It’s possible to have cyclamen in bloom every month but I just love the way that they are just so right for this time of the year!
As the nights draw in and days become short and often dull, cyclamen are there to brighten up our lives.
By carefully collecting and cultivating hardy outdoor species and varieties, cyclamen will almost be in bloom in your garden continuously but realistically most of us will only attempt to grow the autumn flowering Cyclamen hederifolium [formerly C. neapolitanum]. There’s nothing wrong with that and it is easy enough to grow and very long flowering too. Given time this little beauty will steadily spread and colonise a part of your garden. You could plant this species now from either British pot grown stock or from dry corms that are sadly still often harvested in the wild. The dry corms are dormant of course and may take a bit of persuading that they should wake up and grow in your garden! But what is more worrying is the damage that this form of wild collecting does to the Middle Eastern hillsides where they are found. A CITES agreement bans the wild harvesting of this and other bulbs, and whilst there are assurances from suppliers that they are selling cultivated [not wild collected] stock, I wonder whether it is possible to be really sure. For that reason at Cleeve Nursery, we only offer the British pot grown type.
Cyclamen hederifolium is available in soft shades of pink through to white and the leaves mostly appear after the blooms have finished. Each corm will steadily increase in size and often sits right on the soil surface. Old corms can reach dinner plate size! More on Cyclamen hederifolium here.
Following on soon after this autumn flowering type is the smaller looking but equally tough Cyclamen coum. Again with a good colour range between dark cerise, pink and white these are great colonisers. The seed pods of cyclamen are worth a mention since, after fertilisation [all are favoured by bees] the flower stem coils up like a spring pulling the fatten seed pod back towards the centre of the plant. You would think that this would lead to all new seedlings growing close to the centre of the plant but somehow they disperse quite widely and I rather suspect that ants have a role in this. More detailed information on Cyclamen coum can be found here.
Both of these hardy types often have very decorative leaves, some silvery white and others pewter and intricately marked.
These easy-to-grow hardy species thrive under trees, especially those that lose their leaves in winter. They can also be planted on dry grassy banks or at the feet of large shrubs.
In my own garden both species have invaded the lawn and flower at a time when there is little risk of them being decapitated by the mower.
I suspect that these species have been used to produce, what was so recently novel but now mainstream, autumn bedding miniature cyclamen. These are delightful and remarkably tough little customers! Having slightly bigger blooms than their truly hardy perennial cousins, they are very showy plants for filling any container that needs filling in autumn!
With a widened colour range and some boasting delightful delicate perfume too, little wonder that hundreds of thousands are planted to brighten up our winter days. With bi-colours and picotee blooms too the range gets better every year.
Popular colours include dark vermilion, shell pink, dark pink and of course a Christmas favourite; purest white with rich red. All mix readily with variegated ivy, dainty Viola and pansies, winter flowering heathers and primroses.
To succeed well structured potting compost and slow release fertiliser should be used in pots, window boxes, hanging baskets and bowls. There is really no limit to the type of container that can be used provided that excess water can readily drain away. Position planted containers in sheltered but ‘open’ positions. If that sounds contradictory, you are trying to get plenty of air movement around plants so that the wet leaves and flowers dry quickly after rainfall or watering. Wet plants, particularly those exposed to cold north easterly winds, are likely to struggle and succumb to grey mould rotting the centre of each plant. To avoid this, and this applies as much to indoor cyclamen as these outdoor bedding types, dying flowers should be carefully removed endeavoring to remove the whole flower stem right down to the point where it is attached to the corm. To achieve this, grip the stem [applies to yellowing leaves too] between your forefinger and thumb, twist the stem through 90 degrees and give it a gentle inward [towards the plant centre] and upward tug. This should ensure that there is no part of the stem left to rot back and infect the centre of the corm. It takes a bit of practice but you will soon get it!
So what of the more conventional indoor pot plant Cyclamen?
Well here is a plant that relishes cool temperatures! If you keep the thermostat up and your house is warm, you will need to find a cool place for these to do well for you. The pot plant cyclamen is a perfect plant for a glazed porch, an occasionally heated bedroom, a hallway or a conservatory [what better way to keep the colours of summer going inside!]. If you live in the city, you may be able to get away with these lasting well outside in window boxes where the waste heat ensures that the temperature is always a few degrees above those in the countryside.
All cyclamen hate to have moisture around the plant centre where there will be plenty of new flower buds developing and a crowd of leaf stem bases too. When watering these you should avoid splashing water into this area and the best way is undoubtedly to give water from the base of the pot allowing the plant to draw up what it needs by capillary action. Don’t be tempted to constantly stand your plants in a saucer of water [a tray of wet pebbles is okay] but remove the excess water as soon as the root ball is wet. A weekly feed of high potash liquid fertiliser will help to keep the show going too!
Some gardeners struggle with indoor cyclamen and find that they are short lived for them. It may be watering in the wrong way or that their house is too warm but it may also be that the plant they bought was grown too fast and ‘soft’. This is a plant that hates to sit shivering outside of a shop or petrol station still in its cellophane sleeve!
Whilst I hesitate to recommend this to everyone buying our cyclamen, we have a simple check that we make when buying our plants in. That is to spread your fingers and slip them between the flower stems. Then with the other hand lift the pot and invert the plant so that the whole plant is resting in the palm of your hand on its leaves! If it sits there happily without the leaves breaking, it has been well grown! Those that we source from that great wholesale grower JB Plants near Warminster always pass this test with flying colours!