Is it really that time of year already? No sooner has summer begun to fade, then cyclamen season seems to be upon us.
There are three main types of cyclamen you’ll see around: hardy species, bedding cyclamen and the type we’re looking at here, the indoor/florist cyclamen.
Caring for Indoor cyclamen
Cyclamen persicum comes in a vast palette of colours from pure white to deepest red-purple. Many varieties also have flamboyant, ruffled flowers as well as succulent, elaborate leaves.
As the nights draw in, a well-grown, plumptious cyclamen is a perfect gift or indulgent houseplant to brighten up a room.
Unfortunately, cyclamen have somewhat of a reputation for being fussy, but take it from someone who used to grow them wholesale for garden centre sale, they’re not.
The two biggest problems encountered are over-watering (as with every houseplant) and high temperatures.
Cyclamen are actually in the Primulaceae family and are related to cowslips, pimpernels and, of course, primroses.
It’s tempting to think that something so gaudy would need hothouse conditions, but indoor cyclamen much prefer cool, bright spots with good ventilation.
Ideal temperatures should be no warmer than 20°C (68°F) by day and no cooler than 10°C (50°F) at night. Plants in warm rooms lose their shape as they stretch and suffer in the heat. They also finish blooming sooner, believing the flowering season is coming to an end as spring approaches.
Proper ventilation will prevent the build-up of grey mould (Botrytis).
Our indoor cyclamen plants are varieties of the Persian cyclamen, which grows wild in Southeast Europe, North Africa and the Middle-East.
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Watering indoor cyclamen
With cyclamen being fleshy plants that grow from a tuber, they are best adapted for dry conditions.
It is best to allow the compost surface to dry somewhat between each watering. Many cyclamen deaths are caused by people watering right in the centre of the crown, where, if water settles, it often causes rot to set in.
To prevent the crown and foliage from getting wet, it's best to water from below, using a saucer with gravel. This also keeps the roots sitting above any excess water.
Err on the side of caution with feeding. Plants aren’t greedy and, as they grow during a season of low light and low temperatures, it’s easy to overfeed cyclamen. Once every six to eight weeks is enough.
The plant has been cultivated in France since the 18th century with varieties being created in England from the mid-19th century.
When removing dead flowers and leaves, be sure to pull the whole stem right out from the base.
The crown of a cyclamen plant is very congested, so even one stray, soggy stem can soon cause others to wither.
Cool conditions and careful watering will help keep this to a minimum, and it’s good practice to remove dead flowers to encourage fresh ones.
Often houseplants are discarded after flowering. However, cyclamen are perennials and can last for many years, often looked upon quite fondly by their owners.
Come springtime the plant will begin to die back to its tuber naturally, so reduce watering and remove leaves as they turn yellow and wither.
This is perfectly natural, so don’t worry that your plat looks like it’s dying. It is, in fact, just entering its dormant state. Leave it to sleep in a cool, shady place.
The tuber is semi-poisonous and has been ground down and used in making soap, as well as by fisherman for catching stunned fish after they sprinkle it on the surface of a pond or lake.
Waking a sleeping cyclamen
Generally, tubers will rest for a couple of months, possibly three.
They’ll usually let you know when they’re ready to wake up by producing a few tiny shoots from the surface of the tuber. If not, then give the plant a generous watering to begin the growing season, but allow it to drain freely.
Now is the time to consider repotting if the tuber has outgrown its pot. Cyclamen grow quite quickly once awake, and you can then resume service as usual with the care instructions above.
Indoor cyclamen come in scented varieties, as well as different sizes to fit any windowsill.