There are some garden loams that will do well just as taken up,
but as a rule better results will be obtained where the soil is made up
specially, as follows: rotted sods two parts, old rotted manure one
part, and enough coarse sand added to make the mixture fine and crumbly,
so that, even when moist, it will fall apart when pressed into a ball in
the hand. Such soil is best prepared by cutting out sod, in the summer,
where the grass is green and thick, indicating a rich soil. Along old
fences or the roadside where the wash has settled will be good places to
get limited quantities. These should be cut with considerable soil and
stacked, grassy sides together, in layers in a compost pile. If the
season proves very dry, occasionally soak the heap through. In late fall
put in the cellar, or wherever solid freezing will not take place,
enough to serve for spring work under glass. The amount can readily be
calculated; soil for three sash, four inches deep, for instance, would
take eighteen feet or a pile three feet square and two feet high. The
fine manure (and sand, if necessary) may be added in the fall or when
using in the spring. Here again it may seem to the amateur that
unnecessary pains are being taken. I can but repeat what has been
suggested all through these pages, that it will require but little more
work to do the thing the best way as long as one is doing it at all, and
the results will be not only better, but practically certain--and that
is a tremendously important point about all gardening operations.
While the cold frame and hotbed offer great advantages--especially in
the way of room--over growing plants and starting seed in the house,
they are nevertheless incomparably less useful than the simplest small
greenhouse. Plants may be wintered over in them, violets may be grown in
them, lettuce may be grown late in the fall and early in the spring, and
followed by cucumbers. But they are not convenient to work in. One is
dependent on the weather. They are not satisfactorily under control.
Take, for instance, one of those dark fall days, with a cold nasty
drizzle cutting down on a slant, or one of those bright sunny and cloudy
chill-winded spring days, when no pleasure is to be had out-of-doors.
Under the shelter of your little glass roof, where you can make your own
weather, what fun it is to be potting up a batch of cuttings, or putting
in a few packets of choice seed for the extra early garden! There is
nothing like it.
THE CONSTRUCTION OF CONSERVATORIES AND SMALL GREENHOUSES
Have you ever stepped from the chill and dreariness of a windy day, when
it seems as if the very life of all things growing were shrunk to
absolute desolation, into the welcome warmth and light and fragrance,
the beauty and joy of a glass house full of green and blossoming plants?
No matter how small it was, even though you had to stoop to enter the
door, and mind your elbows as you went along, what a good, glad
comfortable feeling flooded in to you with the captive sunlight! What a
world of difference was made by that sheet of glass between you and the
outer bitterness and blankness. Doubtless such an experience has been
yours. Doubtless, too, you wished vaguely that you could have some such
little corner to escape to, a stronghold to fly to when old winter lays
waste the countryside. But April came with birds, and May with flowers,
and months before the first dark, shivery days of the following autumn,
you had forgotten that another winter would come on, with weeks of
cheerless, uncomfortable weather. Or possibly you did not forget, until
you had investigated the matter of greenhouse building and found that
even a very small house, built to order, was far beyond your means.
Do not misunderstand me as disparaging the construction companies: they
do excellent work--and get excellent prices. You may not be able to
afford an Italian garden, with hundreds of dollars' worth of rare
plants, but that does not prevent your having a more modest garden spot,
in which you have planned and worked yourself. Just so, though one of
these beautiful glass structures may be beyond your purse, you may yet
have one that will serve your purpose just as practically. The fact of
the matter is, you can have a small house at a very small outlay, which
will pay a good, very good interest on your investment. With it you will
be able to have flowers all the year round, set both your flower and
vegetable garden weeks ahead in the spring, save many cherished plants
from the garden, and have fresh green vegetables, such as lettuce,
radishes, tomatoes and cucumbers that can readily be grown under glass.
And you will be surprised, if you can give the work some personal
attention, or, better still, have the fun of doing a little of the
actual building yourself, at how small an outlay you can put up a
substantial structure of practical size, say 20 feet by 10--of the
By way of illustration let us see what the material for such a house
would cost, and how to erect it. Almost every dwelling house has some
sheltered corner or wall where some glass "lean-to" could easily be
added, and the shape and dimensions can be made to suit the special
advantages offered. We will consider a simple house of the lean-to type,
requiring a wall, to begin with, 20 feet long and 7 feet high, down to
the ground, or a foot or so below it, if you can dig out. Below is
listed the material such a house would require. With modern patented
framing methods such a house has been estimated by greenhouse building
companies to cost, for the material only, from $325 to $400. Yet you can
have a wooden house that will serve your purpose at a cost for materials
of $61 and, if you do not care to put it together yourself, a labor cost
of, say, one-third more.
[Illustration: Fig. 2--Floor plan of the lean-to type of greenhouse
shown in section on the opposite page.]
As our north wall is already in place, we have only four surfaces to
consider, as the accompanying diagram shows--namely, south wall, gable
ends, roof and openings. For the roof we will require a ridge against
the wall of the dwelling house, sash-bars running at right angles to
this, a "purlin," or support, midway of these, and a sill for the lower
ends. For the south wall we will need posts, one row of glass, and
boards and "sheathing." For the gable ends, a board and sheathing wall
to the same height, and for the balance, sash-bars and glass. The
required openings will be a door or doors, and three ventilators, to
give a sufficient supply of fresh air.
[Illustration: Fig. 3--A sectional view of a two-bench, 10 X 20 ft.
house built against the dwelling wall. If possible it would be well to
gain a steeper slope for the glass and better headroom. The detail in
the upper right hand corner shows, at larger scale, the plate and front
lights, indicated just below in the main section.]
