Growing Cyclamen: All the Tips, Tricks, and Information
What Is A Cyclamen Plant?
Cyclamen is a genus of 23 species of perennial flowing plants. It belongs to the family Primulaceae. This plant is native to Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. Cyclamen are grown from tubers. The leaves, flowers, and roots all grow to form the tubers. Cyclamen produce spectacular flowers with petals that appear to be reaching for the sun. The leaves are considered by many to be exceptionally beautiful and patterned. Cyclamen also goes by the name of sowbread and swinebread. It gets this name because pigs like to eat it.
I’ve put together here the ultimate guide for planting, growing and caring for cyclamen. I hope this motivates you to try cultivating this wonderful plant.
About The Tubers
The main component of all cyclamens are the tubers. It is the storage unit of the whole plant. Sometimes these tubers are mistakenly called corm. But a true corm, as is found in crocuses has a papery tunic. It also has a basal plate. The roots grow from the basal plate. But the storage organ of the cyclamen does not have a paper-like covering. Also, depending on the species of cyclamen, roots are able to grow out of any part of the tuber.
The shape of a cyclamen tuber is close to spherical. On top of the tuber is where the flowers and leaves emerge. The stems that turn to a woody texture are known as floral trunks.
The size of the tuber varies depending on the species. Older tubers are larger and can reach approximately 9 inches in diameter.
About The Leaves
On top of the cyclamen tubers is where the leaves grow. There will be one leaf per stem on each cyclamen. You can tell the difference between a leaf growth and a flower growths by the curl on the tip. Leaf stems curl upwards while tips and flowers curl downwards.
Leaf shapes can vary depending on the species. Some species of cyclamen have ivy shaped leaves while others have angles and lobes. Some such as the cyclamen coum have round leaves. The leaf edges also can vary from being smooth to finely toothed.
Colors of leaves vary between the species. Some colors will be shades of green, purples, reds while others are shades of silver. The lower sides of the leaves are shiny.
In places that have hot summers and cold winters where cyclamen grew wild, such as in the Mediterranean, the leaves will sprout in in the autumn and remain through the winter. Then they will wither by the next Spring. However in colder mountain environments, the leaves will remain through the Summer and wither after the next year’s leaves sprout.
About The Flowers
The flowering time of cyclamen depends on the species. Some types like cyclamen hederifolium and cyclamen purpurascens bloom in the Summer and Fall months. While other types like cyclamen persicum and coum bloom in the winter. One type called cyclamen repandum blooms in the Spring.
Every single flower will grow from its own stem. In all of the species, the stem is bent ranging from 150 to 180 degrees at the tip. The nose of the flower will face downward. There is one exception to this rule though. Cyclamen hederifolium also known as Stargazer has a nose that faces upward. Flowers on all cyclamen have 5 petals that are bent upwards. Sometimes they are twisted and also connected at the base. Five sepals will be behind the cup.
The shape of the petals varies among the species. Cyclamen repandum have petals that are longer instead of being wide. Cyclamen coum has round and almost stubby looking petals while Cyclamen hederifolium has petals somewhere in between these two types.
The petal color may be white, purple or pink. Some species have both pink and white colors while cyclamen balearicum is always white.
About The Fruit
When the fruit is about to form, you will notice that the flower stem will coil or bend. The fruit pod is round and it opens by several flaps or teeth when it is mature. Present will be sticky seeds that will be brown when mature. The seeds are dispersed by ants. The ants are attracted to the sticky covering but they discard the seeds. What a pretty neat way that the seeds are spread so that wild and endangered cyclamen still have a chance survive!
People in general use cyclamen for their flower gardens. The colorful plants will add a beauty to almost any type of garden. The plants grow well and is used both outdoors and indoors in containers. Cyclamens can also make attractive borders.
The hardiness of the cyclamen varies from species. They range from frost hardy to frost tender. The frost hardy species are the cyclamen purpurascens, cyclamen hederifolium, cyclamen coum and cyclamen cilicium. These species can handle cold down to -4 degrees Fahrenheit. Cyclamen repandum can survive temperatures down to 7 degrees Fahrenheit. But this type can not survive for a long time at this temperature. Cyclamen graecum can tolerate frost down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. The most delicate types – cyclamen africanum, cyclamen persicum, and cyclamen rohlfsianum can only tolerate brief frosts.
How To Care for Cyclamen
The most basic care for a cyclamen is making sure you have the right temperature range. In the wild, cyclamen will grow in cool environments. If you are growing cyclamen indoors, then make sure that your house temperature is not over 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the nights. If your house temperature exceeds these temperatures too often, your cyclamen will start to die. Some signs of death will be yellowing leaves and fading flowers. Basically, your cyclamen will look like it’s withering away.
The second most important care factor is to make sure that your cyclamen is properly watered. Cyclamen are sensitive to both over watering and under watering. Make sure that the cyclamen has good drainage or the water will sit by the roots and could start to cause rot. The potting soil used should hold water well. Only water your cyclamen plant when the soil feels dry. Don’t leave the plant in dry soil for too long of a time, but it is good to let the soil dry out. If your cyclamen starts to have what I call sad (droopy) leaves then it most likely needs to be watered.
