Consider Cyclamen for the Holiday
By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor,
University of Vermont
If you want a different plant for holiday decorating, one that prefers cool
temperatures, consider the cyclamen. The unusual shaped colorful blossoms
are held on reddish stalks above the variegated gray-green elliptical leaves.
Readily available at most florist shops and greenhouses, it is one of the prettiest
winter potted plants.
The florist's cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) is one of about 20 species of
cyclamen, and is native to the eastern Mediterranean. Cyclamen are in the
primrose family, although they really don't resemble primroses.
Under proper conditions the cyclamen's vivid, waxy, orchid-like flowers may last
up to six weeks. Depending on the variety, the blossoms may be pink, lavender,
deep purple, white, or red. Cyclamen range in height from 6 to 10 inches tall.
Miniature cyclamen are 4 to 6 inches tall, while micros are 3 to 4 inches tall.
Because it needs cool temperatures (65 to 68 degrees F in day is ideal) to
continue blooming, you need to keep this plant away from heat sources and,
preferably, in the coolest part of the house to do well. When night temperatures
remain above 65 degrees F cyclamen leaves may turn yellow, and buds may die.
Removing flower stalks once finished bloom may promote renewed flowering.
You can cut dead leaves and spent flowers off with scissors, or remove by
twisting them from the corm (the basil bulb-like storage part of the plant).
Remove completely, as stalks left on may rot and get gray mold disease
Leaves also drop quickly when lighting is poor. Give bright, indirect light as in
the open woodlands to which the plants are native. In northern areas direct
sunlight also is possible.
To prolong the life of your plant, water the soil as soon as it feels dry to the
touch. Avoid overwatering, and do not spill water onto the crown (center) of the
plant or the stems may rot. If too dry, leaves will wilt and may fall off, and
flower buds may fall off too. If plants wilt, and the soil remains wet, the roots
may have a root rot. Keep humidity high around plants by placing plants on a
tray of moist pebbles, just don't let plants sit in standing water. One method of
watering is to soak pots from the base, as in a saucer for a few minutes, then
drain the water.
Once your plant stops blooming, reduce watering, and allow it to dry out.
Remove the corm from the soil, and place in peat moss, vermiculite, or a mixture
of the two to keep it moist but not wet. Or you can just leave the plant in the pot
once the leaves turn yellow. Store for a few months at 50 degrees F while it is
dormant, as in a cool and dark basement or garage, keeping just barely moist.
In late summer, repot it in a mixture of equal parts peat moss, garden soil, and
sand, keeping the upper half of the corm above the soil surface to help prevent
rotting. Move it to a shady spot outdoors, and water as needed. Fertilize twice a
month with a low nitrogen fertilizer. Keep from excessive rains outdoors to
prevent rots. Before the first autumn frost bring your cyclamen indoors. Place it
in a cool, sunny window, and wait for the blooms!