For these the material required will be:
10 ft. of 2-in. x 4-in. ridge $ 0.80
13 10-ft. drip bars 3.25
2 10-ft. end bars 1.00
5 6-ft. x 1-1/4-in. second-hand pipe posts .50
20 ft. 1-in, second-hand iron pipe 1.00
4 1-1/4-in. x 1-in. clamps .50
20 ft. 2-in. x 4-in. eaves plate 1.60
20 ft. 2-in. x 6-in. sill 2.20
15 1-in. pipe straps .50
18 ft. 2-in. x 4-in. sill, for gables 1.50
40 ft. side bars, random lengths, for gables 1.00
3 ventilating sash for 3 24-in. x 16-in. lights 3.00
9 16-in. headers for ventilators .40
6 hinges with screws for ventilators .75
1 roll tar paper, single-ply 2.00
6 boxes 24-in. x 16-in. glass, B double thick 24.00
75 lbs. good greenhouse putty 2.50
Total of items listed above $46.50
All of the above will have to come from a greenhouse material supply
company, and prices given do not include freight charges. The following
items may probably be bought more economically in your immediate
vicinity, and the prices will vary in different sections of the
Total of items listed above $46.50
240 ft. rough 1-in. boards 7.50
6 posts, 4 in. thick, 6 ft. long, planed on one side} 3.00
2 posts. 4 in. thick, 8 ft. long, planed on one side}
1000 shingles 4.00
Total cost of materials $61.00
Estimate of labor 20.00
Total cost of greenhouse $81.00
Level off a place about 22 x 12 feet, and set in the posts as indicated
in the plan on page 158, taking care to get the lines for the ends of
the house perfectly square with the wall, and exact in length. This is
best done by laying out your lines first with stout string, and making
your measurements accurately on these. Then put in the posts for sides
and ends, setting these about three feet into the ground, or, better
still, in concrete. Put in the two corner posts, which should be square
first. Next saw off all posts level at the proper height, and put in
place the 2 x 4 in. eaves plate on top of these and the 2 x 6 in. sill
just far enough below to take a 16 x 24 in. light of glass, with its
upper edge snug in the groove in lower side of plate, as shown in detail
of section on page 159. Fit the 2 x 6 in. sill about the posts so that
the mortice on same will just clear the outside of posts. Then put on
the siding on sides and ends--first a layer of rough inch-boards,
running vertically, a layer, single or double, of tar paper, and a
second layer of boards, laid horizontally, covering on the outside with
shingles, clapboards or roofing paper. The five 7 ft. x 1-1/4 in. pipe
posts may now be placed loose in their holes, and a walk dug out of
sufficient depth to allow passage through the middle of the house. Rough
boards nailed to stakes driven into the ground, will hold the earth
sides of this in place.
Next, after having it sawed in two vertically (thus making 20 ft), screw
the ridge securely to side of house at proper height, giving a thick
coat of white lead at top to insure a tight joint with house. Now put
one of the end bars in place, taking care to get it exactly at right
angles with ridge, and then lay down the sash-bars, enough more than 16
in. apart to allow the glass to slip into place readily. Take a light of
glass and try it between every fourth or fifth bar put into position,
_at both ridge and eave_, as this is much easier than trying to remedy
an error when half the glass is laid. Use "finishing" nails for securing
the sash-bars, as they are easily split. Next, with chalk line mark the
middle of the roof sash-bars, and secure to them the one-inch pipe
purlin, which will then be ready to fasten to the uprights already in
place. Next, make concrete by mixing two parts Portland cement, two of
sand and four of gravel or crushed stone with sufficient water to make a
mixture that will pour like thick mud, and put the iron pipe posts in
their permanent positions, seeing that the purlin is level and the posts
upright. (If necessary, the purlin can be weighted down until the
concrete sets.) Then put into place the ventilators, glazed, and the
headers for the same--short pieces of wood, cut to go in between the
sash-bars,--and fit these up snugly against the lower edge of the
When laying the glass in the roof, which will now be ready, use _plenty_
of putty, worked sufficiently soft for the glass to be thoroughly bedded
in it, and leaving no air-spaces or crevices for the rain to leak
through later. If this work is carefully done, it will not be necessary
to putty again on the outside of the glass, but it should be gone over
with white lead and linseed oil. Be sure to place the _convex_ surface
of every light up. The panes should be lapped from 1/6 to 1/4 of an
inch, and held securely in place with greenhouse glazing points, the
double-pointed _bent_ ones being generally used. The lights for the ends
of the house may be "butted," that is, placed edge to edge, if you
happen to strike good edges, but as a general thing, it will be more
satisfactory to lap them a little. The woodwork, before being put
together, should all receive a good priming coat of linseed oil in which
a little ochre has been mixed, and a second coat after erection. I have
suggested putting the glass in roof and sides before touching the
benches, because this work can then be done under shelter in case bad
weather is encountered. The benches can be arranged in any way that will
be convenient, but should be about waist-high, and not over four or four
and a half feet across, to insure easy handling of plants, watering,
etc. Rough boards will do for their construction, and they should not be
made so tight as to prevent the ready drainage of water. The doors may
be bought, or made of boards covered with tar paper and shingles or
The house suggested above is used only by way of illustration. It may
be either too large or too small for the purposes of some of the readers
of this book, and I shall therefore give very briefly descriptions of
several other types of small houses, some of which may be put up even
more cheaply than the above. The plainest is the sash lean-to somewhat
like Fig. 3, which is made by simply securing to a suitable wall a
ridge-piece to hold one end of the sashes for the roof, and erecting a
wall, similar to the one described above, but without glass, and with a
plain, 2 x 4 in. piece for a sill, to support the other ends. Either a
single or double row of sashes may be used, of the ordinary 3 x 6 foot
size. In the latter case, of course, a purlin and supporting posts, as
shown in diagram, must be supplied. Every second or third top sash
should be hinged, to open for ventilation, and by tacking strips over
the edges of the sash where they come together, a very tight and roomy
little house can be put up quickly, easily and very cheaply. New sash,
glazed and painted one coat, can be bought for $3 to $3.50 each. Ten of
these would make a very practical little house, fifteen feet long, and
over ten feet wide.
[Illustration: Sash and frames for a coldframe or hotbed cost only about
$3.00 per frame, 3 x 6 ft., and will serve to raise thousands of young
plants for setting out in the spring]
[Illustration: A simple and ingenious type of window greenhouse made
from a single coldframe sash with side glazing and a shelf]
[Illustration: An inside view of the same. Three shelves are available
for plants in addition to the main shelf at the bottom]
Another form of lean-to where there are windows is shown in another
diagram. The even-span house, of which type there are more erected than
of any other, is also shown. The cost of such a house, say 21 feet wide,
can be easily computed from the figures given in the first part of
this chapter, the north wall, and purlin braces from the ridge posts,
being the only details of construction not included there.
[Illustration: Fig. 4--A simple form of lean-to greenhouse where there
is an available sheltering wall but with first-story windows. The inner
slope or valley should be drained]
[Illustration: Fig. 5--The simplest of all "greenhouses," which is in
reality little more than a deep coldframe with an opening into the
A simple way of greatly increasing the capacity of the ordinary hotbed
or coldframe, is to build it next to a cellar window, so that it will
receive some artificial heat, and can be got at, from the inside, in any
weather. Several sashes can be used, and the window extend to include
as many of them as desired.
By all means get a little glass to use in connection with your garden
this coming year. Put up one of these small greenhouses, if you can: if
not, get a few sash, at least. Don't put it off till next year; do it
[Illustration: Fig. 6--The regular even-span type. A indicates a row of
pipe standards; BB, braces from these to the purlins. There is a fitting
made for the junction C.]
