Newer strains produce blossoms as large as 2 inches across, literally smothering the foliage in brilliant color; others have more subtly tinted flowers resembling orchid blossoms; they are desirable as cut flowers as well as pot plants. Foliage is lacy or fernlike; plants grow 2 feet high except the dwarf varieties.
Sow seeds in August for March or April bloom, in January for late-spring flowers. Sow on and cover seeds 1 inch with milled sphagnum. Seeds germinate quickly; if you enclose in plastic, inspect daily for germination and remove plastic to prevent leggy seedlings. Seedlings grow rapidly and are ready to transplant in a very short time. Grow as bench or pot plants or in deep flats, depending upon whether you want long or short stems.
Space bench plants about 8 inches apart these will grow to long stems. If planted in seed flats, space 3 inches apart and allow to grow to a single stem; these will be shorter-stemmed than those in benches. If you prefer pot plants, shift seedlings to 2 1/2-inch pots, then to larger pots as necessary. Plants should not be allowed to become potbound until they have been transplanted into their final pots. Pinch several times to secure full bushy plants.
Soil mix should be 1 part each garden loam and leafmold with some well-rotted manure added. For early flowering, give approximately 4 hours of additional light daily starting at sundown. Remember, however, that other plants in the greenhouse may be adversely affected by additional light.
Dr. Badger's Hybrids, the best-known strain of mixed colors; Monarch Hybrids, a strain of dwarf plants with large flowers in many colors.