Cyclamens are a bit fussy about water. When you water your cyclamen, make sure to not water the leaves. Cyclamens are like violets in the sense that they don’t like to have wet leaves. If you accidentally water the leaves once or twice you may be ok, but any more than that, and you may be causing them to rot. Make sure to soak the soil thoroughly and then let excess water drain out from below the pot.
The third most important care factor for cyclamens is to use fertilizer. It is beneficial to fertilize once every month. Make sure to use a water soluble fertilizer mixed at half strength.
The fourth care factor is to make sure that your cyclamen has the proper lighting. Cyclamens like a bright but indirect light in the winter. While your cyclamen is dormant in the summer make sure to keep it out of bright light.
As a rule, cyclamens should be repotted every two years. When repotting a cyclamen it’s best to wait to repot during its dormant period. Cyclamens are unique in that they go dormant in the Summer months and then start growing again in the Fall and bloom in the winter. This means that it’s best to repot your cyclamen in the Summer.
Try to pick a container that is at least an inch bigger than your old container. Fill your new container part of the way full with potting soil and fertilizer. Set the tuber in the new pot so that its top is about an inch below the top of the pot. Then cover it halfway with potting soil.
For the rest of the summer, set your cyclamen somewhere shady and dry. When Fall arrives, start watering it again. This process will encourage the new growth to begin.
Growing Cyclamen From Seeds
Though most people buy cyclamen plants or start them from tubers, with a little extra effort, you can also grow them from seeds. With fresh seeds and a cool growing area, you will be on your way to growing cyclamen for a small fraction of what you would spend on tubers or full plants.
Expect to pay 10 to 30 cents per seed. This is small compared to $4 to $6 per plant if bought ready to go right to your garden. Place potting soil in a flat. Sow about 25 to 30 seeds per flat. Space them out a little and then cover with 3/8 inch of soil. Then give them all a light watering to set them in. Place a clear plastic covering over the seeds to keep the humidity high. Then place the flat in a cool area in the dark. Cyclamens need a couple of weeks to germinate, so make sure to be patient.
When the flats start producing bumps in the soil, that means that the seeds have germinated. Now is the time to remove the plastic dome and place the flat in ultraviolet lighting. Your seedlings will soon emerge. Within a year you should have big enough plants to plant outside or in their own containers.
Troubleshooting Cyclamen Problems
- If your cyclamen won’t flower – Your cyclamen will need to have a summer rest followed by proper conditions if you want it to bloom again. In late Spring, the leaves on your cyclamen should start to turn yellow. This is the time to give the plant a rest. Stop fertilizing the plant and gradually give it less and less water. When all of the leaves have died off, you can stop watering the plant completely. Place the cyclamen pot in the coolest place you have for a summer rest. Keep an eye on the tuber and make sure it isn’t shriveling up. If you notice that it’s shriveling, then give it just a small amount of water. In early fall start watering your cyclamen again and it should start to grow again. Apply fertilizer also. And remember, the next time that your cyclamens aren’t blooming, they may just need a rest.
- If your cyclamen becomes diseased, the best course of action is to toss it away before the disease spreads to other plants. If you are really wanting to try to help your sick plant, then isolate it away from the others. Treat the sick plant just the way you would treat a person that is contagious. Wear different clothes or an apron that you wash before being around other healthy plants. Common cyclamen diseases include bacteria soft rot, fusarium wilt, botrytis blight and leaf spot.
Useful Tips For Growing Cyclamens
Have a range of similar colored cyclamens in one section of your garden or in potted plants. This often will look much better than perfectly matched plants or plants placed in a predictable pattern. Be creative and observe the beautiful haphazard way that plants are perfectly placed in nature. Most experts agree that everything looks better the more it looks wild and not planned by humans.
Make sure to always follow the life cycle of the cyclamen when repotting and planting. As was discussed in this article, try to do anything major or intrusive in the dormant period which will be in the Summer.
Fun Facts About Cyclamen
- Some say that the cyclamen look like an upswept ballerina skirt.
- Cyclamens are one of the most common houseplants.
- Cyclamens are especially popular during the Christmas season.
- This popular flower though plentiful in gardens and homes are now becoming endangered in the wild. This is due to excessive harvesting for horticultural purposes. It is now extremely rare to come across a cyclamen in its native habitat.
- Cyclamens have been used in traditional herbal medicines to heal wounds.
- This plant is toxic to dogs and cats.
- Cyclamens represent a departure. These make a great gift for the retiring friend or relative. They also make great presents for those who are relocating.
- Cyclamens have a pretty and delicate scent adored by many.
I hope this guide has inspired you to try cyclamen in your outside garden or indoors. This wonderful and unique plant will add a burst of color to your house or garden. What is extra special about the cyclamen is that it blooms in the winter when most other flowering plants are dormant. Many cyclamens have brightened up the gloomy indoor days of winter in homes around the world.