In the next chapter we will take up the handling of vegetables and
flowers in the small greenhouse. But don't be content to _read_ about
it. It's the pleasantest kind of _work_--try it yourself!
METHODS OF HEATING
In the foregoing chapter on homemade greenhouses very brief reference
was made to the various methods of heating. It will be well to
understand a little more in detail how to heat glass structures, as
temperature is, next to moisture, the most important factor of success.
If steam or hot water is used in the dwelling house and a greenhouse of
the lean-to type is used, the problem becomes a very simple one, as
additional pipes can be run through the greenhouse. But as this
advantage is not always ready to hand, we will consider the heating of
an isolated house, and the principles involved may be adapted to
individual needs. There are three systems of heating: flues (hot air),
hot water, and steam--the latter we need not take up as it is economical
only for larger structures than the amateur is likely to have.
[Illustration: Fig. 7--The best arrangement for heating a greenhouse by
hot air, is to run a brick or cement flue from the furnace around under
the benches and into the chimney over the fire. AA--storages space;
B--furnace; C--chimney; DDD--benches; E--furnace door.]
Heating by hot air carried through brick or tile flues is the simplest
and cheapest method for very small houses. The best way of constructing
such a system is illustrated in the diagram adjoining, which shows the
flue returning into the chimney (after traveling the length of the house
and back). This method does away with the greatest trouble with flue
heating--a poor draft; for immediately the fire is started, the air in
the chimney becomes heated, and rising, draws the hot air from the
furnace around through the flue with a forced draft. This forced draft
accomplishes three other good things: it does away with the escape of
noxious gases into the greenhouses, lessens the accumulation of moisture
and dust from wood smoke, and distributes the heat much more evenly
throughout the house. The furnace may be built of solid brick, with
doors and grates and an arched dome, and the flue should be of brick for
at least one-third the length from the furnace into the house; for the
rest of the way cement or vitrified drain pipe will be cheaper and
better. The flue should have a gradual upward slope for its whole length
and will vary in size with the house to be heated, from five to eight
or nine inches in diameter, the latter being sufficient for a house 60
by 21 feet. The flue should be raised a little from the ground, and at
no point should any woodwork be nearer than six inches to it. Very small
houses, especially if not started up until January, may be heated by an
ordinary wood stove with the stove pipe run the length of the house, but
such an arrangement will give off a very drying and uneven heat, and
require a lot of attention, to say nothing of its danger.
[Illustration: Fig. 8--Hot water is undoubtedly the most satisfactory
method of heating the small greenhouse. The diagram shows a 1-1/2-inch
supply pipe leading out from the boiler, with 1-inch returns under the
benches, making a satisfactory system for the lean-to type described in
detail in the previous chapter.]
[Illustration: Fig. 9--For the larger greenhouse of the isolated
double-slope type, 21 x 50 feet in size, a 2-inch supply pipe, with five
1-1/2-inch returns under the outer benches, will secure a temperature of
By far the most satisfactory way will be to use hot water. If the size
of the house will not justify the purchase of a small heater--a
second-hand one may often be had at a very reasonable figure--a
substitute may be had by inserting a hot-water coil in a stove or in the
house furnace. In one of the diagrams is shown an arrangement of pipes
for heating a house 21 x 50 feet, and in another piping for lean-to
described in the preceding chapter. With the small pipe sufficient for
such a house as that illustrated in the latter diagram, the work can be
done by anyone at all acquainted with the use of pipe tools; if
possible, the pipes should be given a slight downward slope, say one
inch in ten feet, from as near the heater as practical. For all this
work second-hand piping, newly threaded, will answer very well, and it
may be bought for about four cents per foot for one-inch pipe; six cents
for one and one-half inch, and eight cents for two-inch. In putting the
stove or heater in place, it should be sunk below the level upon which
the pipes will run, and attention should also be given to the matter of
caring for the fire, removing ashes, etc., making the management of
these things as convenient as possible.
Experience only can teach the beginner just how to manage his vegetables
and plants in this new winter garden. But at the outset he must remember
one thing: If it is true that he has control of his miniature world of
growing things it is also true that he can leave nothing, as he does
with his outside garden, to the treatment of nature. The control is in
his hands--the warmth, the moisture, the fresh air, the soil--none can
be left to chance; he must think of them all. And before going into
details, which might at first be confusing, let us take up the elements
of this little world over which we are to reign, and try to elucidate
first a few general rules to guide us. The house, after countless little
delays and unforeseen problems conquered by personal interest and
ingenuity, is at last ready, and the bare board benches look ugly enough
in the bright, hot sunlight. How are they to be converted into a small
Garden of Eden, when all outdoors is chained in the silent desolation of
drifted snow? Here is a new task. No longer Nature's assistant, the
gardener has been given entire management of this new sort of garden. It
is almost a factory, where he must take his raw materials--earth,
water, heat, light, and the wonderful thread of life, and mold these all
into a hundred marvelous forms of beauty and utility. Something of art,
something of science, something of business, must all be brought to his
Let us begin then at the bottom. What is the best kind of dirt to use?
It should be friable, so that it will not bake and cake in the pots;
rich, that the little plants may readily find ample nourishment; porous,
that water may be soaked up readily, and any surplus drained off freely.
A soil answering all these requirements is made as follows: cut from an
old ditch or fence-side, thick sods, and stack them with the grass sides
together to rot. This heap should be forked over several times, when it
has begun to decompose. In dry weather, if within reach of the hose, a
good soaking occasionally will help the process along. The sods should
be cut during spring or summer. To this pile of sod, when well rotted
(or at time of using), add one-third in bulk of _thoroughly rotted
manure_--cow and horse mixed, and a year old, if it can be obtained--and
mix thoroughly. If the soil is clayey or heavy, add enough coarse sand
and make it fine and friable, or use a larger proportion of the manure.
Leaf-mould, from the woods, will also be good to lighten it with. This
one mixture will do for all your potting. Keep enough of it under
cover, or where it will not freeze, to last you during the winter and
early spring. Store some of it in old barrels, or in boxes under the
greenhouse bench, if there is not a more convenient place. For very
small pots, run it through a half-inch sieve. For the larger sizes,
three inches and up, this will not be necessary--just be sure the
ingredients are well mixed.
