If you're looking for a plant to provide color for the fall and
winter shade garden, cyclamen is a great choice. But cyclamen can do
much more than that: even though it is technically a bulb, it doesn't
really act like one. What do we mean? Aside from the fact that it
does go dormant like most bulbs, unlike most bulbs it
will grow almost as happily in the house as it does outdoors
(providing a few simple rules are observed) and it blooms for a much
longer period, from fall through spring.
The appearance of the plant and its blooms is endlessly fascinating.
The leaves are heart-shaped and grow luxuriantly to form a dense
mound; these leaves can be mostly green or mostly silver with
beautiful contrasting markings. The profuse flowers that stand well
above this mass of foliage resemble graceful butterflies and come in
red, white, pink, lavender and bi-colors.
When planting your cyclamen outdoors, choose a shady to semi-shady
spot with good drainage. It is important not to plant them too
deeply; keep the top of the tuber slightly above the surrounding soil
(this also helps keep water away from the crown of the plant, which
can cause the tuber to rot). Feed regularly while the plant is
actively growing and producing flowers; your plant will continue to
grow and bloom from fall through early spring. As soon as the flowers
begin to fade, snap the stems off near the base of the plant;
likewise remove any dying foliage.
Consider planting cyclamen in large groups of the same color or
possibly two contrasting colors. A great combination is red and
white--each color plays up the other to the greatest extent. Cyclamen
are also very effective in mixed container plantings with pansies or
ornamental kale or cabbage, possibly with some variegated needlepoint
ivy draping over the sides.
If you plan to grow your cyclamen indoors, choose a well-lit spot
away from heater vents but out of cold drafts. Cyclamen prefers high
humidity during the winter, so place your container in a tray full of
pebbles with some water in it (do not let the pot sit in the
water--the pebbles will help raise it up a little higher). Keep the
plant well groomed and continue feeding with a liquid fertilizer.
If you have a decorative pot the right size, you can simply slip your
plant, nursery container and all, right into it. One caveat: if the
outside pot you choose does not have drainage holes, make sure to
remove your plant to water it and let it drain thoroughly. If you
allow your cyclamen to stand in water, it will quickly die. Cyclamen
do not mind being in a tight space, so it probably won't be necessary
to repot it right away. If you do decide to repot your plant, use a
good quality potting soil and choose a container just a little larger
than the original one (make sure that the new pot has drainage
Given the right care, you can keep your cyclamen from year to year.
When the weather begins to get very warm (mid-spring to early summer)
it will stop blooming and the foliage will begin to die back. If it
is in a pot, place it in a shady spot, where it will get occasional
(but not frequent) water until it begins to grow again in the fall.
If it is planted in the ground, it is a good idea to lift it and pot
it, as it is easy to overwater it (especially in heavy soils) while
it is dormant, which will cause it to rot.
If you have never tried growing cyclamen before, now is the time to
give it a try. We're sure you'll love them as much as we do!
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