Did you receive a Cyclamen as a holiday gift?
The Cyclamen is a small but diverse genus of plants. Many species are hardy, and grow in the wild in the tropical areas of the Mediterranean and North Africa.
When grown in its natural habitat, Cyclamen persicum bloom in late winter or early spring. In our area, the Cyclamen is offered to us to grow as a houseplant and often are found in the fall and winter at our local florists.
Because of this, greenhouse-grown Cyclamen usually are forced to bloom sometime around the Christmas holiday season and into the late winter.
Cyclamen persicum, aptly referred to as the florist’s Cyclamen, has sweet-scented, small flowers (one-half to three-quarters of an inch) that are produced on long stems—held upright above the foliage.
It is a tuberous perennial with heart-shaped leaves that are common to the Cyclamen species.
You can find florist Cyclamen in shades of pink, red, or white—and often the stems are bright green or slightly red. This type of Cyclamen has attractive foliage which often has silver marbling on the top sides of the leaves.
The entire plant, when in flower, reaches only about eight inches high.
Caring for a Cyclamen in your home is quite easy, but many indoor gardeners often find their Cyclamen starts to die or rot after only a few weeks.
If you follow the tips for care I have listed below, and water according to the directions stated, you should enjoy your Cyclamen for many years to come and enjoy many cycles of blooms.
I always stress the importance of a good-quality potting soil. Cyclamen do best planted in a soil-based potting mix, with the top of the tuber just slightly above the soil line (it is important for the tuber to be placed slightly above the soil line so it does not rot in the soil).
Sometimes when we buy a plant from a florist or discount store, the soil the plant is in is not the best quality, so you may have to re-pot it into a better quality soil right away.
If this is the case, or the tuber is buried too deep in the soil, re-pot it immediately—being careful not to disturb the delicate roots and tuber—in order to ensure the continued health of the plant.
I have seen more Cyclamens die due to over-watering than I have from under-watering. It is important to take great care when watering Cyclamen as they are very susceptible to rot when over-watered.
Follow these steps to ensure the best plant survival and growth:
When leaves are present on the plant, water only when the soil is dry to the touch. Most importantly, avoid getting water on the crown of the plant (where the stems meet at the tuber).
It is best to water the plant from the bottom of the pot by placing the pot in a shallow bowl of water and then removing it completely from the bowl once the surface of the soil is moist to the touch (this avoids water contacting the crown when watering from above).
As the flowers begin to fade, gradually allow the plant to dry out for two-three months. Because this plant is a cyclic perennial in the wild, it also needs a rest period when it is being grown as a houseplant.
When new the growth appears, resume watering and feeding.
You can place the plant in a partially-shaded spot outdoors for the summer. Bring it back indoors before the cold weather.
Because the natural habitat of the Cyclamen is a moist tropical one, this plant requires high humidity, especially during the winter, in order to keep it thriving as a houseplant.
To create extra humidity for the plant, mist with a spray bottle frequently. As well, fill a tray with an inch of water and place the pot in this tray. If the holes of the bottom of the pot are exposed, elevate the pot by placing some pebbles or an inverted saucer in the tray and place the pot on top of this.
It is imperative to keep the Cyclamen for sitting directly in the water as the soil will stay too moist, causing the roots to rot.
Only fertilize when the plant is in full leaf. Use a high-quality, water-soluble fertilizer with a high middle number (phosphorus–P), and add the fertilizer to the water for the cyclamen every couple of weeks to ensure a prolonged flowering period.
During the summer months, the light should be bright, but indirect for the Cyclamen. Make sure to move the Cyclamen closer to the light source in the winter, but be careful to avoid cold drafts from windows and doors, as well as hot drafts from fireplaces or heat registers.
Cyclamen do not like intense heat and they are not frost hardy.
A Cyclamen purchased from a florist or nursery can be grown outside in the summer months in our region, but you must be extra sure not to expose it to hot direct sun, frost, or temperatures below 50 degrees F (10 degrees C).
The Cyclamen only needs to be re-potted when the tuber fills the existing one. When the Cyclamen crowds the pot, only re-pot once it becomes dormant.
There are many wonderful Cyclamen hybrids available, and since they stay in bloom for a long period (you can choose your plant while the blossoms are open and know exactly what you are getting).
When you are shopping, look on the tag for the plant name. Some notable varieties to look for are:
•Sierra Series: Larger flowers (two-three inches) in white, pink, salmon, scarlet, lilac, and purple;
•“Scentsation”: open pollinated with a strong fragrance (pinks and reds); and
•“Victoria”: open pollinated, ruffled white flowers with red mouths and margins.
The Cyclamen is a wonderful houseplant that will reward you with attractive leaves and stems, as well as a delicate show of flowers.
I hope this summary of care tips will encourage you to add a Cyclamen to your indoor garden—and help you in getting the most from it.
Did you receive a Cyclamen as a holiday gift?