This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", 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 old but most useful flowering plant, with its long drooping spikes of scarlet flowers, which it produces in the dark days of winter, is worthy of more attention, and should be grown on a larger scale than it is in many places. Where such plants are appreciated for table decoration, the Thyrsacanthus, when well grown, is an admirable plant for the purpose, or for the ornamentation of a warm conservatory, or any plant-house where there is a little warmth in winter.
We too frequently find in many places a straggling half-starved speci-nten-amongst a collection of mixed stove-plants subjected to a too high temperature, in which, with its two or three small leaves on its top, it struggles hard to exist. Under such conditions it becomes a prey to insects, and the cultivator takes a dislike to it and discontinues growing it. When well grown it is a charming plant, and a striking object in whatever position it is placed.
To grow the plant well, cuttings should be inserted in small pots during April and May - the latter month is not too late. They root very soon in a moderate heat in the propagating frame. They should be shaded from strong sun until rooted. When the cuttings are rooted they should be transferred into 4-inch pots, using a compost of loam and sand, and a seventh of well-decomposed manure, and should be in a temperature of 55° by night; and when well established they should be gradually hardened off and placed in a cool frame or house; and when the pots are full of roots they should be transferred into 6-inch pots. This size is large enough either for table decoration or for the plant-houses. Care must be taken that the plants do not become pot-bound before receiving their final shift, for they are very apt to show flower too early.
After the 6-inch pots are full of roots they should be liberally supplied with manure-water, and occasional applications of soot-water have a very stimulating effect upon the plants. Those required for table decoration should be stopped two or three times during the season, to make them dwarf bushy plants: the remaining portion of the stock are best not stopped. When the nights begin to be cold in September the plants should be removed where a temperature of 50° to 55° can be maintained. Under this cool system of treatment they will not be infested with insects, and they will be furnished with healthy leaves to the bottom; and during the winter they will be very ornamental, and well repay for the little trouble bestowed on them.