Proper temperature is more likely to be the beginner's stumbling block
than any other one thing. Different plants, of course, require different
treatment in this respect; and just as your corn and beans will not come
up if planted too early in the spring, or carrot or pansy seed in the
heat of July, so the temperature in which a coleus will thrive would be
fatal to the success of verbenas or lettuce under glass. It will often
pay, where a variety of things are to be grown in the small greenhouse,
to have a glass partition separating it into two sections, one of which
may be kept, either by additional piping or less ventilation, several
degrees warmer than the other. So, while a general collection of many
plants can be grown successfully in the same temperature, it is foolish
to try everything. Only actual experiment can show the operator just
what he can and cannot do with his small house. Even where no glass
partition is used, there will probably be some variation in temperature
in different parts of the house, and this condition may be turned to
advantage. The beginner, however, is more likely to keep his house too
hot than too cool. He may seem at first to be getting a fine quick
growth, and then wonders why things begin to be lanky, and yellow,
forgetting that his plants can get no air to breathe, except what he is
careful enough to give to them. For the majority of those plants which
the beginner is likely to try--geraniums, petunias, begonias, fuchsias,
abutilon, heliotrope, ferns, etc., a night temperature of 45 to 55
degrees, with 10 to 20 degrees higher during the day, will keep them in
good growing condition during the winter, providing they are neglected
in no other respect. So long as they are not chilled, they cannot have
too much fresh air during sunny days. Make it your aim to keep the
temperature as _steady_ as possible--the damage done to plants is as
often the result of sudden changes in temperature as of too high or too
low a temperature.
If it is easy to overdo in the matter of temperature, it is even more so
in watering. A soil such as described above, when watered, will absorb
the water rapidly, and leave none of it standing upon the surface of the
pots after a few moments. Practice, and practice only, can teach just
when the soil has been sufficiently saturated. It should be watered
until wet clear through, but never until it becomes muddy. And when
watered it should not be watered again until dry--not baked and hard,
but a condition indicated by a whitening of the surface, and the
rapidity with which it will again soak up water, a condition hard to
describe exactly, but at once recognizable after a little practice.
During the dull winter months, it will be sufficient for most plants in
the greenhouse to receive water twice a week, or even less often, but on
the coming of warm spring days, more frequently, until care is needed
daily. There are some old fogy ideas about soft and tepid water, which
may help confuse the beginner: they accomplish nothing more. Recent
experiments, made by one of the State experiment stations, have
confirmed the experience of practical florists, that the temperature of
water used, even to ice water, has almost absolutely no effect--the
reason being that the water applied changes to the temperature of the
soil almost before it can reach the roots of the plant at all. And hard
and soft, spring and cistern water, have likewise been used without
difference in results. The main thing is to attend to your watering
regularly, never letting the plants get dried out or baked.
Not the least important of the "arts" which the worker under glass has
to acquire is that of potting. From the time the cuttings in the sand
bench are rooted, until the plants are ready to go outdoors in the
spring, they have to be potted and repotted. The operation is a very
simple one when once acquired. To begin with the cutting: Take a
two-inch pot (a few of the geranium cuttings may require a 2-1/2 inch
pot), fill it level with the sifted soil and with the forefinger make a
hole large enough to receive the roots of the cutting and half its
length, without bending the roots up. With the thumbs press down the
dirt firmly on either side of the cutting, and give the pot a clean,
short rap, either with the hand or by striking its bottom against the
bench (which should be about waist-high) to firm and level the earth in
it. With a little practice this operation becomes a very easy and quick
one. Place the pots side by side and give a thorough watering. Keep in a
shaded place, or shade with newspapers, for four or six days, and as
soon as growth begins, move the pots apart, to allow the free
circulation of air before the plants crowd. The time for repotting in a
larger size pot is shown by the condition of the roots; they should have
formed a network about the side of the pot, but not have remained there
long enough to become tough or hard. They should still be white
"working" roots. To repot, remove the ball of earth from the old pot, by
inverting, striking the rim of the pot against the edge of the bench (a
light tap should be sufficient), taking care to have the index and
middle finger on either side of the plant stem, to hold it readily. Put
in the bottom of the new pot sufficient earth to bring the top of the
ball of roots, when placed upon it, a little below the rim of the pot.
Hold this ball firmly in the center of the new pot, and fill in the
space about it with fresh earth, packing it in firmly, using either the
fingers or a bit of wood of convenient size. As a usual thing it is best
when shifting to use a pot only one size larger. For pots above four
inches in diameter, provide drainage by "crocking." This is accomplished
by putting irregular shaped bits of stone, charcoal, cinders or pieces
of broken pots in the bottom, being careful not to cover or plug up the
If the pots are placed directly on the bottom of the bench--board,
slate, tile or whatever it is--they will dry out so quickly that it is
next to impossible to keep them properly watered. To overcome this
difficulty, an inch or two of sand, or two or three inches of earth, is
placed on the benches. When placing the pots upon this covering, work
them down into it, just a little, instead of setting them loosely on top
There are several insect pests which are likely to prove quite
troublesome if given a start and the proper conditions in which to
develop--crowded plants, too much heat, lack of ventilation, too little
moisture. Prevention is the best cure. Burn tobacco stems or tobacco
dust, used according to directions, every week (or oftener if required),
and see that no bugs appear. One or two of the strongest brands of
tobacco dust for sprinkling are also used successfully applied directly
to the insects _on_ the plants, but my experience with most of these
has proved them next to worthless. (See also Chapter XVII.)
It is not nearly so interesting to read about the various greenhouse
operations as it is to _do them_. It is work of an entrancing nature,
and no one who had never taken a little slip of some new or rare plant
and nursed it through the cutting stage and watched its growth till the
first bud opened, can have an idea of the pleasure to be had. In the
next chapter I shall attempt to explain just how to handle some of the
most satisfactory flowers and vegetables, but the inexperienced owner of
a small greenhouse who wishes to make rapid progress should _practice_
with every plant and seed that comes his, or her, way, until all the
ordinary operations have become as easy as falling off a street car with
him. Mistakes will be made, and disappointments occur, of course, but
only through these can skill and efficiency be obtained.
There are a number of greenhouse crops which are easily within the reach
of the amateur who has at his disposal a small glass structure. One is
apt to feel that something much more elaborate than the simple means at
his hands are required to produce the handsome flowers or beautiful
ferns which may be seen in the florist's window. It is true that many
things are beyond his achievement. He cannot grow gigantic American
Beauties on stems several feet long, nor present his friends at
Christmas with the most delicate orchids; but he can very easily have
carnations more beautiful, because they will be fresher if not quite so
large, than any which can be had at the glass-fronted shops; and
cyclamen as beautiful, and much more serviceable, than any orchid that
ever hung from a precarious basket. To accomplish such results requires
not so much elaborate equipment as unremitting care--and not eternal
fussing but regular thought and attention.
There is, for instance, no more well beloved flower than the carnation,
which entirely deserves the place it has won in flower-lovers' hearts
beside, if not actually ahead of, the rose. As a plant it will stand
all kinds of abuse, and yet, under the care which any amateur can give
it, will produce an abundance of most beautiful bloom. Within a
comparatively few years the carnation, as indeed a number of other
flowers, has been developed to nearly twice its former size, and the
number of beautiful shades obtainable has also increased many times.
