Tropical, evergreen, flowering shrubs, which ate rarely cultivated in North America except in botanical collections. They are found wild in India, China and certain Pacific Islands and belong to the family Melastomaceae. The name Melastoma is derived from meins, black, and stoma, mouth, and refers to the black stain which is left in the mouth when the berries are eaten.
These shrubs grow 6 ft, in height, have opposite, ovate or lance-shaped leaves with thick veins; the veins in the leafstalks of some kinds are red. The rose or purple flowers are generally produced singly, on the ends of the branches, and they are succeeded by fleshy berries.
For a Warm Greenhouse. These shrubs require a minimum winter temperature of 55 degrees, and a soil compost of equal parts of peat and loam with sand and crushed charcoal freely added. The annual repotting is done in February. The shoots are shortened by two thirds, and syringed until the buds break into growth. The plants are then taken out of the pots, the crocks and all loose soil are removed with a pointed stick, and the plants are potted in slightly larger pots into the bottoms of which new crocks have been put. After potting, the plants are syringed twice daily to assist them to root into the new soil and to encourage new shoot growth.
Summer and Winter Management. During the summer the soil must be kept moist and the foliage shaded from sunlight. The atmosphere of the greenhouse should lie kept moist by frequently damping the floor and benches. When syringing, special attention must be paid to the lower surfaces of the leaves, as they are subject to the attacks of red spider mites. Well-rooted plants are given a biweekly application of dilute liquid fertilizer until the flowers show color.
During the winter months the soil should be moistened only when it becomes quite dry. and much less damping is required.
When to Take Cuttings. Young plants are raised from cuttings in March. Firm shoots, 2-3 in, in length, are removed, the lower leaves are cut off and a cut is made close beneath the lowest node (joint). They are then inserted in sand and peat in a propagating case with a bot tom heat of 70-75 degrees. The frame is kept close, except for a daily airing for a few minutes each morning to allow excessive moisture to escape. Shade must be provided from bright sunlight.
When roots have formed, more and more air is admitted to the propagating case each day, and finally the cuttings are potted separately in 2 1/2-in. pots and returned to the propagating case until the roots have entered the new compost, after which they are set on the greenhouse benches and repotted as becomes necessary. They, will form bushy plants if the tips of the main shoots and subsequent side shoots are pinched out.
The chief kinds are M. malabathricum, 4 ft., purple, and M. villosum, 3-4 ft., rose-pink.