“I love these plants,” a customer said to me, “but I don’t have any luck with them. Are they tricky plants to grow?” We were standing by the display of Cyclamen plants on the patio, both of us smiling at the rows of brightly colored flowers. As I explained to this customer, Cyclamen aren’t difficult but there are a few things to know if you want to be most successful with this winter-flowering plant.
Although in the Northeast USA we consider these to be houseplants, they are perennials in some parts of the world. Because they come into flower as the days grow shorter and cooler, Cyclamen have been bred for holiday sales. Here are some tips for growing what we call “florist Cyclamen” plants indoors.
- What’s most important for keeping these plants alive and flowering is the watering. Because they are tubers, and the growth of stems and buds is very dense at the crown of the plant, it’s important that the soil not be kept too wet. The plants can develop crown rot or mold if the soil is too moist. So for this reason the general recommendation is to water the plants from the bottom. Place the pot in a pan of water and let it sit for a couple of hours to absorb the moisture. But after that amount of time has gone by, remove the pot from the water and wait to soak it again once the soil is getting dry.
- Never let the plant go so dry that it wilts. If this happens the buds that are on the inside of the plant will shrivel and die. Wilting in between waterings is the primary reason that Cyclamen stop flowering soon after purchase. As you can tell, the key with these plants is to keep them evenly moist but not too wet. One way of judging if the plant needs watering is to learn how the pot feels when it’s just been watered and how light it becomes when the soil is getting dry. Another way to tell is to feel the soil on a daily basis so that you’ll know when it’s starting to dry out.
- If you have these plants in foil or a decorative cover, always be sure it has drained out excess water before placing the pot back in that covering. Plants that sit in water collected by pots or covers without drainage holes can rot or mold.
- These plants love to be cool. Keep your plant where it’s in bright light but under 68 degrees. A southern, eastern or western facing window will be fine. Plants kept away from a light source will wilt and die sooner than those that receive enough light.
- Cyclamen naturally go through a dormant period in the summer. Although many people throw the plant in the compost at this point, you can keep it alive and revive it the following fall. In March or April when the plant begins to yellow or stops flowering, move it to an eastern-facing window. Water the plant occasionally (every two weeks is a common practice) so that the roots don’t completely shrivel but avoid fertilizer. Some people find that given this treatment the plants retain some leaves through the summer, while others see their plants go completely dormant. In September move the plant into a brighter location, begin watering regularly and fertilize.
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