To be grown at its best the carnation should have a rather cool
temperature and plenty of ventilation, and these two requirements help
to place it within reach of the small greenhouse operator. If only a few
plants are to be grown, they may be purchased from a local florist, or
obtained by mail from a seed house. If as few as two or three dozen
plants are to be kept--and a surprising number of blooms may be had from
a single dozen--they may be kept in pots. Use five-or six-inch pots and
rich earth, with frequent applications of liquid manure, as described
later. If, however, part of a bench can be given to them, the results
will be more satisfactory. The bench should be well drained and contain
four or five inches of rich soil, such as already described. If it is
too late to compose a soil of this kind, use any rich garden loam and
well rotted manure, in the proportions of five or six to one. For plants
to begin blooming in the early winter, they should be put in during
August, but for one's own use a later planting will do. For this year,
if you are too late, get a few plants and keep them in pots. Next year
buy before March a hundred or so rooted cuttings, or in April small
plants, and set them out before the middle of May. Cultivate well during
the summer, being sure to keep all flower buds pinched off, and have a
nice supply of your own plants ready for next fall.
In putting the plants into the bench (or pots) select a cloudy day, and
then keep them shaded for a few days, with frequent syringing of the
foliage, until they become established. Keep the night temperature very
little above fifty degrees, and not above seventy-five in the daytime,
while sixty will do in cloudy weather. As to the watering, they should
be well soaked when put in, and thereafter only as the ground becomes
dry, when it should again be wet, care being taken to wet the foliage as
little as possible. In the mornings, and on bright days, syringing the
foliage will be beneficial, but never in dull weather, as the leaves
should never be wet over night.
As the flower stems begin to shoot up they will need support. If you can
get one of the many forms of wire supports used by commercial florists,
so much the better; but if these are not obtainable the old method of
stakes and strings (or preferably raffia) will do very well. To obtain
large flowers the flower stems must be "disbudded"--that is all but the
end bud on each stalk should be pinched off, thus throwing all the
strength into one large flower. If, on the other hand, the terminal bud
is taken off, and several of the side buds left, the result will be a
beautiful cluster of blooms, more pleasing, to my mind, than the single
large flowers, though not so valuable commercially.
There are any number of wonderful new varieties, but the white, pink and
light pink Enchantress, and one of the standard reds will give
Requiring even less heat than the carnation is the old-time and all-time
favorite, the violet. With no greenhouse at all, these can be grown
beautifully, simply with the aid of a coldframe. But where a house is to
be had, the season of blooming is, of course, much longer. The essential
thing is to get strong, healthy plants. As with the carnations, if only
a few are wanted, they may be grown in pots, using the six-inch size.
The soil, whether for pots or benches, should be somewhat heavier than
that prepared for carnations, using one-fourth to one-fifth cow manure
added to the loam or rotted sod. If a bench is used, select one as near
the glass as you can. Take in the plants with as little disturbance as
possible, and keep them shaded for a few days, as with carnations. The
plants will require to be about eight inches apart. As for care, apply
water only when the bed has begun to dry, and then until the bench is
soaked through. Pots will, of course, require more frequent attention in
this matter than a bench. Keep all old leaves picked off and the soil
stirred about the plants, with syringing and fumigating as suggested on
page 134. The temperature will be best as low as forty-five degrees at
night, and as little above fifteen more in the daytime as possible.
Where no artificial heat can be had, a fine crop through the spring
months may be had by making a smaller frame inside the regular
coldframe, and packing this space with fine dry manure, as well as
banking the outer frame. This arrangement, with two sash and mats in the
coldest weather, will keep the plants growing most of the winter, and
certainly the abundance of fragrant blooms at a season when flowers are
most scarce will amply repay you for the trouble. Some prefer the single
to the double blossoms. Marie Louise and Lady Hume Campbell (double
blue); Swanley White, and California and Princesse de Galles (single
blue) are the best varieties. Plants may be purchased of most large
florists or from seedsmen.
Many of the decorative ferns may also be grown to perfection in the
small house, at a moderate temperature, fifty to sixty degrees, the
nearer sixty the better. The Boston fern (_Nephrolepis exaltata
Bostoniensis_) and its improved form, _Scottii_, are two of the best for
house use, and if grown in the greenhouse until of good size and form,
they will make unusual and very acceptable holiday or birthday gifts. A
few small plants obtained from the florist and kept where they do not
get a direct glare of light, watered frequently enough so that the soil
is always moist (but never "sopping"), and plenty of fresh air in bright
weather, will rapidly make fine plants. If you happen to have a few old
plants on hand, they may be increased readily by division. Separate the
old crowns into a few small plants. Don't make them very small or they
will not renew as readily. Keep them, if possible, a little above sixty
degrees, with plenty of moisture. Loam and sand, to which is added about
the same amount of leaf-mould, will make a proper soil.
Asparagus ferns will also respond to about the same care, though
thriving in an even lower temperature. _Asparagus plumosus nanus_, the
Lace fern, is especially delicate and graceful and makes an ideal small
table plant to use with flowers.
These are propagated by cuttings, which root very easily. I would
suggest, however, dipping them first in a wash of one part Aphine to
thirty-five parts water, and then rinsing in clear cold water, in order
to rid them entirely of any black aphis there may be present. Give them
a clean start, and it will be much easier to keep them clean, as they
must be kept to make good healthy plants.
If you have not already a stock on hand, I would suggest going to some
florist's in the chrysanthemum season and making a list of the varieties
which particularly please you. Later, say in February or March, you can
get cuttings of these, already rooted if you like, but it's more fun to
root them yourself.
Pot off in two-and-one-half-inch pots, and shift on as rapidly as the
roots develop. Use, after the first potting, a very rich soil, and give
plenty of water. Chrysanthemums are very gross feeders and the secret of
success with them lies in keeping them growing on from the beginning as
rapidly as possible, without a check. Keep at about fifty-five degrees
and repot as frequently as required.
If they are to be grown in a bed or bench, have the soil ready by the
first part of June. The distance apart will be determined by the method
by which they are to be grown--six or eight inches if to "single stems"
with the great big flowers one sees at the florist's; about eight, ten
or twelve if three blooms are to be had from each plant. Of course that
will be determined by individual taste; but personally I prefer the
"spray" form, growing a dozen or more to each plant. They should be
syringed frequently and given partial shade. A good way is to spray
onto the roof a mixture of lime-water, about as thick as milk, or white
lead and naphtha in solution.
