When to plant cyclamen?

Growing Hardy Cyclamen Outdoors: Hardy Cyclamen Care In The Garden

By Mary Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Cyclamen need not only be enjoyed in the home. Hardy cyclamen lights up the garden with showy mounds of silvery-white foliage and heart-shaped leaves that appear in autumn and last until the plant goes dormant in late spring. Deep rose-pink blooms appear in late winter and early spring. Fall-blooming varieties are also available.

Although this woodland plant looks delicate, hardy cyclamen is vigorous and easy to grow. The plant pairs well with other small woodland plants such as hellebores, ajuga, or trillium. Hardy cyclamen tops out at 3 to 6 inches (7.5-15 cm.).

Planting Hardy Cyclamen Bulbs Outdoors

Growing hardy cyclamen outdoors is simple as long as you follow a few general guidelines. Hardy cyclamen is difficult to propagate from seed, but you can plant bulbs, or tubers, in late summer or early autumn. Plant the tubers with the top of the tuber just below the surface of the soil. Allow 6 to 10 inches (15-25.5 cm.) between each tuber.

Unlike florist’s cyclamen that grows outdoors only in warm climates, hardy cyclamen tolerates cold climates and freezing winters. However, this cool climate plant doesn’t survive where summers are hot and dry.

Hardy cyclamen grows in nearly any type of loose, well-drained soil. Dig a few inches of mulch, compost, or other organic matter into the soil before planting, especially if your soil is clay-based or sandy.

Hardy Cyclamen Care

Care of hardy cyclamen is simple and the plants require minimal maintenance to look their best. Water the plant regularly during spring and summer but don’t overwater because the tubers may rot in waterlogged soil.

Brush excessive leaves and debris from the plant in autumn. Although a light layer of mulch or leaves protects the roots from the winter cold, too much cover prevents the plants from getting light.

Divide tubers in late summer, but don’t disturb old, well-established tubers, which can grow to the size of a plate and produce hundreds of blooms every year. One tuber can sometimes live for several generations.

Find out more about cyclamen

Example of an easy recipe for colourful window-boxes

Ingredients :
a window-box, a bag of compost for balcony plants, a bag of clay pebbles,
felt for drainage.

Preparation time: 20 mins.

Enjoyment: long hassle-free months of flowers.

1. Clean your flower-box if it has already been used and place a shard of clay on the escape holes to prevent obstruction. Arrange a layer of clay pebbles on the bottom a few centimetres deep and cover it with drainage felt. Add good “Special balcony” compost with a handful of slow release fertiliser.

2. Soak your cyclamen for a few minutes in water, before gently taking them out of their pot. Lots of white roots indicate good health.

3. Make up your planter: in front, plants with a hanging habit; in the middle, your cyclamen and the tallest plants at the back. Let your ideas guide you and blend colours, shapes and textures.

4. All you have to do is add potting soil, leaving 3 cm from the edge so that the water doesn’t spill over and gently pat down. Lightly water several times on the first day.

How to grow cyclamen indoors

1. Most often grown in pots indoors, cyclamen like plenty of natural light. Put in a well-lit, cool but draught- free spot – preferably with an hour or two of sunlight each morning, although no strong sunlight. This also applies to plants on patios, decks and verandahs.

2. They are sensitive to rot, so the aim is to wet the soil, not the flowers or foliage. There are two ways of doing this: either water carefully with a long- spout watering can or when required, place the pot on a saucer and let it soak the water up from the base. Do not over-water as they often3benefit from a short dry spell.

3. The plants dislike being in hot, stuffy rooms, so take your indoor cyclamen outside at night 4to a well-ventilated area.

4. During summer, most species are dormant. To keep your potted plants for next year, move them outside to a shady spot in the garden with the pots placed on their sides to avoid rot. When they start to show signs of new growth in late summer you can5replant them into new pots.

5. Cyclamen don’t require a lot of feeding but to keep them flowering for as long as possible, give them an occasional feed with a soluble fertiliser such as Thrive Flower & Fruit.

Planting depth is critical. Eventually the corms will sit on or fractionally below the surface but when planting new ones it is best to bury them ever so slightly under the surface of the soil. They root better this way and when ready, they will work their way up to the level that feels most comfortable for them. Now when I say ever so slightly, that is exactly what I mean – no more than half an inch or the flower stems may rot off.

Space the plants about a foot apart (nine inches if you are feeling extravagant and want a brilliant show) and before you plant, work in as much well-rooted leaf mould or multipurpose compost as you can. Hardy cyclamen really love earth that is organically enriched – but not with farmyard manure which can be too rich for their modest appetites.

What you can also do is mulch around the plants with chipped bark for as well as suppressing weeds and keeping in moisture it will act as the perfect seedbed. When the flowers fade and spiral their seed heads down into the soil, they will have cool crevices in which the seeds will happily germinate.

At frst you’ll notice a rash of small leaves but over the years they will increase in size – and so will the corms at their base. It will not be long before your plantation increases in size and adds to its spectacle, cheering you up each autumn with a rug of colour.

Don’t miss Alan’s gardening column today and every day in the Daily Express. For more information on his range of gardening products, visit www.alantitchmarsh.com.

Plottings: Your Garden Now

Cyclamen indoors and out

The first cyclamen of the season arrive in August, and by September we will have plenty of different ones in stock. We are often asked about hardiness and the easiest way to know if a cyclamen is hardy is simply, the bigger and showier the flowers, the less likely it is to be suitable for outdoors all year round.

