Cyclamen-Color in Winter
Cyclamen – A Pop of Color in Winter
By Anne Bettencourt
UCCE Master Gardeners of El Dorado County
Most flowering perennials are dormant during cooler winter months. If you are looking to bring color into your garden this time of year, then the Cyclamen is the ideal plant for you!
Cyclamen is found in abundance at local nurseries this time of year and has its origins from Eastern Mediterranean regions. There are over twenty species of cyclamen and luckily some are considered frost hardy. Most frost hardy varieties of cyclamen bloom from early autumn until late spring. Hardy cyclamen does best in shade to part-shade areas of the garden.
Cyclamen foliage is dark green, and leaves are heart shaped. Leaves also have attractive lighter green to almost silvery patterns. Plants produce tall, graceful flowers in shades of pink, red, white, or lavender. Some varieties of cyclamen produce semi-double flowers while others might have petals that are frilled along the edge. Blooms are produced in abundance, and flower production is dependent upon periodic deadheading. Plants do very well in pots and containers. Cyclamen are a neat addition to a front porch or patio.
Florist cyclamen, Cyclamen persicum, do best in cool shaded areas of the house. Hardy cyclamen, Cyclamen coum, can grow outside in protected garden beds, pots, or other containers. Hardy cyclamen thrive in USDA zones 5 - 9. Cyclamen are easy to grow. With proper care, plants can bring beauty to the garden for years. Cyclamen are tidy plants with leaves and flowers emerging from a central clump and grow about six inches tall.
Cyclamen grow from tubers and need well-drained soil. Plants should be kept moist, but not wet because they are susceptible to gray mold and tuber rot. When watering plants, apply the water below the outside leaves, this will prevent the stems and tuber from getting too wet. Plants in containers or pots can be placed in a shallow bowl of water allowing soil to moisten from the bottom upwards. Plants should only be watered when the soil is dry. Adding a layer of mulch around the plant aids in moisture retention and frost protection. Apply mulch up to the base of the tuber. Take care not to bury the top of the tuber.
Cyclamen are dormant from late spring through early autumn. During plant dormancy, the top of the coum-like tuber is visible about a half inch above the soil level. Potted cyclamen can be moved to a cooler shady area of the garden. Don’t let tubers dry out during summer, but water sparingly during this period.
Cyclamen usually start to sprout new leaves from the top of tubers in September. This is a good time to remove about one to two inches of soil from around the tuber and replace it with equal amounts of fresh soil and organic compost. Start watering plants on a regular basis. Keep soil moist but not saturated. Plants should remain in a shady to part-shade area of the garden. When days are shorter and cooler, plants should have numerous healthy leaves and be ready for another year of enjoyment in garden!