By Melanie Mathieson
The Gardening Guru
The cyclamenis offered to us as a houseplant 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 have sweet-scented, small flowers (half-inch to three-quarters of an inch) that are produced on long stems, held upright above the foliage. It is a tuberous perennial (in its native habitat), with heart-shaped leaves.
You can find cyclamen in shades of pink, red, or white. The stems typically are bright green or slightly red with 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 plant starts to die or rot after only a few weeks. However, if you follow the tips for care that I have listed below, and water according to the directions stated, you should enjoy your cyclamen—and many cycles of blooms—for many years to come.
I always stress the importance of a good quality potting soil and the cyclamen does best when planted in a soil-based mix, with the top of the tuber just 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’ve seen more cyclamens die due to over-watering than I have from under-watering. It is important to take great care when watering as they are very susceptible to rot when over-watered.
Follow these steps accordingly 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 met at the tuber).
It is best to water the plant from the bottom of the pot by placing it in a shallow bowl of water, 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 needs a rest period as well 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, then bring it back indoors before the cold weather.
Because the natural habitat of the cyclamen is a moist tropical habitat, this plant requires high humidity, especially during the winter, which is crucial to keeping the plant thriving as a houseplant.
To create extra humidity for the plant, mist with a spray bottle frequently. Or fill a tray with an inch of water and place the pot in this tray.
If the holes on 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 cyclamens for sitting directly in the water as the soil will stay too moist, causing the roots to rot.
The cyclamen only needs to be re-potted when the tuber fills the existing pot. When the cyclamen crowds the pot, only re-pot once the plant becomes dormant.
Only fertilize when the plant is in full-leaf. Use a high-quality, water-soluble fertilizer with a high middle number (i.e., P for phosphorus) and then 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.
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.
The cyclamenis a wonderful house plant 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 assist you in getting the most from your plant.