There are numerous hardy Cyclamen that can be grown in a garden, but those who grow indoors may be more familiar with florist’s cyclamen, Cyclamen persicum, which are more tender plants grown inside in temperate climates. Florist’s cyclamen make wonderful houseplants, and contrary to popular opinion, you can keep them after they first bloom.
What is Cyclamen?
Cyclamen persicum and its cultivars are, like hardy cyclamen, members of the Cyclamen genus, which is in turn part of the Primulaceae plant family. Cyclamen are all tuberous perennials prized for their pretty flowers and variably patterned leaves.
These plants are native to Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, east to the Caucasus and Iran. Florist’s cyclamen, Cyclamen persicum, also known as Persian Cyclamen, is native to south-central Turkey to Lebanon-Syria, and the Palestine region. It also grows in Tunisia and Algeria, and on several Greek islands where it may have been introduced by monks.
Florist’s cyclamen can flower in the winter/ spring, or in the autumn, depending on the variety. There are numerous named cultivars with different colors of bloom to consider growing indoors.
The flowers are solitary and fragrant. They have 4-5 petaled blossoms that are fused at the base. These bloom, potentially for several months, on plants that grow only around 10-20cm tall.
These cyclamen naturally enter a period of dormancy in summer, during which active growth stops.
Where to Grow Cyclamen
To keep cyclamen alive indoors, you definitely need to think carefully about the conditions it requires, to place it in the right location. The key things to think about are light, temperatures, humidity, and growing medium.
Cyclamen persicum must be grown in bright but filtered light. It is important to make sure that the plants are not too much in shade, but also that they are somewhat protected from harsh sunlight during the warmest and brightest times.
Temperature & Humidity Requirements
In winter, temperatures for these plants cannot drop below 5 to 7 degrees Celsius. Ideally, temperatures should be kept warm but not hot, and as stable as possible, without any draughts or extreme temperature fluctuations. Do not place these plants too close to a heat source such as a radiator, oven, or stove. And keep them away from cold draughts coming from doors or windows.
Humidity is also important. These plants require moderate humidity and won’t enjoy the hot dry air that can arise in a centrally heated home. Placing a cyclamen persicum in your bathroom, therefore, can be a good idea. You can also make things more humid by grouping houseplants together to make a microclimate, misting, and/or placing pebble trays filled with water below their pots.
Soil/ Growing Medium
Pot cyclamen into containers filled with a loam-based or soil-based growing medium for best results. This should be combined with some grit to improve drainage and make sure that waterlogging does not occur. These are plants that need free-draining conditions.
When planting cyclamen tubers, it is important to make sure that the tops of these are just above the surface of the growing medium. Make sure that you choose a container that has adequate drainage holes at the base so that excess water can drain away freely.
Caring for Cyclamen
Cyclamen growing indoors need different care depending on the season. This is an important thing to understand. Things can become a whole lot clearer when you begin to understand the plant’s lifecycle and that it enters its dormant phase during the summer months.
While your cyclamen is in active growth, you should water moderately, making sure that the growing medium does not dry out entirely, but also avoiding saturation within the pot.
After flowering, however, you should reduce watering. And when the plant is dormant you should keep the plant dry so that the tubers do not rot.
When the cyclamen is in active growth, feed it fortnightly with a balanced, organic liquid plant feed. This should promote good health and good flowering. Again, however, you should knock feeding on the head once the plant is in a dormant state.
What to Do During Dormancy
Aside from stopping watering and feeding, there are also a few other things that it is a good idea to do during the Cyclamen’s dormant period. It is a good idea to move the pot into a cool and dry location, where it can be left undisturbed for the next few months.
The plant will look completely dead, and unfortunately, many plants will be discarded at this stage. But you should keep hold of the plant as it can burst back into new growth in September once you have repotted it and given it a good soak.
Cyclamen that is grown as houseplants can encounter some problems, not only with the environmental conditions or care, but also with common pests like vine weevils, and with diseases like cyclamen grey mold and black root rot.
Of course, keeping your plants as happy and healthy as possible can reduce the chances of a serious pest or disease problem taking hold.
As well as growing these plants from the tubers, Cyclamen persicum can also be grown from seed. The seed should be sown as soon as it is ripe.
It can be beneficial to soak the seeds before sowing them for around 10 hours or so. For germination, a heated propagator can be useful but is not essential as temperatures should be kept between 12 and 15 degrees Celsius. Darkness is needed for the seeds to germinate successfully.