How to plant, grow and propagate cyclamen
Looking for some vibrant winter and spring colour that can bring your home and garden to life? Then check out the easy-care cyclamen.
What you need to know about cyclamen
Name: cyclamen, florist’s cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum)
Plant type: low-growing plant with leaves arising from a mainly underground corm or bulb. Herbaceous (leaves die back to reshoot the following year)
Height: generally less than 10cm, flower stems taller.
Foliage: heart to oval shaped. Dark green above, pale underneath. Often has silvery spots and markings.
Climate: warm and cool temperate, as well as other zones, as often grown as an indoor plant.
Soil: well-drained and open with additional organic matter.
Position: outdoors or in the garden in a cool, sheltered position. Some summer shade but moderate light at other times. Indoors—good light, a couple of hours of morning sun, protection from draughts.
Flowering: early winter to mid-spring.
Feeding: feed annually in early winter with a controlled-release fertiliser. Liquid feed during leaf and flower development.
Watering: in pots, best if bottom-watered by filling the saucer and allowing it to soak up. In the garden, minimal water while dormant and then reliable moisture across the growing seasons, especially as leaves and flowers form.
Appearance and characteristics of cyclamen
Cyclamen is one of those plant favourites that has been around for generations. For good reason, too! It’ll provide an amazing burst of flowers and, with some varieties, vibrant colours during winter and spring, well before many plants have kicked off their seasons. As a bonus, many also have an absolutely intoxicating perfume. Although often grown as an indoor plant, cyclamen can do very well in the garden, given the right conditions.
Cyclamen leaves and flowers emerge from a corm (a bulb-like structure) that is only partially underground. The corm generally isn’t visible when the plant is in full leaf, but its rough-textured, flattened top can be seen as the foliage dies back.
The flowers are extremely distinctive. They are borne on a long stem, one bloom per 15–20cm stem. The main part of the flower points downwards, while the often twisted petals are swept upwards. Cyclamen flower colours include white, pinks and lilacs, reds and purples. Many flowers will be fringed with another colour, and there are also some ‘fancy’ ruffled forms. Many are delightfully perfumed.
Silvery patterning on the leaves makes the cyclamen a very attractive foliage plant. As a herbaceous plant, these leaves will start to yellow and die back as the cyclamen’s season ends.
Uses of cyclamens
Cyclamen can add colour to your home or garden in many ways:
When growing cyclamen in the garden, choose a cool, sheltered location with dappled shade in the warmer months but moderate sunlight at other times. The soil must be very well drained and open, and ideally have a small amount of organic matter such as well-composted manure added. Cyclamen likes reliable moisture during growing times, but must never be wet. Avoid applying water to the corm.
When growing cyclamen in pots, make sure it has good, filtered light, ideally with a couple of hours of morning sun. Use a quality potting mix. When watering, pour the water into the saucer and allow the mix to soak this up before filling a second time. This reduces the chances of overwatering. Keep the pot out of drafts and away from heaters and the warm output from a reverse-cycle air-conditioner.
If growing your cyclamen indoors, it can be a good idea to put it outside at night. The cool night air will keep it happier, healthier and flowering for longer.
In pots or the garden, the cyclamen corms should be planted with the top just showing above the soil surface. If planting in the garden, space the corms around 15cm apart. Water your cyclamen sparingly at planting time, and aim to apply water around the corm, not on it.
Caring for cyclamen
Whether your cyclamen is in the garden or in a pot, avoid applying water to the corm. As the plant shows the first signs of coming out of winter dormancy, apply a controlled-release fertiliser and liquid feed with an organically fortified product.
Liquid feed at recommended rates until flowering finishes, generally in late spring. As leaves start to yellow, reduce watering and then water very sparingly while dormant.
How and when to prune cyclamen
Remove flowers as they finish and trim off any yellowing leaves. At the end of the season, remove any remaining dead leaves.
Diseases and pests affecting cyclamens
Cyclamen can be susceptible to various rots and fungal disorders of the corm, caused by overwatering. Mealy bugs may also infest potted plants. These are best disposed of by sealing them in a plastic bag and throwing it in the rubbish in.
How to propagate cyclamen
If growing cyclamen from seed, follow these steps:
If flowers are allowed to run to their natural cycle they may produce seed. However, as most plants are heavily hybridised, seed is minimal and may not be germinate.
Collect and clean the seeds, sow in a tray of seed-raising mix and keep warm and moist.
Germination may take nearly three months.
If you like this then try
Coleus: annual colour doesn’t only come from flowers. Coleus will provide spectacular foliage colour.
Fuchsia: one of the most spectacular pot and hanging basket plants, perfect for shady spots.
Deciduous trees: gorgeous summer shade, spectacular autumn colours and all the warmth of winter sun.
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