Colorful, Wintery Plant — Cyclamen

December 22, 2007

Plant of the Week

David Rodriguez

CyclamenCyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) is part of the Primrose family. In late October through early November is the ideal time to plant and establish cyclamen. These plants are so gorgeous that everyone who has grown them in the past greatly enjoys them. Cyclamen have a leaf that is as lush as spinach, but that is where the similarity ends. Cyclamen are an all-star winter-blooming plant for the shade. You can’t eat them, but you will admire cyclamen! The blooms come in shades of red, white, pink, or maroon. The flowers stand above the attractive three inch heart-shaped leaves on stalks that reach about one foot in height. Unless the weather gets extremely cold, cyclamen will bloom every day, all winter, until April. Use cyclamen as specimen plants or massed together as a single color, or in a combination of white and any of the other colors.

Cyclamen are not inexpensive plants. Cyclamen are available in four inch containers on up. The larger the plant, of course, the more they cost. Four inch plants may cost $5. They are very beautiful and worth the investment, but the key to reducing costs is to over-summer a portion of your plants. Cyclamen do not like heat so the task is not always easy.

Some gardeners remove the bulb structure from the garden in late April or early May to store in a paper sack in an air-conditioned room in the house. Try leaving the plants in a container and storing them in the house without watering them. The most effective method so far has been to grow the cyclamen in containers that have been sunk in the flowerbed all winter. In the summer, plant them around caladiums or other shade-loving plants. It also works to store the containerized plants in a shady corner of the yard where they can be watered once every two weeks. Replant the survivors in the flowerbed, and be generous with the time-released fertilizer incorporated in the soil at the time of planting. The new plants you purchase are in full bloom and pumped up with nutrients, so your over-summered plants will require some special attention to catch up.

Many of us have grown cyclamen as a houseplant. Cyclamen will live a number of years and bloom almost continuously if they are: (1) watered faithfully when the soil surface dries to half an inch, (2) fertilized every three or four weeks with soluble fertilizer, and (3) placed in a window with morning sun. In an air-conditioned house, cyclamen are much more tolerant of light than they are outside. In the late fall through early spring, cyclamen do best with dappled sun for a few hours each day.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and buy some cool weather cyclamen for your landscape and . . .

Remember, Learn and Have Fun!

David Rodriguez is County Extension Agent-Horticulture, Bexar County. For more information, call the Master Gardener ‘Hotline’ at (210) 467-6575 or visit our County Extension website at, click under Horticulture and Gardening.

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