Growing Annuals Houseplants from Seed and Cuttings

Growing Annuals Houseplants from Seed and Cuttings

This is a section that, although it contains the names of many popular plants, gives one only temporary plants for the home. Their raising takes quite a lot of time and space and the latter is not always easy to find in a flat, even if the former is possible.

Growing seed in the house is a stimulating experience and it is certainly rewarding for a novice if success follows the first efforts. The basic treatment is similar for all annuals and their main requirements in all cases are warmth, moisture and air. They are best sown in pots and afterwards pricked out in boxes.

The normal seed box holds thirty-six seedlings, far too many for the average house or flat, so several kinds of plants could be pricked out in the same box. Pre-packed compost mixtures are available from all garden stores.

Bottom heat can be provided, if required, by placing seed pan or pots on a tray of moist gravel on a moderately hot radiator. Great Orange gerbera attention must be paid to cleanliness and ’crocking’, seed pans or pots are then filled with compost and lightly firmed down to a level of 1 inch below the top. The soil should be given a good soaking so that no further watering will be necessary before the seed has germinated.

Small seeds can be scattered thinly and require no covering; large hard skinned seeds should be soaked in tepid water for twenty four hours before sowing and tough skinned seeds notched with a nail file. Large seeds should be sown at a depth of at least twice their diameter.

Once seedlings have become fairly sizeable they can be potted up and, if possible, the plants put outside in a shaded position after potting, although they should be brought indoors if frost is likely. It is not possible to give too much light in winter and the usual precautions against overwatering must be taken. Plants that flower in the winter or spring like to be in well-lit positions; summer and autumn flowering plants can take a little more shade.

Calendula (Marigold) are hardy plants that grow in all soils, in sunny or shady positions. C. officinalis is the species that is usually cultivated and there are numerous varieties.

Cobea scamlens is an attractive climber, with pale green bell-like flowers turning to purple on reaching maturity. It can reach from l0 to 30 feet.

Exacum affine is one of the most delightful of the small annuals, on account of its delicious scent, but it needs some heat to ensure germination of the seeds. These are very small and should be sown in spring at a temperature of 15°C. With a moderately shady position, they start flowering in late summer and continue bearing their lilac-coloured, salver-shaped flowers for about eight weeks.

Ipomea, the glorious blue Morning Glory, can be raised from seed, six in a 5 inch pot, later thinned to three plants. They should be given some support on which to climb.

Mimulus were once grown widely on cottage windowsills because of the lovely scent but are seldom seen nowadays, no doubt because the perfume has mysteriously disappeared.

However, there are quite a number of species still available which are well worth growing as pot plants. The flowers are trumpet-shaped and are distinguished by their beautiful markings. Mimulus moschatus has yellow flowers, M. luteus, yellow spotted with brown and M. luteus tigrinus, tiger-like markings and spots of crimson and maroon on a yellow ground. All of these are ideal for light positions and are easily grown, only requiring a fair amount of water.

Nasturtium plants will sprout in a pot in a dim corner and then become a blaze of colour on a sunny windowsill, but either the compact ’Tom Thumb’ type should be sown, or a firm pinching hand kept on climbers. Pinching out tops of climbers will encourage bushiness too.

Primula malacoides was originally a small wild plant from China, but it has been constantly improved and now has quite large flowers in colours ranging from carmine to dark purple and has become a very popular spring-flowering pot plant. During the autumn and winter they must be kept frost free, but only need a gentle heat of about 7°C to 10°C.

P. obconica is also grown as an annual and will, with the minimum of attention, flower for almost the whole year. The flowers form an umbel of up to fifteen large flowers and the colour range takes in shades of red, pink, purple and white. Its large rounded leaves have a rather velvety texture. Contact with some of the hairs, produced chiefly on the stems, sometimes causes an irritating skin rash and susceptible people should wear gloves.

Thunbergia alata (Black-eyed Susan) is a free-flowering climber. It has cream, yellow or orange flowers, with a rich purple throat.

Other annuals which can be raised from seed and potted on are dwarf Antirrhinums, Petunias, Nemesias, Lobelias, and Verbenas. Also Phlox drummondii and Salpiglossis. Plants such as the Winter Cherry are perennials that can be treated as annuals. Cinerarias may be induced to live for more than one season, but it is not really worth the trouble as it is usually possible to take cuttings.

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