As soon as they are well established and growing, decision must be made
as to how they are to be grown. If more than one flower to a plant is
wanted, pinch out the big top bud and as the side buds develop, take
them all off to the number of flowers required, two, three or more as
the case may be. If sprays are wanted, pinch out the end buds of these
side shoots also when they get about three inches long, and all but a
few of the side buds on the shoots.
If at any time during growth the plants seem to be checked, or lose
their healthy dark green color, it is probable that they are not getting
enough food and should be given top dressings or liquid manure
Or if one does not want to devote space in the greenhouse to them for so
long a time (although they occupy it when there is little other use for
it) the plants may be grown in pots, the final shift being into six-or
seven-inch. They are kept in a cool house, or in a shaded place
out-of-doors, plunged in coal ashes. One advantage of this method is, of
course, that they can be brought into the dwelling house while in bloom.
In either case, the plants must be watched carefully for black fly,
which can be kept off with Aphine. The plants will also need supports
of twine or wire, or stakes, whether in the beds or in pots.
The usual method is to cut back the plants after blooming, store in a
cold place and start later into new growth for cuttings. A better way is
to set a few plants out early in the spring--one of each variety will
give an abundance of plants for home use. Cuttings can be taken from
these that will be just right for late flowers. These stock plants are
cut back in the fall, taken up and stored in a deep box, keeping as cold
as possible without freezing.
Varieties are so numerous, so constantly changing, of so many types,
that it would be unsatisfactory to give a list. The best way, as
mentioned before, is to get a list of the sort you like, while they are
in bloom at the florists.
It is much more difficult to grow good roses than to grow either
chrysanthemums or carnations. They are more particular as to soil and as
to temperature, and more quickly affected by insects and disease.
Nevertheless there is no reason why the amateur who is willing to be
painstaking should not succeed with the hardier varieties. Some roses
are much more easily grown than others. Plants may be grown from
cuttings of the ripened wood, which should have become too hard to
comply with the "snapping test" (see page 30) used for most other
plants. By far the best way for the beginner, however, is to buy from
the nurserymen or florist. This is especially true of the many sorts
which do better when grafted on a strong growing stock.
There are two ways of buying the plants: either in the dormant state, or
growing, out of pots. In the first way you get the dry roots and canes
(2-year olds) from the nursery as early as possible in the spring and
set them in nine-inch pots to plunge outdoors, or boxes, allowing 6 x 6
to 12 inches for room if you want them for use in the house in the
winter. Cut back one-half at time of planting, and after watering to
bring the soil to the right degree of moisture, go very light with it
until the plants begin active growth, when it is gradually increased. As
with chrysanthemums, as the plants get large, fertilizers and liquid
manure must be given to maintain the supply of plant food. Let the
plants stay out when cold weather comes, until the leaves have dropped
and then store until December or January in a cold dry place where they
will not be frozen too hard or exposed to repeated thawings--a trial
that few plants can survive. Bring into warmth as required.
The above treatment is for plants for the house. For the greenhouse
bench get plants that are growing. They should be clean and healthy, in
four-or five-inch pots. They are set 12 x 12 to 12 x 16 inches apart,
depending upon whether the variety is a very robust grower. The best
time for setting is April to July first, according to season in which it
is desired to get most bloom. As a rule early planting is the more
One of the most important points in success with roses is to provide
thorough drainage. Even when raised beds are used, as will generally be
the case in small houses, wide cracks should be left every six inches or
so. If the house is low, room may be saved by making a "solid" bed
directly upon the ground, putting in seven or eight inches of prepared
soil on top of two or three inches of clinkers, small stone or gravel.
The preparation of the soil is also a matter of great importance. It
should be rather "heavy," that is, with considerably more clay than
average plant soil. Five parts rotted loam sod, to one to two parts
rotted cow manure, is a good mixture. _It should be thoroughly composted
and rotted up._ When filling the bench press well down and if possible
give time to settle before putting in the plants.
The plants should be set in firmly. Keep shaded and syringe daily in the
morning until well established. Great care must be taken to guard
against any sudden changes, so that it is best to give ventilation
gradually and keep a close watch of temperature, which should be kept
from fifty-five to fifty-eight at night in cold weather.
Care should be taken to water early in the morning, that the leaves may
dry off by night. At the same time it is well to keep the atmosphere as
moist as possible to prevent trouble from the red spider (see page 134)
which is perhaps the greatest enemy of the rose under glass.
As large growth is reached, liquid manure or extra food in the form of
dry fertilizer must be given, a good mixture for the latter being 1 lb.
of nitrate of soda, one of sulphate of potash and ten of fine bone. Wood
ashes sprinkled quite thick upon the soil and worked in are also good.
As the plants grow tall, they will have to be given support by tying
either to stakes or wires. It is well to pick off the first buds also,
so that mature growth may be made before they begin to flower heavily.
The plants should at all times be kept scrupulously clean.
The roses suited for growing in pots or boxes, to be dried off and
brought into heat in January or February, are the hybrid perpetuals, and
the newer ramblers, Crimson, Baby White and Baby Pink.
For growing in benches, as described, the teas are used. Among the best
of the standard sorts of these are Bride, Perle, Kaiserin Augusta
Victoria, Bridesmaid, Pres. Carnot, Meteor, Killarney. New sorts are
constantly being tried, and some of these are improvements over old
sorts. The catalogues give full description.
