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Cyclamen—Growing Cyclamen Houseplants

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Cyclamen—Growing Cyclamen Houseplants

Cyclamen are wonderful winter blooming plants with delicate flowers and vivid leaves. They prefer cool humidity and will provide a whole season of color.

Photo © Roni G/flickr
Cyclamen are the most rare of houseplants: a natural winter bloomer with beautiful, swept-back flowers and stunning leaves. These plants are snapped up during the grey and long winter months to provide a jolt of color and life. And they deliver in spades: cyclamen flower for months at a time, and their flowers are available in beautiful pastel shades, as well as white and purple. Because of their popularity, cyclamen have been hybridized for the past century, and there are many types today, all arising from the same parent. In terms of growth, cyclamen are perfectly suited for many a winter windowsill. They prefer cold temperatures (a warm room is deadly) and bright, but not direct light. Many people throw their cyclamen out after the bloom is over and spring has arrived, but this isn't strictly necessary. Follow a few simple steps for another pot of blooms next winter.

Growing Conditions:

Light: Bright light, but avoid full sun during the winter growing season. An hour or two of direct sunlight won't cause too much damage, but more than that and you risk sunburn. During its summer dormancy, keep in a cool, dark place until new growth emerges.
Water: Keep the soil constantly moist during the winter months, drenching as needed. Never water from overhead, however, to discourage fungal diseases. Cyclamen thrive in relatively higher humidity than most houses, so a gravel dish with water might be a good idea. Cut water far back during the dormancy, watering barely enough to keep the roots from drying out.
Temperature: Cyclamen thrive at cooler temperatures, often between 50˚F and 60˚F. Avoid warm, dry rooms, which can cause plant collapse.
Soil: A rich, fast-draining mix is ideal.
Fertilizer: Fertilize adequately during the winter growing season, with controlled-release fertilizer and liquid fertilizer. Stop feeding during the summer dormancy.

Propagation:

Cyclamen can be rooted from seeds, but expect to wait up to 18 months for the new plants to flower. Most people buy new cyclamen at the beginning of the winter season. When buying a cyclamen, look for a plant that has lots of unopened buds.

Repotting:

If you're keeping your cyclamen, you'll repot the plant in the late summer, when new growth is just beginning to emerge. Repot into fresh soil and a new pot.

Varieties:

The wild species of cyclamen is known as Cyclamen persicum and originates in the Middle East. This plant has been extensively bred for color and leaf traits and its descendents are often labeled C. persicum giganteum. Choose your cyclamen based on its leaf and flower color. There are many varietals available, especially in the autumn and winter months.

Grower's Tips:

For best results, buy your cyclamen early in the season and look for a plant with plenty of unopened buds. Throughout the winter, keep the soil continuously moist, using the submersion watering method or watering from the bottom with a tray. Ideally, keep the surrounding area cool and moist. As the season nears the end, allow the foliage to turn brown and die, then snip it off and remove it. Place the plant in a cool and dark place for the summer and give it just enough water to keep the roots from drying out throughout the summer months. New growth will emerge at the end of the summer, meaning it's time to repot your plant and enjoy another season of blooms. Expert your cyclamen to last a few years until the tuber is exhausted. Cyclamens are also prone to mites, which are recognized by their fine white webs on the underside of leaves. Severely infected plants should be discarded.
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