By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Although there are more than 20 species of cyclamen, florist’s cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) is the most familiar, typically given as gifts to brighten up the indoor environment during late winter’s gloom. This little charmer is especially popular around Christmas and Valentine’s Day, but what about caring for cyclamen after flowering? If you’ve been wondering how to treat cyclamen after blooming, read on to learn how to do just that!
What to do with a cyclamen after flowering? Often, florist’s cyclamen is considered a seasonal gift. It can be difficult to get a cyclamen to rebloom, so the plant is frequently discarded after it has lost its beauty.
Although keeping cyclamens after blooms fade is a bit of a challenge, it’s definitely possible. Proper light and temperature are the keys to caring for cyclamen after flowering.
It’s normal for cyclamen to lose its leaves and go dormant after flowering. The plant requires a period of dormancy during the summer so the tuberous root has time to re-energize for the coming blooming season. Here are the steps:
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Read more about Cyclamen Plants
Is your Christmas cyclamen looking as tired as holiday decorations do in January? Learn how to keep it vibrant throughout the winter.
Cyclamens don’t seem to be such popular Christmas plants as they once were. I didn't see their swept-up bouffants or silver-etched, heart-shaped foliage at our local department stores in December anyway. But I’m guessing they will cycle back into favor again eventually!
When they were more widely available during the holiday season, I learned that the best way to preserve one was by keeping it at cool temperatures (between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit) for as long as possible. The cyclamen, after all, has a different growth cycle than most plants. The Persian type, from which the florists’ cultivars derive, originated in the Mediterranean area. There, it generally sprouts in fall, blooms during winter, and dies back to remain dormant during the heat of summer.
So, if you live in a house such as mine, where a family member likes to keep the temperature cranked up to almost 80 degrees, your cyclamen may decide to take its long summer’s nap while winter still whitens the landscape just outside the window. Therefore, I learned that I should stash the plant in a chilly back room under a fluorescent grow light.
You, too, will want to find a cool but not drafty spot to keep it, where it still will get plenty of bright indirect light or a couple hours per day of direct sunlight. When you water the plant, aim the stream at the soil and avoid splashing the corm—the bulb-like protuberance beneath the plant from which the foliage sprouts. Its crown should sit a little higher than the soil around it.
That corm actually is a pudgy stem of sorts. But, if it rots, your cyclamen will be no more. The soil should stay lightly moist at all times, though, since the foliage will wilt in dramatic fashion if the plant's potting medium becomes parched. In that case, too, it may assume that the summer dry season has arrived and refuse to rouse from its swoon. As long as the corm still feels firm, the plant is not dead—just sleeping.
In The Unexpected Houseplant Tovah Martin notes that “Too little water and a cyclamen faints. Too much water, and it dies. It’s a balancing act.” She recommends growing the plant in a clay pot rather than a plastic one to prevent sogginess.
Once my cyclamen’s foliage began to yellow and shrivel in late spring, I would place its pot on a covered porch with other houseplants, tipped over to remind me not to water it. In late summer, it would start making new growth from the corm again, at which time I could set it upright and resume the watering.
That would be the time to repot your cyclamen if you think it needs a change of soil. I can’t now remember how long I succeeded in keeping the plant going that way, but I’m sure I did get at least one additional season of bloom out of it.
As 19th century poet Robert Fuller Murray noted in his poem “Cyclamen,” the plant's care can be almost as tricky as keeping a difficult relationship between humans alive. But sometimes the plant and/or the relationship are worth the effort!
Photos: The photos included in the article are my own.
Last Updated: March 29, 2019 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Lauren Kurtz. Lauren Kurtz is a Naturalist and Horticultural Specialist. Lauren has worked for Aurora, Colorado managing the Water-Wise Garden at Aurora Municipal Center for the Water Conservation Department. She earned a BA in Environmental and Sustainability Studies from Western Michigan University in 2014.
There are 25 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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Cyclamen plants are known for their attractive and sweet-smelling heart-shaped blooms. They are also known for being a bit temperamental! However, as long as you meet their particular requirements, cyclamen are pretty easy to maintain. Because they prefer cooler temperatures, most people find them easiest to grow indoors. However, planting them in the garden is an option as long as your local climate and garden conditions can provide or mimic their ideal environment. If you want to grow them from seeds, start the seeds indoors. Your cyclamen will produce lovely blooms throughout the winter while the rest of your garden lies dormant.
This perennial cyclamen is very hardy so it's perfect for landscapes in the colder regions of the country.
After the holidays, cyclamens need a location with bright, indirect light and cool temperatures. They prefer high humidity, so try grouping them with other plants, or place them in a saucer filled with pebbles and a little water. (Just don't let the roots touch the water, which can cause rotting.) When the flowers finish, the plants will go dormant. Stop watering then and wait until new leaves emerge in fall before you water again. This cyclamen is 'Dixie Pink'.
Photo by: National Garden Bureau
If you're looking for a few good plants for the garden, why not try cyclamen? According to expert Hans Gerritsen, the perfect cyclamen flower features four petals up and one petal down and looks something like this.
