By Matt Gibson & Erin Marissa Russell
All About Cyclamen
Cyclamen is a small, tender, tuberous perennial plant native to the eastern Mediterranean region. The plant has small, fragrant blooms that sit atop raised stems that rise above its heart-shaped foliage. During the summer months, it dies back to its tuberous root system, then bounces back to life each fall. Its half-inch to three-quarter-inch blooms come in different shades of white, pink, red, and purple. The medium-green leaves are often decorated with silver marbling. Commonly grown indoors as a houseplant, especially as a holiday decoration, mature cyclamen plants can grow six to nine inches tall with a similar width. Cyclamen seeds can be planted in the winter for blooms in the following summer.
Also known as Persian cyclamen, Persian violet, and florist’s cyclamen, the well-loved holiday decorative flower blooms from fall to spring in partial shade and well-draining, moist, nutrient-rich soils. Commonly grown as a houseplant, cyclamen is also a perennial typically hardy to USDA zones nine through eleven, though there are similar Cyclamen species with different hardiness ranges, so there is a cyclamen suited for most US growing zones. Creating a growing environment to suit the needs of the cyclamen plant and providing proper care are important to keeping your cyclamen plants alive and blooming year after year.
Varieties of Cyclamen
There are many different types of cyclamen plants to choose between. Due to their long blooming period, if you shop for cyclamen at your local nursery or gardening center, you’ll be able to see exactly what type of flowers you are going to get before you buy them. Of the most popular species in the cyclamen family, Cyclamen persicum, here are some of the most popular cultivars:
Albidum – The cyclamen albidum variety is a standout with its pure white flowers.
Puniceum – The puniceum variety displays red to carmine-colored blooms.
Roseum – This variety features small rose-pink flowers and medium-green, heart-shaped foliage with marbled silver variegation.
Scentsation (series) – Available in various shades of red and pink, the scentsation varietals are known for their pungent fragrance.
Sierra (series) – The Sierra series is known for its large flowers, which span two to three inches in diameter. Flowers come in purple, lilac, pink, red, white, and salmon.
Victoria – The eye-catching Victoria variety features white flowers decorated with ruffled edges and red markings on the petals.
Other popularly cultivated cyclamen species include:
Cyclamen coum – Hardy to USDA zones 6 and up, cyclamen coum features rounded or heart-shaped pattern foliage and small, brightly-colored flowers that blossom in mid-winter.
Popular varieties include: Album, Blush, Maurice Dryden, Rubrum, Silver Leaf, and Something Magic.
Cyclamen graecum – Though this species is very hard to cultivate as it is not as vigorous as other cyclamen species, it makes up for it in sheer beauty. The tiny, fragrant flowers boast vivid coloration and intricate patterns, and pair well with the plant’s dark-green, velvety-textured foliage. Hardy to zones seven through nine.
Popular varieties include: Glyfada and Rhodopou.
Cyclamen heredifolium – Commonly called ivy leaved cyclamen, this variety is hardy to USDA zones five through seven. Ivy-leaved cyclamen produce blooms in white or white with pink accents in the fall. This species is somewhat cold hardy, and is easy to grow in the home garden.
Popular varieties include: Bowle’s Apollo, Nettleton Silver, Pewter White, Silver Arrow, and White Cloud.
Cyclamen mirabile – Known for its round, silver-dollar-like green and silver leaves and lovely, small blooms, this variety is well suited to partial shade flower beds in zones six through eight.
Popular varieties include: Tilebarn Ann, Tilebarn Jan, and Tilebarn Nicholas.
Growing Conditions for Cyclamen
Persian cyclamen need bright indirect light during the winter time, which is the plant’s active growth period. During the summer dormancy, it is recommended to keep cyclamen plants in mostly dry soil, in a dark, cool location with above average air circulation.
Plant cyclamen in well-draining soils that are rich in organic content such as well-rotted compost, and a slightly acidic pH range. If you are growing cyclamen in pots or containers, mix a bit of sphagnum peat into a standard commercial potting mix in order to raise the acidity levels.
Protect your cyclamen plants from exposure to extreme heat, heavy winds, or dry air conditions. For ideal growing results, attempt to mimic their native growing environment by providing temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the evening hours and between 60 and 70 degrees F during the daytime.
Providing a high-humidity environment, especially during the winter growing period, is very important to successful cyclamen cultivation. To raise humidity, place your plants on trays filled with water and small pebbles, keeping the pot from touching the water by resting it on top of the pebbles and keeping the water level low.
If you bring your cyclamen plants outdoors for a mild summer, take it back inside before the temperatures get cold. An easy way to tell when it is time to bring them indoors is when temperatures are still comfortable enough for you to freshen the air or cool off a stuffy home by opening up your windows.
Caring for Cyclamen Houseplants
Cyclamen plants are usually kept indoors in containers. The plants will go dormant during the summer, but can easily be revived to regrow and rebloom in autumn with the proper care. When your cyclamen plants decide to go into dormancy is dependent on the growing conditions provided.
Warm weather exposure will cause the plant to swiftly go dormant. Some gardeners choose to move it outside for the summer to experience a full dormancy each year. However, other gardeners keep it inside their homes in rather cool temperatures, where cyclamen may not completely enter dormancy as it normally would. In cool homes, cyclamen may just lose a few leaves during the summer, look a little leggy, or not bloom for a few months instead of entering full dormancy.
To get your cyclamen plants reblooming, deadhead spent flower stalks by cutting them off at their base. As blooming starts to slow in late spring, let your cyclamen plants dry out for about two or three months time. A little bit of water won’t hurt the plants during dormancy. But be sure to keep the soil from staying wet for too long during the summer months.
