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Plant of the Week: Cyclamen

Cyclamen persicum

Plant of the Week: Cyclamen

Cyclamen plants show up at retail nurseries around Christmas every year. They make a perfect gift for those gardeners and plant lovers in your life when paired with a festive holiday pot. Like Poinsettias, their colors and bloom time naturally lend this plant to the Holiday Season. Cyclamen are beautiful little pot plants inside the home or out in a courtyard as a table accent. Here is how to care for these plants during, as well as after, blooming has completed.

Plant Characteristics: The cyclamen you find in local nurseries here are florist cyclamen. They are corms, a bulb-like root structure that actively begins to grow in September and goes dormant by March or April. The foliage is heart-shaped and is either pure green or green with mottled, silvery variegation. The delicate blooms will vary in style and color and the plants will bloom for up to 2 months. They can be fringed or ruffled and come in shades of red, pink and white. Cyclamen have a mounding growth habit, reaching only 8 or so tall. This plant is listed as mildly toxic to dogs and cats. http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/cyclamen

Plant Care: Cyclamen are temperature driven plants by nature, originating in the Mediterranean. While they enjoy cooler weather, they should be brought inside when temperatures drop below 40 degrees. They like a well-drained soil that can still retain some moisture. They enjoy bright, indirect light so a room with windows facing west is ideal, though not necessary. The soil should be kept moist but not saturated while growing.

When watering your Cyclamen, do not water over the top of the foliage but rather let them drink from the bottom. What I mean by this is to place the pot in a shallow tray of water, letting the soil pull the water up like a wick. This will prevent the bulb from rotting and the foliage from becoming discolored. You can remove spent blooms if desired by cutting the stem at the base where it meets the soil.

Fertilizing Cyclamen once a month is sufficient while the plant is blooming. For easy mixing instructions, you can make a gallon of fertilizer-water mixture, pour a little in the tray you water the Cyclamen with, and use the rest on other cold weather blooming plants like Roses or Camellias. This way, your fertilizer won’t go to waste.

Uses: The most common use of Cyclamen is as a gift for loved ones during the Christmas season. We usually treat them as annuals, discarding them once the blooms are spent, though the corms (bulbs) can be removed from the pot and saved once the plant goes dormant, then grown again the next season. They can be added to your Christmas dinner table for some festive color.

When I feel stumped on what to get for that “has everything” or hard to shop for loved ones, I have found that a plant, of all things, is both appreciated and rarely expected. Though often overlooked amongst all those Poinsettias out there, Cyclamen offer the same holiday flair when gifted, making these plants more memorable in many ways. Give something a little different this year and enjoy the surprised smile that results from the gift of a plant.