How to Succeed with Cyclamen
To succeed with cyclamen it helps to know what they need!
It’s possible to have cyclamen in bloom every month of the year! But I just love the way that they are just so right for this time of the year!
As the nights draw in and days become short and often dull, cyclamen are there to brighten up our lives!
Hardy Outdoor Types ; Cyclamen hederifolium
There are several hardy cyclamen species but I’ll cover the most common two species here. They are Cyclamen hederifolium and Cyclamen coum.
Nevertheless by carefully cultivating hardy outdoor species and varieties cyclamen could almost be in bloom in your garden continuously. However realistically most of us will only attempt to grow the autumn flowering Cyclamen hederifolium. This suffered a name change a while ago and some of you might know it as Cyclamen neapolitanum. The newer name aptly describes the ivy like leaves that it produces after flowering.
Cyclamen hederifolium is easy enough to grow and very long flowering too.
Given time this little beauty will steadily spread and colonise a part of your garden.
You could plant it now from either British pot grown stock or from dry corms that are sadly still often harvested in the wild.
The dry corms are dormant of course and may take a bit of persuading that they should wake up and grow in your garden!
But what is more worrying is the damage that this form of wild collecting does to the Middle Eastern hillsides where they are found.
A CITES agreement bans the wild harvesting of this and other bulbs. Please do check that you are buying cultivated [not wild collected] stock if you choose to plant dry corms. If you see pot grown plants they will not only be easier to establish but also very unlikely to be wild harvested.
Cyclamen hederifolium is available in soft shades of pink through to white. Flowers start to appear at the end of summer and continue through to the beginning of winter.
The leaves mostly appear after the blooms have finished but can be exquisitely marked.
Each corm will steadily increase in size and often sits right on the soil surface. Old corms can reach dinner plate size! More on Cyclamen hederifolium here.
Hardy Outdoor Types ; Cyclamen coum
Following soon after the autumn flowering type is the smaller looking but equally tough Cyclamen coum.
Again it has a good colour range. There is dark cerise, pink and white.
Cyclamen coum is also a great colonizers!
The seed pods of cyclamen are worth a mention. After fertilization [all are favored by bees] the flower stem coils up like a spring pulling the fatten seed pod back towards the centre of the plant. You would think that this would lead to all new seedlings growing close to the centre of the plant but somehow they disperse quite widely. I suspect that ants have a role in this.
More detailed information on hardy Cyclamen can be found here.
Other Features of Hardy Cyclamen
Both of these hardy types often have very decorative leaves.
Some are silvery white and others pewter and intricately marked.
They are worth planting for their exquisite foliage alone!
These easy-to-grow hardy species thrive under trees. That’s especially true of trees that lose their leaves in winter.
They can also be planted on dry grassy banks or at the feet of large shrubs.
In my previous garden both species had invaded the lawn! But fortunately they flowered at a time when there is little risk of them being decapitated by the mower.
I suspect that these species have been used to produce, what was so recently novel but now mainstream – autumn bedding miniature cyclamen.
So called ‘Miniature’ Cyclamen
These are delightful and remarkably tough little customers!
Having slightly bigger blooms than their truly hardy perennial cousins, they are very showy plants! They are perfect for filling any container that needs filling in autumn!
With a widened colour range little wonder that hundreds of thousands are planted to brighten up our winter days. With bi-colours and picotee blooms too the range gets better every year.
As if that wasn’t enough some have delightful delicate perfume too!
Popular colours include dark vermilion, shell pink, dark pink and of course a Christmas favourite; purest white with rich red.
All these mix readily with variegated ivy, dainty Viola, pansies, winter flowering heathers and primroses.
Other things you’ll need
I recommend using potting compost that has a good structure. Avoid those that are milled finely and drain slowly.
Slow release fertiliser [such as Osmocote] should be used in pots, window boxes, hanging baskets and bowls.
There is really no limit to the type of container that can be used. But all will need adequate drainage.
Where best to display
Position planted containers in sheltered but ‘open’ positions. Sounds contradictory? You are trying to get plenty of air movement around plants so that the wet leaves and flowers dry quickly after rainfall or watering.
Wet plants and particularly those exposed to cold north easterly winds are likely to struggle. They might succumb to grey mould [Botrytis cinerea] rotting the centre of each plant.
To avoid this, and this applies equally to indoor cyclamen as these outdoor bedding types, dying flowers should be carefully removed.
This is called ‘dead heading’. You should try to remove the whole flower stem right down to the point where it is attached to the corm.
To do this; grip the stem between your forefinger and thumb, twist the stem through 90 degrees and give it a gentle inward [towards the plant centre] and upward tug. This should ensure that there is no part of the stem left to rot back and infect the centre of the corm. It takes a bit of practice but you will soon get the hang of it!
Incidentally, this applies to yellowing leaves too.
So what of the more conventional indoor pot plant Cyclamen? Well this is a plant that relishes cool temperatures!
If you keep the thermostat high and your house is warm then you will need to find a cool place. That is if you want indoor cyclamen to do well for you.
The indoor cyclamen is perfect plant for a glazed porch. Perhaps for an occasionally heated bedroom, a hallway or a conservatory. And what better way to keep the colours of summer going inside than with these colourful plants!
If you live in the city then you may be able to get away with these outside. Try them in window boxes where the heat from buildings ensures that the temperature is always a few degrees above those in the countryside.
Care of Indoor Cyclamen
All cyclamen hate to have moisture around the plant centre. This is where there will be plenty of new flower buds developing and a crowd of leaf stem bases too.
When watering these plants you should avoid splashing water into this area. The best way is undoubtedly to give water from the base of the pot allowing the plant to draw up what it needs by capillary action.
Don’t be tempted to constantly stand your plants in a saucer of water but a tray of wet pebbles is okay. Do remove any excess water as soon as the root ball is wet.
A weekly feed of high potash liquid fertiliser such as Phostrogen will help to keep the show going too!
Some gardeners struggle with indoor cyclamen and find that they are short lived for them.
It may be watering in the wrong way or that their house is too warm.
However it may be that the plant they bought was grown too fast and ‘soft’.
This is a plant that hates to sit shivering outside of a shop or petrol station still in its cellophane sleeve!
A Plantsman’s Tip
Whilst I hesitate to recommend this to everyone buying a Cyclamen, I have a simple check I make when buying this plant.
It is to spread your fingers and slip them between the flower stems. Then with the other hand lift the pot and invert the plant. The whole plant is then resting in the palm of your hand on its leaves!
If it sits there happily without the leaves breaking then it has been well grown!
I’ve written more about indoor cyclamen here