The Care and Keeping of Cyclamens

Written by Edward Harris

I complain a lot about the winter. I don’t care for the snow, personally. Plus, here in Zone 6 Dayton, Ohio, there just isn’t a whole lot going on out in the garden. Indoor plants are a big help, but with all the leaves fallen outside, one can really miss the flowers.

Now, cyclamens are neither the only flowers you can grow indoors, nor are they the only ones that can provide a pop of color in the winter (nothing says Holidays to me quite like Paperwhites and Poinsettias), but they have some interesting characteristics that explain why they are so popular as houseplants for winter blooms.

What is a cyclamen?

Cyclamen refers to a genus of tuberous flowering perennials which includes a broad spectrum of cultivars, representing plants in a wide range of sizes and colors. Native to parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, they are renowned for their tendency to bloom during cool weather. While frost-hardy strains do exist, there are almost none that overwinter here in the Miami Valley, so we’ll focus here on the more common, frost-tender varieties, commonly referred to as Florist’s Cyclamen.

One of the defining features of Florist’s Cyclamen is that it produces its blooms from about October to March, during the coldest part of the year. It isn’t frost hardy, but it thrives in cool conditions, living its best life at about 45 to 60° F, perfect for winters indoors.

Where to keep a cyclamen

Cyclamens like cool temperatures and bright, indirect light. You might be tempted to keep it on a windowsill, but direct sunlight can keep the plant too warm and this can result in the plant getting the idea that warm weather has come and it’s time to go back into dormancy.

Another thing to consider is that, while cyclamens are non-toxic to humans, they can be harmful to pets. It’s best to keep this one in a place where curious cats and dogs won’t get the idea that they might want to eat it.

How to water a cyclamen

Cyclamens grow from a tuber, yes, like a potato.

The roots, flowers, and stems all grow out from this central mass. This means that while they like consistent moisture, good drainage is critical. If the roots and tuber stay too wet, they can begin to rot, which is obviously bad news. This also means that (like most plants) the foliage plays no role in taking up moisture, and therefore getting the leaves or flowers wet is only going to encourage disease and ultimately harm the plant.

For best results, it’s good to use a potting medium that retains some moisture, but allows excess water to drain away from the central tuber. Only water the plant when the surface of the soil shows visible dryness, and make sure to keep the foliage dry by watering directly onto the soil, allowing it to drain completely over the course of 20 or 30 minutes, and discarding any excess water as it collects.

How to encourage blooms

Encourage your cyclamen to produce more blooms by deadheading it. Once the blooms begin to wither and droop, reach down to the base of the flower’s stem and pinch or prune it near the tuber. This will open up some space for the plant to send up a new bud, and direct the plant’s energy into developing a new flower, rather than trying to keep the older ones alive.

At a certain point, the plant will stop producing blooms. This is usually in early to mid-spring, but cooler temperatures can prolong it. Once it stops flowering, the stems and leaves will gradually turn yellow and wither away, but this doesn’t mean the plant is dying, it’s simply entering its period of dormancy.

How to reboot your cyclamen

So, what do you do once the plant shrivels up and goes into hibernation for the summer? The short answer is not much. As the blooms die off, prune them back, and do some of the same as the foliage begins to give out later on. Once the plant has gone dormant, you can stop watering it completely, move it to a dark or dimly-lit area of your home, and keep it dry during the off-season. Then, in the fall, bring the container back out, resume watering, and watch it come back to life for another winter of floral color.

Your authority for indoor flowers in the Miami Valley

Stockslager’s Greenhouse and Garden Center in Dayton, Ohio carries a variety of flowering indoor plants to chase away the winter blah. If you want to learn more about which plants will do best for you, and how to get the most out of them, come through today and ask the experts. We’re here to help.

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