Cyclamen are native to the eastern Mediterranean, so spring's cool temperatures bring out their blooms. After the flowers fade, their leaves turn yellow and the plants go dormant. That's when many of us, thinking they're dead, throw our plants away. The tubers are actually just "resting," and need only enough water to keep from completely drying out until new leaves emerge in the fall. They tolerate sun or partial shade, but need protection from hot sun in the afternoons. This variety, ‘Victoria Deco Mix’ is from the Metis mini series and has dark green leaves marbled with silver, a sweet fragrance and unusual crowned flowers. Growers say this cyclamen, which is hardy in zones 5-9, is more vigorous in winter than other types.
Photo by: Ball Horticultural Company
Ball Horticultural Company
They look delicate, but cool-weather cyclamen are actually tough soldiers on the planting fields. They spend part of the year in dormancy, and when conditions are right, they stand at attention. "If you have night temperatures that drop almost to freezing, the cyclamen will still survive," he says. In fact, perennial cyclamen are very hardy and are perfect for landscapes in the colder regions of the country.
The hardiest varieties are smaller than the standard-sized floral cyclamen, but if you're looking for a happy medium, mid-sized cyclamen fit the bill. "For the home gardener, I recommend planting a mid-sized to smaller one right into the soil," says Gerritsen, who suggests planting the larger type in a patio planter or deck setting. Many mid-sized cyclamen also have fragrance.
From flame-like blooms and fringed edges to ruffles, other novelties are being devised by breeders for adventurous gardeners. The latest trend is eight petals up, two petals down. "You've seen the single-flowering type now we're looking at the double-flowering type" says Gerritsen. "The double-flowering type is not really something you see every day."
Most folks buy their cyclamen already in bloom, largely because growing from seed is so time-consuming. For the few, however, the challenge to grow from seed is like a call to duty. According to Gerritsen, the key is to plant the seeds in loose, well-draining soil. He also uses a dusting of vermiculite on top of the soil to cover and hold the seed in place. After the seed is planted and covered, water it well so it's nice and moist. He puts it in a germination chamber, a dark room where the temperature is roughly 58 to 60 degrees. After three weeks in a dark closet at home and five weeks in filtered light, the seedling will look like this. After 16 weeks, you can see the tuber and leaves forming. Two weeks later, there are a few more leaves. But if you're willing to wait seven to nine months, the results are sensational.
The drill to keeping cyclamen looking good is much quicker. "If a flower is really over the hill, you twist the stem a little bit and pull," says Gerritsen. "The trick is really twisting the stem and pulling it. That's how you clean a cyclamen. Then you have a gorgeous plant again."
Three things will hurt cyclamen: over-watering, heat and extreme light. If you place a potted cyclamen in bright sunlight or in very dark conditions, the plant will not do well. Perhaps the biggest complaint of cyclamen raised as houseplants is their seemingly untimely demise. Remember, these are cool-weather plants. If they wind up in too warm of a place, they may go dormant. Find the chilliest room in the house, and that will make a happy home for your cyclamen. Then, water only as needed. "If you water it once a week, soak it heavily and then you're in good shape," says Gerritsen. "Almost let it dry out."
When the plants die back in the summer, you can stop watering altogether. Move the plants to a cool place under a tree or onto a porch while the flowers go on furlough. Most cyclamen are perennials because they develop a tuber. So the tuber, if placed in the right location, will come back year after year. And to give you an idea of the longevity of this plant, the tubers can live up to a century.
Don’t overwater your cyclamen. Yellowing leaves are a sure sign that you are drowning your plant. Unlike others, it cannot stand too much watering.
You should water the soil directly, being careful not to get any on the leaves. After, be sure to empty the water that collects in the drip tray. Any resting water in this vicinity will rot the roots.
Cyclamens are cheap and widely available all year round. You can find them in most garden centers at very reasonable prices.
Their flowering season makes them ideal for the holidays, when color, ease, and value are appreciated more than ever!
The best time to buy cyclamens if you want longevity is during the fall. Selecting plants with some unopened buds will give you the longest-lasting blooms. Look for vigorous plants with firm stems and green foliage. Avoid plants showing signs of distress such as yellowing, discoloring to the leaves or drooping flowers.
Since they are winter blooming plants, you probably won’t be able to find cyclamen for sale during the summer.
But it’s usually easy to find them at your local garden center during the colder months, especially around the holidays.
Otherwise you can buy one online, or order the seeds if you want to try your hand at growing them that way.
With proper cyclamen plant care, these beauties will bloom year after year around Christmas time. Now that you know how to care for cyclamen indoors, you’ll be able to enjoy the flowers for many years to come.
If you struggle with indoor plant care and keeping your houseplants thriving through the cold winter months, then my Winter Houseplant Care eBook is perfect for you! It will show you exactly how to care for your houseplants through the long winter months. Buy your copy today!
Share you cyclamen care tips in the comments below.
I live and garden in Minneapolis, MN (zone 4b). My green thumb comes from my parents, and I've been gardening most of my life. IвЂ™m a passionate gardener who loves growing everything from vegetables, herbs, and flowers to succulents, tropicals, and houseplants - you name, I've grown it! Read More.
I have a cyclamen plant with beautiful leaves but no flowers….what am I doing wrong?
Cyclamen plants need a period of dormancy during the summer in order to rebloom. Check out the section above titled “Cyclamen Flowering Season & Dormancy” for details and the steps for reblooming.
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