For growing at a low temperature, fifty-five degrees or so, the
following are good: Wootton, Papa Gontier, red; Perle, yellow;
Bridesmaid, large pink; Mad. Cousin, small pink; Bride, white. The above
will make a good collection for the beginner to try his or her hand
While tomatoes and cucumbers require a high temperature, lettuce may be
grown easily all the year round. A good method is to grow three crops of
lettuce during the fall and winter, and follow with tomatoes and
cucumbers in the spring, when the high temperature required can be more
Lettuce is a low-temperature plant, and there is no reason why the small
greenhouse owner should not be able with ease to supply his table
constantly with this delicious salad. As with the carnations, and
violets, if there is no part of a bench that can be devoted to the
lettuce, a few plants can be grown in pots. If this method is used, the
seedlings should be pricked off into small pots. When these begin to
crowd they will have to be given six to eight inches of room, and the
pots plunged in soil to their full depth. But it will be more
satisfactory to devote a part of a bench, a solid one if possible and in
the coldest part of the house, to the lettuce plants. Well rotted
manure, either horse or mixed, and a sandy loam, will make the right
soil. The first sowing of seed should be made about August first, in a
shaded bed out-of-doors; the seedlings transplanted, as with spring
lettuce, to flats or another bed. By the last week in September these
will be ready to go into the beds prepared for them, setting them about
six inches apart for the loose and eight for the heading varieties. The
bed should be well drained, so that the soil will never stay soggy after
watering. The soil should be kept fairly dry, as too much moisture is
apt to cause rot, especially with the heading sorts. Syringe
occasionally on the brightest days, in the morning. Keep the surface of
the bed stirred until the leaves cover it. Keep the temperature below
fifty at night, especially just after planting, and while maturing. And
watch sharply for the green aphis, which is the most dangerous insect
pest. If tobacco fumigation is used as a preventive, as suggested, they
will not put in an appearance. The first heads will be ready by
Thanksgiving, and a succession of plants should be had by making _small_
sowings of seed every two or three weeks. If the same bed is used for
the new crops, liquid manure, with a little dissolved soda nitrate, will
If a night temperature of sixty degrees can be assured in part of the
house, tomatoes and cucumbers may also be had all winter. If the house
is only a general purpose one, held at a lower temperature than that,
they may still be had months before the crop outside by starting them so
as to follow the last crop of lettuce, which should be out of the way
by the first of April. The seeds of either need a high temperature to
germinate well, and may be started on the return heating pipes, care
being taken to remove them before they are injured by too much shade or
by drying out. In sowing the cucumber seed, pots or small boxes, filled
about half-full of a light sandy compost, may be used, these to be
filled in, leaving only two plants in each, as the plants get large
enough, with a rich compost. If there is a solid bed available, a trench
filled with horse manure, well packed in, will act as a hotbed and help
out the temperature required for rapid growth. If fruits are wanted for
the winter, the tomatoes should be started in July and the cucumbers
early in August. They should be given a very rich and sandy soil, and
the day temperature may run up to eighty degrees. Until the latter part
of spring, when the ventilators are opened and bees have ready access,
it is necessary to use artificial fertilization in order to get the
fruit to set. With a small soft brush, dust the pollen over the pistils.
With the English forcing cucumbers, this will not be necessary. While
fruit is setting, the houses should be kept especially dry and warm.
The vines of both tomatoes and cucumbers will have to be tied up to
stakes or wires with raffia. They should be pinched off at about six
feet, and, for the best fruit, all suckers kept off the tomatoes.
The best varieties of tomatoes for forcing are Lorillard, Stirling
Castle and Comet; of the cucumbers, Arlington White Spine, Davis
Perfected and the English forcing varieties.
If you do not like to stop having lettuce in time to give up space to
cucumbers or tomatoes, start some plants about January first, and have a
hotbed ready to receive them from the flats before March first. With a
little care as to ventilation and watering, they will come along just
after the last of the greenhouse crops.
A point not to be overlooked in connection with all the above
suggestions is that any surplus of these fresh out-of-season things may
be disposed of among your vegetable-hungry friends at the same
step-ladder prices they are paying the butcher or green-grocer for
wilted, shipped-about products.
And don't get discouraged if some of your experiments do not succeed the
first time. Keep on planning, studying and _practicing_ until you are
getting the maximum returns and pleasure from your glass house.
[Illustration: Tomato plants, started in pots, ready for transplanting
into the bench]
[Illustration: The tomato plants in full bearing. The vines are severely
pruned and tied up to sticks or twine]
[Illustration: Lettuce and cucumbers in the greenhouse. The cucumber
vines are induced to climb the heavy strings so as to economize bench
VEGETABLE AND BEDDING PLANTS FOR SPRING
While it is true that there are many ways in which one may save money
with a small greenhouse all through the year, the best chance for making
money is by growing vegetable and bedding plants in the spring. Bedding
stock is what the florists term geraniums, coleus, begonias and other
plants used for setting out flower beds in the spring.
In every community a large number of such plants are used and the case
will be rare indeed in which one will meet with any difficulty in
disposing of quite a number of such plants among immediate neighbors and
The number of plants which can be grown in the spring with even a very
small house and a few sash is quite surprising. The secret of the
mystery lies, of course, in the fact that in their early stages,
seedlings and cuttings, the plants occupy very little room; while as
soon or soon after they are transplanted or shifted to large pots they
are shoved outdoors into coldframes. As the tender vegetables, such as
tomatoes, peppers, egg-plant, etc., are not started until after the
hardier ones, cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower, etc., the frames can be
filled up again usually as fast as emptied. In the same way heliotrope,
salvia, coleus and other tender plants follow pansies, daisies,
It will thus be seen that to grow these plants to the best advantage, a
coldframe, or better still, both a coldframe and hotbed, will be used in
conjunction with the small home greenhouse.
Directions have already been given (see Chapter IV) in these pages for
sowing, starting and transplanting seed.
The dates for sowing are about as follows in the vicinity of New York.
Allow about a week's difference for every hundred miles of
latitude--earlier in the south, later in the north.
February 1st--Cabbage, cauliflower.
February 15th--Cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, beets, lettuce,
onions for plants.
March 1st--Lettuce, celery (early), tomato (early), beets.
March 15th--Lettuce, tomato (main), egg-plant, pepper. For one's own use
or special orders, cucumbers, squash, lima beans, potatoes sprouted in
flats of sand, may also be started, but there is no market demand for
April 1st--Celery (late), cauliflower; (in sods or paper pots),
muskmelon, watermelon, corn, for special use.
After being started and pricked off into flats, cabbage, cauliflower,
Brussels sprouts, beets, lettuce, and celery are kept inside just long
enough to get well established, and then put outside in a tight frame.
Harden off as well as possible before putting out, as a freeze the first
night might injure them. After that slight frost on the leaves will not
injure them, but if they freeze stiff, apply cold water in the
morning--ice-cold is just as good--and shade until they are thawed out.
If very cold it will be necessary to protect the frames with shutters.
Beets and lettuce will not stand quite so low a temperature as the
cabbage group. By the time the plants are pretty well grown,
cloth-covered frames may be substituted for the glass ones, and these
may be used elsewhere to cover the tenderer plants such as tomato and
egg-plant. After the first of April they will not need any protection.
Last spring I had several thousand cabbages covered twice with several
inches of snow, and hardly a one was lost.
Tomatoes, peppers and egg-plants require different treatment. They are
heat-loving plants, and not only succumb to even a slight freeze, but
will be so checked by a low temperature, even if not touched by frost,
that they will amount to little. They should be kept growing as rapidly
as possible. They will also require a _second_ transplanting. Those
wanted for the retail trade are put a dozen in a box, three or four
inches deep and 7 x 9 inches. Care must be taken not to let these plants
run up tall. Always give all the air possible while keeping up the
temperature, which should be from fifty to fifty-five at night. Get them
outdoors as soon as the weather becomes settled, where they could be
protected in case of a sudden late frost.
