Cyclamen are tuberous-rooted perennials grown for their beautiful flowers that resemble shooting stars.
They’re native to the Middle East, Cypress, and Crete. They have a common name of “Sow Bread” because pigs eat the big roots. Their tubers contain “cyclamin,” which is harmless to pigs but can cause gastritis and nervous tension when ingested by humans.
Roasting destroys the toxicity of cyclamen. In ancient times, tubers were roasted, beaten, and made into small cakes, said to be an aphrodisiac. Much of the folklore about cyclamen refers to love and conception. The plant was considered so potent that it was dangerous for a pregnant woman to even step on it.
Cyclamen supposedly could also:
- Heal snake bites
- Ward off magic spells
- Influence affairs of the heart
- Bring good luck
Cyclamen persicum is the wild ancestor of the florist cyclamen. The name “cyclamen” comes from “kuklos,” meaning circle. We think this name comes from the spiraling action of the seed capsule stem to the ground.
The original species has pale to pink or white 2-inch fragrant flowers on 6-inch stems. Selective breeding has given us large flowers which have lost their fragrance.
Today’s cyclamen bloom in late fall to spring in many colors: crimson, red, rose pink, salmon, purples, and white. The flowers are usually large, uniform, 3 to 4 inches, borne on 6 to 8-inch stems above kidney-shaped, dark green leaves.
Some varieties have silvery marbling on their leaves. Cyclamen have a firm, upright habit and are quite vigorous.
Dwarf or mini cyclamen are popular because their 1/2 to 3/4 size makes them perfect for smaller gardens or window sills.
Tips for Growing Cylamen
Plant cyclamen outdoors in southern areas as a fall and winter bedding plant.
Cyclamen is an excellent choice to replace caladiums or impatiens in shady, moist spots. They prefer rich, porous soil with lots of humus.
Cyclamen are hardy to 20 degrees F. Plants will lose their leaves and go dormant in hot weather but may survive if drainage is good and the soil isn’t waterlogged or too dry.
Fertilize cyclamen every 3 to 4 weeks with blooming plant fertilizer.
FAQ: Cyclamen Care
Q: How often should I water my cyclamen?
A: Water cyclamen plants thoroughly when the soil feels dry to the touch, ensuring you don’t waterlog the soil, as this can lead to root rot.
Q: Can cyclamen plants tolerate direct sunlight?
A: Cyclamen prefer indirect or filtered light; direct sunlight, especially during the hotter parts of the day, can be harmful to the plants.
Q: When is the best time to plant cyclamen bulbs?
A: Plant cyclamen tubers in late summer, before the fall blooming season, when temperatures cool.
Q: What should I do with my cyclamen after it has finished blooming?
A: After blooming, cyclamen go dormant. Reduce watering and allow the leaves to yellow and die before removing them. Move the plant to a cooler, shaded area until new growth begins.
Q: Are there any common pests I should watch for on my cyclamen plants?
A: Cyclamen are relatively resistant to pests, but keep an eye out for common insects like aphids and spider mites, which might be attracted to the plants.
Q: How can I encourage my cyclamen to bloom?
A: Keep the plant in a cooler environment with temperatures between 50-65 degrees F and follow a regular fertilization schedule with a blooming plant fertilizer.
Q: Can cyclamen survive an indoor environment during their blooming period?
A: Yes, cyclamen can thrive indoors during their blooming period if they have sufficient light and are kept in a cool room away from direct heat sources.
Q: How can I propagate cyclamen plants?
A: Cyclamen can be propagated by seed or division of the tubers during their dormant period after the foliage has died.
Q9: What are the signs that my cyclamen is unhealthy?
A: Yellowing leaves, wilting, or mold on the soil indicate that cyclamen may be overwatered, underfed, or exposed to incorrect temperatures.
Q: Can cyclamen withstand frost?
A: Cyclamen aren’t frost-tolerant. If grown in areas with frost risk, they should be protected or brought indoors to prevent damage.