This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
This most beautiful plant was introduced into this country long ago from Mexico; but notwithstanding that cultivators have had time enough to make themselves acquainted with its habits, it is only now and then that one sees a well-grown specimen of it. Mr. Green, however, shewed at the last meeting of the Horticultural Society a magnificent example of what this fine plant really is under proper treatment; and as he has given his experience in regard to its management in a late number of the Journal of the Horticultural Society, we have thought it advisable to extract the substance of it here for the benefit of our readers.
He says: "I sow early in spring. I first fill a 6-inch pot half full of potsherds, over which I place one inch of sphagnum moss; I then fill the pot within one inch of the top with rich light sandy soil. When all is pressed down equal and firm, and a smooth surface made with the bottom of a small pot, I sow the seed, and cover it very slightly with dry white sand. I cover the pots with bell-glasses, and place them on a shelf in a shady part of an early vinery, keeping the surface constantly moist by pouring water on the outside of the glasses. As soon as the plants have come up, air is admitted, and increased as they advance in growth. When sufficiently strong, they are pricked out into small pots, having the same drainage, moss, and mixture as the seed-pots, and are again shaded with hand or bell-glasses until the plants become established. In three weeks or a month they require to be potted off singly into small pots; and I encourage their growth as much as possible by placing them in a shady part of either a vinery or melon-pit, whichever is kept at the highest temperature, with a humid atmosphere.
As soon as they begin to fill their pots with roots, I give them once a week a little clarified manure-water.
I repot into winter pots about the middle of August, using pots to suit the size of the plants, and replace them in the same growing temperature as before, till their pots are filled with roots. After this I begin to prepare them for winter by giving them less moisture, more air, and a cooler temperature; and finally they are placed on a shelf near the glass, in the coolest part of the stove, and wintered rather dry. Early in February I begin to increase the heat and moisture; and as soon as they begin to grow freely, I repot them, which is generally about the second week in March. They receive another shift in April, and those that are intended for large specimens a third in May (using 18 or 20-inch pots), and a mixture consisting of equal quantities of good strong maiden loam, peat or bog mould, burnt clay, leaf-mould, and cow-manure, with a little white sand. These materials are well mixed together, and, if dry, are moistened to prevent their running too close in the pots. In potting I use a large quantity of drainage, and plenty of rubble stones, small potsherds, and coarse river-sand amongst the mixture. I make the mixture just firm, but am very careful to leave it quite porous.
I give very little water till the roots reach the sides of the pots: it is increased as the plants and the season advance, giving heat and moisture in proportion. Too much stress cannot be put upon making a proper mechanical arrangement of rich, porous, and well-drained soils, which are essential for the healthy development of plants of the nature of the Lisianthus.
When the young shoots are sufficiently advanced, I stop them immediately above the second joint; each shoot will then produce four: they require stopping about three times. The last stopping for plants required to bloom early should take place in the first week in June; and for plants required to bloom later, in the first week in July. As they advance in growth the branches will require to be tied out with sticks, to make round and well-formed plants.
When the plants are growing freely, they are sometimes attacked with a disease at the base, which is produced by the moist and confined atmosphere that is required for their fine growth. To prevent this I allow the surface to become quite dry once a week, during which the plants are supplied with moisture from feeders or pans, in which the pots are placed for a few hours, being careful not to allow any stagnant water to remain about them. As soon as the blooms begin to expand, I keep a drier atmosphere, and expose them to more air and light, which much improves their colour.
As to the result of the above practice, I may mention, in conclusion, that I grew some seedling plants in 1844, one of which I exhibited at the Horticultural Society's Garden in July 1845, which was awarded a silver Knightian medal, accompanied with this note by the judges: 'Had this been exhibited in its proper place, it would have received a higher medal.' In July 1S46, a second plant received a large silver medal; and to a third the same award was made in July 1847. Another plant was also shewn in the same year at the Royal Botanic Society's Garden, Regent's Park, and was awarded the first prize as a single specimen of superior cultivation. The plant that I exhibited at the Horticultural Society in July 1847 had five hundred blooms expanded at once, ten days after the exhibition".