When the plant’s leaves are alive and well, the plant has re-entered its growing period. During growth, water the soil whenever it is dry an inch below the soil’s surface. Keep water off of the leaves and crown of the plant to avoid rot issues. When the plant enters dormancy, reduce watering frequency to next to nothing, only occasionally providing water to keep the soil from drying out completely.
Fertilize your cyclamen plant with a low-nitrogen liquid fertilizer every two weeks while the plant is showing foliage. Dilute the fertilizer and add it to waterings. There is no need to feed cyclamen plants during their dormant summer period.
Repot your cyclamen plants every two years while it is dormant in the summer, switching to a slightly larger container and adding fresh new potting mix to reinvigorate its soil base. Fill new containers about halfway up with new potting soil. Lift the tubers out of their original container, lightly brushing away the old soil around the tubers. Place the tubers into their new home so that their tops are two inches from the rim and fill in the potting soil around and slightly over the tubers. Keep the planter in a dry, shaded location for the remainder of the summer and begin watering and caring for the plants again around September, as new growth begins developing.
How to Plant / Propagate Cyclamen
Cyclamen is typically propagated by seed, which should be planted in complete darkness as soon as seeds are ripe. Soaking seeds in lukewarm water for 10 hours prior to planting is recommended. When transplanting, sow very shallow in the soil, so that the top of the tuber remains above the soil to avoid issues with rotting.
Garden Pests and Diseases of Cyclamen
There are several diseases and pests that gardeners of cyclamen should be aware of. Keep watch on your plants for the symptoms of the problems listed below so you can roll out prevention or treatment measures as necessary.
- Botrytis Blight: This common garden disease is also called gray mold fungus for the appearance of its hallmark symptom. Under humid, cool conditions, susceptible plants can develop silvery gray moldy areas that spread the longer the disease goes untreated. Botrytis blight can be fatal. Gardeners can address the overly wet conditions by watering plants from the base, ensuring proper air circulation, sterilizing garden tools, being careful not to overwater, and providing plants with soil that drains well. The problem can be avoided by selecting disease-free seeds. Infected plants should be removed from the garden and discarded. Learn more in this article [https://www.gardeningchannel.com/botrytis-blight-or-grey-mold-fungus/].
- Cyclamen Mite: The tiny cyclamen mite is one of the most common pests of cyclamen plants. They hide in cool, dark areas of the plant, like inside of flowers, buds, and new shoots, keeping their soft bodies moist. It is most prevalent in greenhouses and causes corky brown areas on the underside of leaves. Reducing humidity so it stays between 60 and 75 percent is a good preventive measure, as is keeping the temperature between 68 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 25 degrees Celsius). Avoid using manures full of potassium and nitrogen. Predatory mites may be used against the cyclamen mite as well.
- Fusarium Wilt: Fusarium wilt is spread by a soilborne fungus, and prevention methods are recommended for susceptible plants because of how quickly the disease tends to progress once it takes hold. Stunted growth, yellow foliage, wilting and withering are all symptoms of fusarium wilt. Because it thrives in warm weather, this potentially fatal disease often appears late in the growing season. If plants are already infected, remove and dispose of any infected specimens while also sterilizing gardening tools and plant containers using a bleach solution. You can also solarize the soil for an effective control measure. Learn more about fusarium wilt in this article.
- Nematodes: The threat of nematodes can be almost completely overcome by using a soilless potting mix. Most nematode problems can be traced back to the use of unsterilized soil. Infested plants can exhibit stunted growth, yellowed foliage, galls on roots, wilting, or even death. If you use unsterilized soil in your garden, examine the roots of your plants often for symptoms of nematode damage. You can also help prevent issues with nematodes by inspecting new plants carefully to avoid introducing them with a new plant, or you can establish a quarantine for additions to your garden. Learn more in this article.
- Powdery Mildew: Several fungal diseases that cause gray or white mildewed areas that resemble talcum powder on plant foliage are referred to as powdery mildew. Avoid applications of nitrogen late in the summer, keep plants pruned well, and clean the garden to remove plant debris and leaf litter to prevent powdery mildew. You can also treat powdery mildew using potassium bicarbonate, sulfur, or neem oil. Learn more about powdery mildew in this article.
- Rot Diseases: Rot diseases are caused when conditions are too wet for cyclamen, especially when the plants get too much water or the soil does not drain sufficiently. Symptoms appear first below ground as the roots get soft or slimy and become discolored. As the disease progresses, plants may show signs above ground such as stunted growth. Gardeners can prevent or correct these diseases by being careful not to overwater plants, providing sufficient drainage, and watering from the base so moisture does not splash onto plant foliage. If the disease is severe, dig up plants and use clean, sterilized shears to cut away diseased roots. If the root system is still soggy, let the plant sit out in the sunshine above ground so its roots can dry before replanting.
Cyclamen plants, while rather needy, are a wonderfully ornamental addition to an indoor container garden, or front borders and beds of any flower garden in the right growing zones. The small, fragrant, decorative plants are dainty, but elegant, and well worth the extra effort. It’s no wonder why they have become such a popular holiday home decoration in the western world. Add cyclamen plants to your indoor living decor, you won’t regret it.
Cyclamen plants are poisonous to household pets if any parts of the plant are ingested. If you are growing cyclamen indoors as a houseplant, place your cyclamen plants in locations that are well out of the reach of your household pets. If you are growing cyclamen outdoors, keep it out of areas that see a lot of pet traffic or areas where your pets have been known to regularly explore. Symptoms of cyclamen poisoning include drooling, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, abnormal heart rate, and occasionally, death.