Hibberd had no certain idea of the origin of the Cineraria, but considered that they may have been a result of a crossing between C. cruenta and C. populifolia. Whatever its original, by the late Victorian period it was a highly popular plant, despite the difficulties in growing it.
The Cineraria was a tender plant, and a troublesome one, and one yet more that often disappointed the experts, thus Hibberd warned that amateurs should not have high expectations. It would not tolerate heat for any length of time, nor would it tolerate frost, damp, cold wind and dry air. It simply did not like extremes, and it tended to become infested with red spider-mite, greenfly, thrips, mildew and numerous other plagues. Hibberd remarked that if one actually saw them in a garden, then it demonstrated the skill of the gardener.
Cinerarias were best grown in cold frames, or in pits heated only to a sufficient point to keep frost at bay. They were never to be planted in wooden boxes, or in large massed displays (save when displayed in the conservatory), all the growing should be done in pits or frames on a groundwork of clean coal-ashes or gravel, and at all times the plants were to have an abundance of air and light, but needed to be protected from frost and excessive sunshine. The soil should be rich and light, consisting of turfy loam, leaf-mould, very rotten hotbed manure, and sharp sand, the turfy loam always predominating. The compost should be prepared long before it was needed, and turned and mixed several times to keep it free from vermin and to render it perfectly sweet and mellow. It should be broken down into a fine texture, but should not be sifted (Hibberd believed that in general sifted soil was worthless).
Cineraria could be propagated by seeds and offsets, although seeds generally worked better. Seeds should be sown as soon as ripe, or as soon as possible thereafter. (If kept for longer than a year it became worthless.) Seeds could be sown in shallow pans filled with light, sandy soil, and should be very lightly covered.
When offsets were wanted, the flower stems should be cut down and the plants placed out of doors and taken care of. When offsets appear they should be carefully removed and should be nursed as seedling plants. They could be planted into light rich soil in an airy pit.
Hibbers remarked that the magnificent flowers seen at spring festivals were invariably the product of offsets. Offsets produced a better plant, being more compact with larger heads of flowers – the gardener also had the advantage of knowing precisely the flower he could expect from an offset, whereas with seeds it was a lottery. Offsets could also be planted three to a pot to present the appearance of one plant – a virtual impossibility with seedlings, as the gardener would invariably get different flowers on each plant.
Information and image taken from F. Edward Hulme and Shirley Hibberd, Familiar Garden Flowers (Cassell, Peter, Galpin and Co.: London: c. 1890), 5 vols.