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.
This geuus of plants has been sadly neglected although of the easiest culture, and beautifully ornamental. I feel perfectly satisfied they will make fine subjects for the dinner-table - if not for exhibitions.
Has bold, oblong - lanceolate foliage; the flower-spike 18 inches or more in height. The bracts are more like deep pouches, and are arranged around the spike in five rows. The bracts are green, the upper ones deeply tipped or margined with violet purple, and from each of those pouches a deep yellow flower is thrown up at intervals.
Many may prefer this to cordata. It also has bold, lanceolate leaves, perhaps not quite so broad as in the case of cordata. In other respects it is similar, excepting the colour of the bracts or pouches, which are of a bronzy yellow, and the flower lighter yellow. It is a very interesting plant.
This is a lovely species. If not new, I believe it has been lost, and recently reintroduced. It also has bold arching leaves, with fine spikes of flowers. The lower bracts or pouches are greenish white, tipped with rosy pink; the upper ones are deeply tipped and margined with rosy magenta - a very beautiful plant.
The next I shall name - not particularly for its flowers, but for the decorative effect of its leaves - is Curcuma rubricaulis. This I have always grown as a foliage plant. The leaves are from 5 to 7 feet, or more, in height, according to strength; the whole stem is of a deep red crimson colour, running through the midrib of the leaves, which are long, moderate in breadth, and lanceolate, forming a very elegant plant. If confined in 6 and 8 inch pots, they are very useful for table decoration, and also by putting many tubes together, as you would a Caladium. This would make a fine plant in a collection of foliage plants.
The soil which suits these plants best is a rich fibrous loam, and peat or vegetable mould and rough sand, similar to what one would recommend for a Caladium.
Propagation is effected by dividing the tubers in spring. They like liberal culture, plenty of good soil and water, and moderate heat. If required late in autumn, give an additional shift; - perhaps the same plant will flower twice or thrice, or oftener, in one season. When they show signs of going to rest, dry them off gradually, and lay them under the stage on their sides on inverted flower-pots, to keep them from damp, but not too near the pipes. A good time for starting them is about March, when they should be shaken out of the old soil, and potted in rather small pots. T. B.