This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Plants with variegated foliage are now in much esteem for decorative purposes, and well 'they deserve to be so, for many of them are exceedingly useful, being striking and interesting objects irrespective of their flowers; and hence their beauty is of a more enduring character than that of plants which have no particular beauty except while in bloom. Unfortunately, however, the flowers of most of our finest variegated plants are very uninteresting; but this is of little importance, as the beauty of their foliage will always render them attractive and useful for decorative purposes. Several varieties of Maranta deserve to be ranked among the finest of our variegated plants, being free growers, with large finely marked foliage, which is not so tender and liable to become disfigured by any little mismanagement as is the case with many of our variegated plants. Persons about to commence the culture of this genus, who can only accommodate a few varieties, should procure the red and white veined kinds, which are very beautiful; but vittata is my own favorite, and is probably the most useful variety of the genu* These are somewhat expensive at present, but there is no risk of losing them, hence there is no danger of having to purchase a second plant, as frequently happens with amateurs in the case of hard wooded plants.
Young plants cannot be procured at a better season of the year than the present, for there will be no danger of injury on the journey while the weather is mild. When received, the plants should be placed in a close but not over warm house or pit, and kept rather dry for a few days until they get over any little injuries they may have received in travelling. Then examine the state of the roots, and give a moderate shift if necessary, using nice fibry peat with a small proportion of loam carefully broken up, and well intermixed with plenty of sharp sand and some lumpy bits of charcoal, to ensure the free percolation of water through the mass. Likewise have the pots well drained, for the Maranta requires a free supply of water while in active growth; but stagnant moisture about the roots is very injurious, spoiling the markings of the foliage as well as the general health of the plant After potting, place the plants in a close warm pit or house, where they will not be exposed to bright sunshine, and water carefully at the root until they get hold of the fresh soil; but dew them overhead with the syringe every fine afternoon.
If a brisk bottom-heat can be commanded, this will greatly assist in promoting active growth; but fine strong specimens will soon be obtained without it When dull cloudy weather occurs it will probably be necessary to place the plants in a light rather airy part of the house, in order to prevent the foliage being injured by damp; but unless damp appears inclined to be troublesome, they may be allowed to remain in the warmest corner, and be kept growing on slowly. Syringing will of course be unnecessary in winter, except an occasional wipe on a fine morning, to clear the foliage of dust, &c; and too much water must not be given to the soil. Attend to repotting in spring as early as may be necessary, giving moderate shifts, which are safer) than large ones. If scale or insects of any kind attack the foliage, these must be carefully removed by means of a sponge and water, and this should be attended to before the foliage gets disfigured. By continuing this treatment for a season or two, fne large specimens will be obtained, and when this is the case they may be removed from the stove and placed in the conservatory, where, if they are afforded a close corner, and not over-watered or allowed to suffer from damp, they will be quite at home all the summer season.
But they must be removed to where a temperature of not less than 55° is maintained as 30on as cold damp weather sets in in autnmr. Large specimens will of course require to be repotted occasionally, and this should be done as early in spring as there may be an opportunity of affording them a brisk temperature to stir the roots. With proper management, specimens will last for any number of years; and propagation is easily effected by dividing the old plants, or by means of offsets, which should be taken off with as many roots as possible, and kept close for a few weeks after potting, when they will be.