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.
More than 150 years have passed away since this grand flowering-plant made its appearance in the greenhouses of Great Britain; and notwithstanding the large number of other kinds of beautiful flowering-plants that have been introduced during the intervening years between then and now, it is still deserving of a prominent place amongst the later arrivals.
Of late years a few varieties of this plant, differing somewhat from the original type in the colour of their flowers, have been brought under the notice of the gardening public; but in the writer's opinion none of them have flowers of a superior colour to those produced by the old plant. For the decoration of the greenhouse or conservatory during the months of June, July, and August, it has few equals; and during the same time it is one of the most "telling" flowering-plants that can be introduced into floral decorations in rooms of the dwelling-house. For the latter purpose, during the months mentioned, it is indeed invaluable, as it can be flowered successfully in pots of all sizes, from 5 to 20 inches in diameter.
When used for the purpose here referred to, and surrounded with a fringe of Maiden-hair Ferns, or other plants with graceful foliage, the effect is highly pleasing, and seldom fails to attract the notice and call forth the praise of all who see the arrangement. The merits of the Kalosanthes, however, are not confined to the pleasing effect produced by its flowers on the ocular nerves of the beholder; as, in addition to their bright colour, the flowers have the property of exhaling a delicate perfume, and this quality enhances the value of any plant when employed as an ornament in the dwelling-house. Then, when in good health, it makes one of the grandest exhibition plants that can be taken out to a flower-show. A healthy well-bloomed plant of Kalosanthes coccinea will produce as striking an effect on the exhibition-table, and rank almost as high in the eye of a good plant judge, as an Ixora of equal dimensions, and having the same number of flowers thereon.
Well, now, notwithstanding that the plant is possessed of all these good qualities, we have to admit that it is seldom seen in private places in a condition creditable to the cultivator. Why it is that so useful and beautiful a plant is not better cared for by private gardeners is not easily understood. The reason for the neglect of this plant cannot arise from any difficulty experienced in its culture, as it is as easily managed in all stages of its growth as a Scarlet Geranium or Cineraria.
For the benefit of any reader who may not have had any experience in the culture of Kalosanthes coccinea, and who may wish to grow it successfully, I will now give a few directions that may be of use to him.
This is effected by cuttings. And although cuttings will emit roots at any time of the year, the months of August and September are the best time to insert them. Let the cuttings be from 3 to 4 inches long, taken from the tops of shoots that have not produced flowers. Insert three cuttings in a 3-inch pot that has previously been properly drained, and filled with a compost of leaf-mould and coarse sand in equal parts. When the desired number are put in, give them a good watering by means of a fine-rosed watering-pot, and place the pots containing them in a close frame or in the propagating-pit. While the rooting process is going on, they will require very little water, and they should not have any shading except in the case of very bright sunshine.
As soon as the rooting process is complete, the cultivator must decide the particular purpose that he intends the plants for. Those of them wanted for general decorative purposes should be transferred from the cutting pots into pots of larger size, without breaking the balls of soil about the roots of the young plants - thus there will be three plants in each pot; and if duly attended to, and not interfered with in the way of nipping or cutting out their points, they will keep on growing all through the winter, and each, as a rule, will produce a head of flowers the following July or August.
If the cultivator is desirous of producing specimens, he must repot the plants as often as the pots become filled with their roots, remembering not to give large shifts at any time. It is also necessary, when large plants are the object, to stop or nip out the points of the shoots as often as the latter have made 3 or 4 inches of growth. This stopping of the shoots must be continued up to the middle of August of the year previous to that in which the plants are wanted to flower. Good fibry loam, to which has been added some coarse river-sand and a little pounded charcoal, will be found a good compost for the roots. In all stages of growth this plant should be kept as near to the glass as possible, and at no season should a superabundance of water be applied to its roots. Perfect drainage at the roots, and a judicious application of water thereto, are the principal points to be attended to in the culture of Kalosanthes coccinea. J. Hammond.