As customers search for those bright spots of color during our gray winter days, they often choose winter-blooming cyclamen plants (Cyclamen persicum). Their heart-shaped, patterned leaves and upswept petals make them very appealing. The 8-12” height makes a great fit in the spaces in many homes. With proper care they typically bloom into March. You can find them in white, pinks, red, and lavenders. The picotee types have white edging along brightly colored petals. Many ruffled varieties are particularly popular. They are toxic if ingested.
Cyclamen are native to the rocky hillsides, shrublands, and woodlands of the Middle East. In a Mediterranean climate, they would flower during the winter and early spring, which is the rainy season, and then go dormant in the hot, dry summers. Many customers worry they have done something wrong when the plant dies back in the late spring but the plant is simply entering its dormant phase. Therefore, some people simply think of them as short-lived indoor plants and enjoy their color during the winter. Others like the challenge of growing them for future seasons as we will address next.
The key to growing them is a cool temperature with a night-time temperature in the 40’s. They need bright, indirect light. When your potting mix feels dry on top, water thoroughly but do not let the plant sit in drained water. Watering cyclamen is much like an African violet in keeping water off the leaves and the crown for best results. A humidity tray under the plant can be helpful. Once they are done blooming, if you want to keep them for the next winter, gradually reduce the water until the plant has dried. Remove the corm they grow from and store in sand or vermiculite to keep the corm from drying out. Store at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In June, repot the corm in fresh, well-draining potting soil with some sand added. Keep the upper half of the corm about the soil surface. Water thoroughly and in about 3 weeks, move the plant to the garden in a shady place. Fertilize with all purpose fertilizer. Then bring the plant in before frost to a cool area inside with that bright indirect light.
For those of us that need live plants and the color they can bring to get us through the winter, cyclamen can certainly fit that need for a long blooming period. Talk to your local independent garden center for more information.
This article is sponsored by McNamara at Sand Point, which has 2 acres of production greenhouses, retail florist and gift shop, as well as retail garden center and wholesale plant business. Contact McNamara by calling 260-747-4131 or visit 4322 DeForest Ave, Ft. Wayne, IN 46809.