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Last Update 06/03/08
Plant of the Month


Alpine Violet, Persian Violet, Sowbread

Cyclamen are a genus of plants containing 20 species, which are part of the family of Primulaceae, the Primrose family.

In the wild, their distribution is centered on the Mediterranean, being natives of parts of Europe, western Asia and parts of North Africa.Christmas Cyclamen

They are tuberous plants and have no obvious affinity with Primroses, although they do resemble the North American Dodecatheon in having reflexed petals. Their habitats range from Fagus (Beech) woodland, through scrub and rocky areas, to alpine meadows where they flower in snow meltwater. In cultivation, there are some species which are definitely hardy, some which are borderline, and a few species which will not tolerate any frost.

The genus is notable for the fact that although it is small, there are species which flower in every month of the year. The genus also provides florists plants in the form of cultivars based on Cyclamen persicum. These are generally winter and spring flowering plants which are available in a wide range of colours.

CyclamenIndoor Cyclamen Plants ~

Blooming Period ~ Cyclamen are traditionally sold during the Christmas season and into the winter as a florist plant. Most will bloom from mid-November until mid February, provided conditions are satisfactory.

Colors ~ Most of the blooms are either white, red, pink or lavender and appear to hang upside down over the heart-shaped mottled green/gray foliage.

Light ~ Cyclamen prefer bright indirect light. An east window will provide adequate light for your cyclamen to stay healthy.

Temperature ~ Cyclamen prefer cool temperatures. Ideal daytime temperatures are 60 to 65 degrees F. with night temperatures around 50 degrees F.

Humidity ~ High humidity during the winter indoors is also crucial. To maintain humidity, fill a large plate, shallow pan or tray with water. Set the cyclamen on an inverted dish, just out of the water. Pebbles could be placed in the plate, pan or tray with the pot setting on the pebbles.Cyclamen

Water ~ Plants prefer to be kept moist. Water at the soil level but keep moisture away from the area on the tuber where the leaf and flower stems grow. If that gets wet, the plant may rot. Most are planted in a peat moss soil that dries quickly. Plants can wilt quickly. Make sure pots have drainage holes. Repot if drainage holes are not present. One signal to watch for is the leaves, which are normally firm and erect, with almost crunchy feeling if you brush through them with your hand. When the plant needs water, the leaves feel softer.

Dormant Stage ~ In late winter the cyclamens stop blooming and the leaves turn yellow as the plants go dormant. Cyclamens may be set outdoors in part sun for the summer, fed and watered regularly, then brought back inside in September. They'll usually start forming new leaves and flower buds again soon. Another option after flowers start fading, is to gradually withhold water. When the foliage is withered, remove the "bulb" (actually a tuber) from the soil, clean off all soil from it and store it in unmoistened peat moss or vermiculite in a plastic bag at 50 degrees F. Replant in good potting soil in May or June, keeping the upper half of the tuber above the surface. Pot in a mixture of 2 parts peat moss to 1 part packaged potting soil and 1 part sharp sand or perlite, with ground limestone added at a rate of 3 to 5 ounces per bushel.

Fertilizer ~ Feed about twice a month with a complete liquid fertilizer.

Miniature Cyclamens ~ Beginners should try miniature cyclamens, which bloom longer and are sometimes fragrant. The minis also tend to be a bit more heat tolerant than larger cyclamens.

Air Circulation ~ Good air circulation around the pots will reduce the chance of disease. They can stay in the same container until, when lifted gently, roots are obviously crowded; then it's time to transplant them to a larger container.

Grooming ~ There's a right way to groom old flower stems and leaves. With one hand, steady the plant at soil level. With the other, reach in and pull off the aging stem with a snap.

Transplanting ~ The best time to transplant is when the cyclamen is dormant. Ideally, you should wait until the plant starts to move, and then repot. Assuming the leaves die off and it goes dormant in April, then if you repot in July you should find that the roots have just started to produce a few new shoots, although there is no evidence of growth above the compost. The only downside to this is that if you pot it into moist compost then it may start the plant into growth before you really want it to.

Cyclamens in Outside Gardens ~

Climate Zones ~ Most small-flowered cyclamens are suited for outdoor gardens in Zones 5 to 9. Zone 10 is too hot for them, and Zone 4 is generally too cold, although some gardeners grow them by covering the beds with a winter mulch such as salt hay or wood chips. See the Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

Bloom Periods ~ Cyclamens are native to the islands and shores of the Mediterranean. In this country they blossom, according to their species, in spring or fall. In Zone 9 spring-flowering species come into bloom from January through March, elsewhere they open in April and May. Fall-flowering species bloom for four to six weeks, beginning as early as August in warmer areas and lasting into October in cooler regions. Flowers of every species bloom for many weeks. Most species lose their foliage for a brief period each year, usually in midsummer.

Small Flowered Cyclamen ~ The small-flowered cyclamens are best grown where they can be enjoyed close at hand, beneath the shade of a tree sheltering an intimate entrance garden or in a protected nook beside a favorite chair on a patio.

Light ~ All small-flowered cyclamens do best in light shade in soil enriched with compost. An annual spring mulch of about 1/2 inch of compost gives enough nourishment. Plant the tubers in midsummer, spacing them 6 to 8 inches apart. Cover the tubers of Neapolitan cyclamens with 2 inches of soil; set the tubers of others just beneath the soil.

Planting ~ Florists' cyclamens can be planted in fall in Zones 9-10 for winter and spring bloom. Set growing plants 12 to 18 inches apart with the tubers half above the soil level. Discard after flowering.

Seeds ~ Cyclamens may be propagated from seeds, which usually take about two years to reach flowering size. The large-flowered cyclamens, with bright 2 to 4 inch blossoms are well known to most gardeners, but not everyone is as familiar with the charming little wild species of cyclamens that may be grown in gardens throughout most of the country. Compared to their hot-house sisters, these species could be called miniatures because they grow only 4 to 5 inches tall, bearing 3/4 to 1 inch butterfly like flowers in shades of pink or white.

Vegetative Reproduction ~ Cyclamen are plants which spend part of the year in growth, and part of the year in a dormant state, during which there is no living foliage, although some species fruiting pedicels may remain in a vegetative state as the seed matures. During this dormant period the plant remains in the form of a subterranean tuber, which is in fact a swollen root. As a tuber, the possibilities for corms or bulbs do not exist, however, as in the case of a common potato (which is a similar organism), the tuber can be divided provided each portion has both a growth eye and part of the rooting region of the tuber.


Fernlea is an owner-operated North American grower and supplier of high quality garden and potted plants.

Born in 1939 as a family run operation, Fernlea has grown to become one of the largest suppliers of garden plants in North America. Founded by Lloyd and Mary Veit, it continues as a family operation with the current owners Joe and Virginia Howe. In addition to supplying bedding plants, we offer other popular specialties such as Poinsettias, Christmas Cactus, Cyclamen, Fall Pansies, Easter Lilies and Boston Fern Hangers.

United States Locations: Tallahassee, Apopka and Stuart in the state of Florida. Look for Fernlea products in your favorite garden center.

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