This is a large genus of hard-wooded evergreen shrubs, often called Cape heaths because they are largely from the Cape of Good Hope. Few greenhouse plants are finer as specimens than a hard-wooded heath. A plant of E. Cavendishianum - covered with its large, waxy, yellow flowers, the plant tied out most neatly - I can remember to this day, although many years since I had the honor to paint the handmade wooden labels for naming some of the plants in the heath house.
Heaths have small leaves and are slow growers. The flowers are sometimes terminal and sometimes axillary. The hard-wooded section is seldom seen except in a private collection. They want most careful watering the year round, good drainage and nothing like a sodden soil, but must never be very dry. They do not like fire heat, and a greenhouse where the night temperature is not over 40 degrees will do very well.
After they have made their growth in the spring they would be best out of doors, but shaded with lattice-work from the strongest sun. A good peat and loam compost suits them best, and they should be potted firmly. But in the absence of peat a good fibrous loam with a third of leaf-mold and some sand will do very well. The hard-wooded, slow-growing heaths are never likely to become of importance with the commercial florist. They are troubled with none of our greenhouse pests.
The soft-wooded, quicker growing section is now largely grown as a market plant for our eastern cities, and large quantities are raised on Long Island, where the fine loam found in many parts of the island suits it finely. It is generally believed that the order Ericacea, which includes the azaleas, rhododendrons and kalmias, is much averse to lime in either the soil or water, and this should be remembered.
They are propagated by cuttings from the tips of the young growths in spring. They do not want bottom heat, but should be put in well drained flats or pans with a layer of light loam and leaf-mold, and on the surface an inch of clean sand. They should be kept rather close, away from draughts or too much ventilation. Give them a good soaking when first put in. If the cuttings are one or one and a half inches long, of the young, tender growth stripped of the bottom leaves, they will root in seven or eight weeks. As they show signs of growth give them more air. Don't pot off till they are well rooted and keep them only just moist till they are rooted.
The young plants will do very well in a coldframe during the fall months and in a cool, dry house during winter. In May they can be planted out i the open ground, where they will mak a good growth, and must be lifted i September or October. When first lift ed and potted be careful not to le them wilt. Careful lifting, to get a their roots and fibers, is the essentia object. They will do finely in a tem perature of 40 degrees, but will do wit more heat as their flowering time ap| proaches.
Two-year-old plants that are unsol should be cut down to within a few inches of the pot after flowering an again planted out. The young plant will need stopping when they first be gin to root, and perhaps again whe planted out. but not after that.
Some of the best ericas for florist are E. caffra (small flower. but ver free), E. gracilis, E. hybrida, E. hyeni alis (a beautiful pink that flowers i: early spring; one of the best). E. mel anthera (flowers in winter), E. perso luta (May), E. ventricosa, E. Wil-moreana (spring; a grand hybrid). All of these are fine commercial kinds.
The propagation of ericas is mostly in the hands of a few specialists and it is well to depend on them for your stock of plants, for from several causes they are difficult plants to manage. If you have any good plants that did not sell shorten back the last year's growth, keep them in a well ventilated house and spray occasionally, but always early in the day so that they will not be wet on the foliage at night. As soon as fear of frost is gone plunge out of doors in the full sunlight, and be very careful about watering. While a severe drying out might kill them or at least destroy all hopes of a future crop of flowers, a wet stagnant condition of the soil is very injurious to them, hence the pots should be well drained.