Cyclamen Hederifolium and c. Coum. are both wonderful hardy ground cover varieties, both with RHS AGM awards. They are ideal for naturalising in a shady border, on banks or under trees, and of course for your winter planters. Hederifolium reaches us in late August, in shades of pink and white, with marbled foliage. It flowers for long periods and, if you are lucky, it will self-seed.

Cyclamen Coum, with its pink flowers and dark green kidney-shaped leaves is later, flowering normally from January-March. However this can vary and it has been know for us to have them in, and in flower, as early as October.

Tips on growing hardy cyclamen
Don’t plant too deep, they don’t like it! They appreciate partial shade and fairly well-drained, reasonably fertile soil. Mulch once a year with leaf mould – or bark chips are good in frost prone areas.

What to do with your indoor, potted cyclamen
Cyclamen make lovely winter houseplants. Removing stems once each flower has finished will keep them producing more over a long period. However, you then have the question of what to do with it for the rest of the year. The best plan is to simply allow it to dry out completely in Spring and pop it in a cool dark, dry place such as a shed. There it will sleep until August, when its roots start to develop again and you should repot it if necessary. Give it a little water if potting on and, in September start watering regularly and leaves should appear; with luck you will have flowers by Christmas.

Caring for indoor Cyclamen

The small-flowered varieties of Cyclamen persicum (or so called ‘florist’s’ forms) come in white, crimson or magenta and are in a different league to the large-flowered, large-leaved brigade, which feel rubbery, overfed and coarse in comparison.

The scale of the mini ones feels right at this time of year and fits with their hardy cousins, Cyclamen coum, as well as snowdrops and aconites beginning to poke their way up into flower in the garden.

Displaying indoor cyclamen

  • Don’t just buy and plonk your indoor cyclamen – they’re worth the effort of a bit of doctoring. The plastic pots they come in don’t do these winter-flowering tubers justice, so plant them up in a brightly coloured bowl or something sparkly and shiny.
  • Try not to disturb the roots – you’re doing this for aesthetic reasons only – planting them into a loam-based compost with added grit and a handful of peat.
  • You can use a soil-less compost, but it makes watering more difficult, especially at the end of the dormant period when you want it to take up moisture again.
  • Gently firm the roots into the new pot or bowl and cover the compost with dried leaves or an emerald-green cushion of bun moss.That’s how they’d look in the wild and it’s always a good aim with houseplants to recreate this as closely as possible.
  • Then spread the flowers out from the base. They tend to clump together, but teased out gently and evenly between the leaves, the flowers look lighter and more elegant.

Cyclamen care

  • One of the great things about indoor cyclamen is if (like me), you are a bit hit and miss with your house plant care, they are pretty easy and reliable, looking good for six to eight weeks in our cold house.
  • They’re happy at room temperature (about 55F/13C), but shouldn’t get too hot. Find them a light position, without too much direct sunlight.
  • In the wild, Cyclamen persicum grows in deciduous woods, or you might find it more out in the open, with its tuber hidden under rocks and just the leaves and flowers poking into the light.
  • Too much heat in a sunny window will encourage early dormancy, while growing in light, but cool conditions may see them continue to flower into mid-May.
  • I have mine on east and north-facing window ledges, bringing them out more prominently onto our main dining table as and when I want them, but putting them back in between times.
  • Cyclamen don’t like freezing temperatures (don’t let them fall below 50F/10C), so on frosty nights I try to remember to bring them into the room.
  • As far as watering goes, they don’t like much – the worst thing is a constant dribble of water. Keep them moist, but not dripping wet.
  • Once a week I sit the pots in a tray of half an inch of water and leave them overnight. Then the whole root ball gets a good drink and the compost rehydrates. I then drain them and leave them for another week or so without water.
  • If water collects in the base of the saucer or pot-holder, tip it out and don’t water again until the compost feels fairly dry. Dead head and remove any dead or dying leaves with a sharp tug to the stem.

Follow the life cycle

Cyclamen persicum are Mediterranean and follow the common pattern of coming into growth in the autumn, growing through the winter and spring and then going dormant while there is no rain and intense sun in the summer.

To help recreate conditions as similar as possible to their native environment, stop watering when they stop flowering and let the leaves go yellow and wither.

This is usually in April, but could be a few weeks later. Then put them somewhere cool and dry (but not totally dry as the compost is then tricky to rehydrate), for the summer.

If you keep them too moist in the dormant months, you may lose your tuber to rot. While plants are dormant, repot them into a slightly larger pot, teasing out the roots.

You can store them outside in the summer, but Cyclamen persicum are not hardy, so bring them into the house again before the frosts begin.

In September (or when you see regrowth), start watering again. Soak the pot well. If no growth shows when you water it, wait for shoots to appear before watering again.

In the right cool place with gentle watering, they should be in flower again soon after Christmas and will get bigger and better each year.

Small-flowered indoor Cyclamen persicum varieties have now made me realise I don’t have nearly enough of the hardy garden Cyclamen coum at Perch Hill for this time of year.

This looks best in carpets as big as you can throw them, almost as lovely in leaf through the autumn as it is in flower now.

My favourites are the deepest magenta colour forms which look good growing outside or arranged inside in a small glass with snowdrops or a few early primroses.

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