The abrupt shift from colorful fall foliage and brilliant blue skies
to bare branches and slate gray clouds can wear on gardeners and
non-gardeners alike. One of the bright spots of the late fall and
winter season are live plants, which can bring a burst of color and
life to a time when the outside world is going dormant.
may be the quintessential Christmas plant, but
are a terrific alternative.
Florist cyclamen feature heart-shaped green leaves overlaid with
lacy patterns of gray and white. The foliage alone makes them an
appealing choice as a winter houseplant. The flowers are held
gracefully above the foliage and come in shades of white, pink,
red and purple. The petals of cyclamen are reflexed, or swept
back, from the contrasting center, or eye, of the flower.
Mass planting of Cyclamen
Some cultivars sport petals that are fringed or ruffled. While
poinsettias evoke a traditional Christmas vibe, cyclamen are an
elegant option less closely aligned with a specific holiday or
The plants you find at this time of year are most likely hybrids
of Cyclamen persicum, native to the Mediterranean. Cyclamen are
tubers, a type of geophyte or underground storage unit, part of
a group of plants that also includes bulbs and corms. Cyclamen
tubers are planted close to the surface of the soil, and if
their growing needs are met, they will bloom indoors for months.
Selecting a plant
When selecting a plant, look for healthy green foliage with no
signs of yellowing. Push the foliage away to inspect the point
where the flower stems are emerging from the soil. There should
be ample buds visible at various stages of development, ensuring
that you will have a long period of bloom.
Cyclamen, above all other cultural requirements, need
temperatures of 55-68 degrees to thrive. If your thermostat is
consistently set above 72 degrees, cyclamen will struggle in
your home. Cyclamen have bloomed for two to three months in my
home at 67-69 degrees. Some in my family would love a warmer
house, but I have my priorities! If you’re really serious about
coddling your cyclamen, you can further decrease the
temperatures in your home at night. Turn the temperature down to
65 degrees or lower and throw an extra blanket on your bed.
Beyond the temperature, cyclamen like bright light, near a
window if possible. Many sources recommend keeping them out of
direct sunlight, but in Pittsburgh I have had success on a
windowsill with western exposure. Perhaps that is a reflection
of the fewer clear sunny days in our area.
Cyclamen require a nice deep watering when the surface soil is
dry. Be sure to allow the water to run out of the bottom of the
pot. Cyclamen are forgiving plants; I have been late to water at
times and noticed the stems of the flowers lying limply on the
top of the leaves, but they have perked up immediately after
Pinch or cut off spent flowers and yellow leaves at the soil
level when watering. I also provide a half-strength dose of
water-soluble fertilizer every three to four weeks while the
plant is in bloom.
the cyclamen approaches dormancy, usually during summer months,
you will notice reduced flowering and more yellowing of the
leaves. Stop fertilizing at this time. Plants in cooler
environments will stay green longer, but cyclamen, like most
geophytes, are programmed to go dormant once their main flush of
White Cyclamen with blue Pansies
Many gardeners will discard their cyclamen after enjoying the
months of bloom. If you’re a thrifty gardener or enjoy seeing
plants come back to life after dormancy, you can move your plant
into a less prominent spot and allow it to rest. Water sparingly
during the dormant period. When the soil is pulling away from
the sides of the pot, give the plant a good drink.
Once the plant is fully dormant, re-pot it into a slightly
larger container. When new growth appears, care for the plant as
you did during its active growing period.
Sedums are perfect for