It’s a happy coincidence that some of the most vividly coloured blooms are associated with flowering plants that we typically grow indoors during the winter seasons. Poinsettias spring to mind immediately of course but there are others. The cyclamen combines striking colours with unique blooms to make us forget about the fact that the ground is frozen and we can’t sit out in the garden for a few more months.
Cyclamen typically bloom from November to March, although you can find plants in bloom in the garden centre almost year-round thanks to growers who can manipulate the light and temperature conditions of their greenhouses. Those blooms are charming; I saw one reference who said that they looked “like a convention of Tinkerbells ready to take flight.” Colours range from white, to light pink, hot pink, magenta or crimson, with bicolors and fringed petals thrown in for variety.
The plants found in garden centres and flower shops are bred cultivars of Cyclamen persicum, native to Iran, Turkey and other areas of the Middle East. In addition to the spectacular flowers the foliage has attractive silver patterns against a green background.
Cyclamen have a bad reputation for lasting about a week before collapsing into a heap of withered stems. This reputation is entirely undeserved as the culprit is temperature, specifically warm temperatures. The higher the temperature the shorter time the cyclamen will stay in prime condition. If you’re taking a plant to someone in a hospital room or a senior’s home cyclamen is not a good choice.
Cooler temperatures will make for a much longer lasting plant. Keep your cyclamen in an east or west exposure, out of direct sunlight. Ideally you would move it into a location where temperatures are around ten deg. C at night. The blooms will last for weeks if you can maintain this discipline and trust me; it will be worth the effort.
I know it sounds impossible but the soil should be well drained with a continual supply of water. Once a cyclamen dries out it never really regains its original condition. You shouldn’t water from the top because it’s never a good idea to get water on the crown of the tuber that cyclamen grow from. Put a saucer under the pot and fill it with water instead; the plant will absorb moisture as it’s needed.
Although it takes a while you can coerce cyclamen into blooming again by allowing it to follow its natural cycle. Cut back on the watering in March or April after the plant stops blooming. The leaves will begin to yellow and after about two months they’ll dry up completely and you’ll be left with the tuber only. Move the plant to a shady location outside through the summer and water it just enough to keep it viable. Don’t forget it’s out there!
In August the dormant tuber can be lifted and potted into fresh indoor potting soil in a slightly larger pot. Keep it outdoors until the weather cools in late September by which time you should see fresh growth. Put the pot into a similar location indoors as it was when you first got it. Fertilize every two weeks with 15-30-15 to encourage flower bud development and see what happens. If it works your thumb has just turned another shade of green!

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