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 value of the Gesnera as a decorative plant can scarcely be overestimated. Most of them have rich velvety foliage. If grown for their foliage alone, they are very attractive, but during autumn and early winter they produce splendid spikes of blossoms, which are very handsome. They do well in a compost of peat and fibry loam, with a little cow-dung sifted through a ½-inch sieve, with a sprinkling of silver-sand.
In starting them in spring, place one of the largest bulbs in the centre of a 3-inch pot, which has been previously well drained. Cover the bulb about its own thickness with the compost, and place them in a close pit. If a little bottom-heat can be given them until they make signs of starting, so much the better. Although they can be grown without this, still, if it can be had, it starts them quicker and stronger. When the pots are full of roots, let the best be shifted on into 6-inch pots. Single plants are fine for the dinner-table. When potted, let them be placed in a stove where they can have plenty of atmospheric moisture, but not too much water overhead, as the sun, if not kept shaded, soon browns the foliage very much. (We have seen fine pans of the smaller bulbs planted like Achimenes.) Here let them grow, and when the pots are full of roots, a little manure-water, every other watering, will be found beneficial to them. We find some of the newer sorts are very early-flowering, having had them in bloom for the last month, and will have them now up to Christmas, if not later.