This is one of the handsomest greenhouse climbers. The pendent flowers are so rich looking that when a long spray of the plant is cut with its flowers attached nothing can surpass it in beauty. Such sprays were seen at the Boston convention in 1890, being part of the decoration of the exhibit that received the first premium for wedding arrangement. The flowers are three or four inches long, resembling a miniature inverted wine glass, and of great substance. They appear at the axils of the leaves. The leaf is rather small, dark green, and the stems long and wiry.
They want a cool, shaded house in summer and will thrive in a very cool house in winter. A magnificent plant of the variety alba covers the roof (or did) in the glazed corridor at the entrance to Veitch 's nursery, Chelsea, England, and I was informed it had many times had to endure several degrees of frost. It was then (August) covered with its magnificent flowers. Unfortunately, cut close to the stem, the single flower would be of little use to us, and you would have to possess a fine plant to afford the cutting of flowering sprays.
It is often grown in large pots and trained on a wire trellis. It is, however, much better planted out in the border of a house with a limit to the amount of room the roots can spread. I have tried it here and find it does not like our hot summers, so it should be in a position where you can shade during summer and give plenty of air. A thoroughly good drainage to the border or tub in which it is planted is of first importance. A good compost would be coarse fibrous loam with a tenth of decayed cow manure, and to that add another tenth of old broken up mortar or crushed charcoal.
They are propagated by layering the ends of strong shoots or from seed. Young plants were once very expensive. They are now obtainable at a moderate cost. When raised from seed they vary both in size and color, so fine varieties are increased by layers.
Slugs will eat the tops of the young asparagus-like shoots, but cotton-batting will stop them. Tobacco smoke will keep down fly and thrips, and syringing, which the plant delights in throughout the spring and summer, will prevent red spider and mealy bug.
There is only one species (Lapageria rosea), but there is a pure white form and from seedlings have been produced intermediate colors. It is not a florist's plant, but yet one that any gardener should be proud to grow well for its aristocratic beauty.