This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
The African Lily, or, as its generic name implies, Love Flower, sent to this country from the Cape of Good Hope about 1690, is one of these fine old-fashioned plants so much prized by gardeners of the last century that it formed one of the principal features in the midsummer or early autumn decoration of their greenhouses and conservatories.
Like many another really valuable species, however, it seems to have fallen into the shade - novelties, many of them of questionable superiority, having taken its place; and it may now be fairly numbered among "neglected plants." This, we are convinced, is not as it should be, seeing that it is one of the easiest managed and most beautiful of flowering plants, combining handsome foliage with flowers at once elegant and distinct in colour from anything else in its way; so much so, that a well-grown specimen, with its bold flower-stems surmounted with umbels of bright blue florets and grand flag like bright green leaves, is an object worth a considerable amount of trouble to obtain, and worth a long journey to see. Apart from its undoubted value as a conservatory plant, there are a number of purposes to which it may be usefully applied in outdoor gardening. Planted on the margins of artificial lakes or ponds, on terraces and lawns, or in arrangements of subtropical plants, it has a most striking effect, whether in or out of flower.
It is, moreover, in these days when there is such a demand for plant decoration in dwelling-houses, important to add, that no subject is more patient under the severe ordeal of a few days in a hall or staircase; and nothing in such a position looks better.
Though as nearly as possible hardy, and able to stand a few degrees of frost without injury, it requires protection in winter. A late vinery, the back of a greenhouse stage, or any out-of-the-way corner, with just enough of heat to keep out the frost, and where it will be kept moderately dry without being parched, and at the same time sufficiently cool to prevent its being excited into growth, will form admirable winter quarters; while in summer it should be plunged in a sunny exposure out of doors, and if wanted for the conservatory, taken inside when the flower-shoots appear. During the growing season it must have a regular and abundant supply of water, not only at the roots, but, if the weather is dry and hot, over the leaves. In a rich soil, with plenty of moisture, it grows with great luxuriance, and will soon fill the largest pot or tub with its thick fleshy roots. It flowers, however, most profusely when it is somewhat pot-bound, and should only be shifted when it is desired to increase the size of the specimen, or when the pot is so full of roots that it is impossible to give it the necessary supply of water. A good compost may be made up of equal parts of strong turfy loam and fibry peat or leaf-mould, with as much sharp sand as will make it moderately porous.
An occasional dose of liquid manure may with advantage be given, during the growing season, in cases where the pot is full of roots and the soil to some extent exhausted: in no other circumstances will this be necessary, as undue luxuriance is prejudicial to the abundant production of bloom. It is readily propagated by suckers or offsets, which, taken off at any season, soon take root and grow freely. Among a number of varieties, Albus and Variegatus, the one with white flowers and the other with variegated leaves, are the finest, and form interesting companions to the species. Omega.