Most of the plants used for flower gardens and lawn beds come under the
three following classes: (1) Those grown from seed; (2) those grown from
cuttings; (3) those of a bulbous nature.
Almost all of the first group are sown in the spring in flats in the
greenhouse. Two important exceptions, however, are pansies and English
daisies (_Bellis perennis_). They are sown early in the fall, as already
described, and the plants wintered over in a frame or protected
outdoors. For the retail trade they are put up in small boxes or "pansy
baskets" made for the purpose. While small plants, just beginning to
bloom, are the best, it seems very hard to convince a customer of it and
they will often choose a basket with four or five old plants loaded with
bloom in preference to a dozen small ones.
Asters, alyssum, balsams, candytuft, celosia, coleus, dianthus (pink),
lobelia, mignonette, petunias, phlox, portulaca, ricinus, salvia,
verbenas, vinca, roses, zinnias, may all be started from seed. The
greatest secret of success is to keep the plants from crowding, and keep
pinched back to make bushy plants. Salvias and coleus are the tenderest
of these plants. The others can go out to the frames, if room is scarce,
as soon as the weather becomes settled.
PLANTS FROM CUTTINGS
The method of choosing and rooting cuttings has been outlined in a
previous chapter (see page 29). In greenhouse work the main difference
is that they are taken in much larger quantities. For this reason it is
usually convenient to have a cutting bench instead of the flats or
saucers used in rooting house plants. The bench should be three or four
inches deep, filled with medium coarse, gritty sand, or a substratum of
drainage material. If possible, have it so arranged that bottom heat may
be given--this being most conveniently furnished with pipes under the
bench boxed in. (The temperature required for most cuttings will be
fifty to fifty-five in the house with five to ten degrees more _under_
the bench.) The cutting bench should also be so situated that it readily
may be shaded, as one of the most important factors of success is to
prevent the cuttings from wilting at any time--especially just after
placing in the sand. After rooting, the cuttings are put into small pots
or flats as already explained.
Spring stock of some plants, such as geraniums, are rooted in the
fall--September to November. Others, which make a quick growth, such as
petunias, not until early in the spring,--last of January to April, but
for the most part in February. In the former case, cuttings are taken
just before frost from outside plants, or later from stock plants lifted
and taken indoors; in the latter case, stock plants are taken in and
carried through the winter in a more or less dormant or resting
condition; being kept rather dry and started into active growth in
January. The new growth furnishes material for cuttings, which are grown
on as rapidly as possible.
The following plants are treated in one of the above ways; further
details in any case may be found in the first part of the book:
Begonias, fibrous rooted Ice Plant
Coleus Paris Daisy
Ivy Geraniums Vincas
BULBOUS BEDDING PLANTS
The bulbous plants are started directly in pots, or in flats and
transferred to pots, as described in individual cases in the preceding
Cannas, dwarf flowering
Tuberous rooted Begonias
are the sorts for which there is most demand.
Condensed as the latter part of this book has had to be, I trust it may
give the reader a glimpse of the pleasure, and even of the possibility
for profit, that is offered by the small home glass house.
Do not feel that because you cannot have a large greenhouse, with all
the modern equipment, that it is not worth while to have any. Many of
the large establishments in the country have grown from just such small
beginnings as have been described or suggested here.
Possibly you would never be interested in the commercial side of your
under-glass gardening, even though success crowned your efforts. There
is not, however, any question about the fun and healthy pleasure to be
had, and I can wish you no more gardening joy than that the coming year
will find you with at least a modest amount of "home glass."
African Blue Lily, 123.
Bay-window, 3, 9.
Bedding plants--grown for spring, 200.
Begonia Rex, 53.
Begonias, flowering, 51.
Blood Flower, 124.
Bone meal, 141.
Bulbs, Dutch or Cape, 117.
Bulbs, for winter bloom, 116.
Caladium, 83, 125.
Carnations, 66, 180.
Chinese Sacred Lily, 127.
Chrysanthemum, 67, 185.
Coboea Scandens, 91.
"Crocking" pots, 178.
Cuttings, preparation of, 29.
Cuttings, propagation of, 30.
Easter lily, 120.
English ivy, 92.
Ferns, 97, 184.
Fertilizers, 19, 145.
Flowering maple, 72.
Foliage plants, 81.
Cobaea scandens, 91.
English ivy, 92.
German ivy, 92.
Hoya Carnosa, 91.
Leopard plant, 84.
"Little Pickles," 94, 115.
Musk plant, 93.
Rubber plant, 86.
Sensitive plant, 88.
Sweet peas, 95.
Zebra plant, 88.
Frozen plants, treatment of, 199.
German ivy, 92.
Greenhouse, construction of, 156.
Greenhouse, management of, 172.
Hanging baskets, 130, 143.
Heating apparatus, 3.
Heating of greenhouses, 167.
House plants, 44.
Hoya Carnosa, 91.
Insect diseases, remedies for, 138.
Kerosene emulsion, 139.
Lemon verbena, 77.
Leopard plant, 84.
Light, proper amount of, 6.
"Little Pickles," 94, 115.
Mahernia (honey-bell), 68.
Manures, 17, 145.
Manure, liquid, 48, 145.
Marguerite carnation, 66.
Mealy bug, 135.
Moisture, amount of, for plants indoors, 12.
Musk plant, 93.
Nitrate of soda, 20.
Nitrogen, forms of, 18.
Pansy, 68, 200.
Patience plant (_impatiens_), 67.
Phosphoric acid, forms of, 18.
Potting, 38, 176.
Potash, forms of, 18.
"Plunging" pots in summer, 49.
Primroses (_Primula_), 63.
Propagation, from cuttings, 30.
Propagation, from seed, 22-27.
Propagation, "saucer system," 32.
Red spider, 134.
Resting periods of plants, 47.
Rex, Begonia, 53.
Root aphis, 136.
Roses, 78, 188.
Rubber plant, 86.
Sash, lean-to, 164.
Sensitive plant, 88.
Shelf, for plants, 8.
Flowering maple, 72.
Lemon verbena, 77.
Sweet olive, 79.
Slips, preparation of, 29.
Soil, ingredients, 141.
Soil, for greenhouses, 173.
Soil, for pots and boxes, 14.
Sphagnum moss, 141.
Sub-watering, 24, 142.
Sweet olive, 79.
Sweet peas, 95.
Temperature, for plants, indoors, II, 45.
Temperature, for greenhouses, 174.
Tuberous begonia, 124.
Vegetable plants, started under glass, 197.
Veranda boxes, 128.
Verbena, Lemon, 77.
Watering, for greenhouse, 175.
Window-box, construction of, 9-10.
Zebra plant, 88.