How to Care for Cyclamen Plants

A Flowering Houseplant That Requires Very Little Care

High Angle View Of White Cyclamen Flowers Growing In Wooden Box
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Flowering Cyclamen plants start showing up for sale as houseplants around winter holiday season. With flowers in shades of pink, red, or white, you can find them blooming on shelves in garden centers and even grocery stores. Even the foliage is attractive, often having silver marbling on the top sides of the leaves. The entire plant, when in flower, reaches only about 8 inches high. Cyclamen make excellent houseplants, blooming for weeks and requiring very little care.

Cyclamen is a small but diverse genus of plants. Many species are hardy, generally in USDA Hardiness Zones 7 and above. But the one we are talking about here, Cyclamen persicum, is often seen for sale throughout the fall and winter, in less hardy zones, as a houseplant. Cyclamen persicum aptly referred to as the Florist’s Cyclamen has sweet-scented small (½ to 3/4 inch) flowers that are produced on long stems, held upright above the foliage. It is a tuberous perennial with heart-shaped leaves common to cyclamen.

Florist cyclamen can be grown outside, but it is questionable whether it will survive if temps go below 50 degrees F. / 10 degrees C. It is a native of the Mediterranean and North Africa. When grown outside, expect Cyclamen persicum to bloom in late winter or early spring. Greenhouse cyclamen are usually forced into bloom sometime around the holiday season into late winter, but that is not their natural bloom period.

A word of caution, although festive and lovely, they can cause digestive problems for pets that like to munch on plants. Keep them out of reach of dogs and cats.

Care for Indoor Cyclamen Plants

Potting Soil: Cyclamen persicum does best when planted in a soilless-based potting mix, with the top of the tuber just slightly above the soil line.

Watering Schedule:

  • When leaves are present, the plant is actively growing. Water whenever the soil feels dry about an inch below the surface. Avoid getting water on the crown of the plant, which could cause it to rot.
  • As the flowers begin to fade, gradually allow the plant to dry out for 2 - 3 months. It is going into a dormant stage (see below) and any excess water will cause the tuber to rot.
  • New growth will probably start to appear sometime in September. At this point, resume regular watering and feeding. If you moved your plant outdoors for the summer, bring it back indoors before the weather turns cold. A good rule of thumb is to bring it inside while the temperature is still comfortable for you with the windows open.

Humidity: High humidity, especially during winter, is crucial. Keep the cyclamen on a tray of water with a layer of pebbles or something else to form a shelf for the cyclamen pot to sit on. Do not let the bottom of the cyclamen pot sit submerged in the water or the roots will rot.

Fertilizer: Feed your cyclamen plant with a low-nitrogen fertilizer every couple of weeks while in full leaf.

Light: Give cyclamen bright, indirect light in the winter. They are actively growing in the winter and go dormant during the heat of summer. (More on their dormant period below.) In summer, it is best to keep cyclamen out of bright light. You can even move it to a shady spot outdoors in summer. Just make certain it is not getting too much water.

Temperature: Cyclamen do not like extreme heat, but they also are not frost-hardy. Do not expose them to temperatures below 50 degrees F. Also avoid drafts as well as hot, dry air.

Dormancy Period

  • Cyclamen generally go dormant for the summer. They don’t like the lack of rain and excess heat, so they take a siesta. By April cyclamen start getting tired and the leaves will begin to yellow and die. Exactly when they go fully dormant depends on their growing conditions. If they are houseplants and the heat is kept high, they’ll peter out more quickly. On the other hand, some don’t ever appear to go fully dormant.
  • During the summer, dormant cyclamen can be kept indoors, in a cool, dark spot with good air circulation or outdoors, in a shady spot. If you put yours outdoors, be sure to turn the pot on its side to keep the rain out. If the soil gets too wet during dormancy, the tuber will rot. A little water isn’t going to do any harm, but you don’t want the soil to remain wet.
  • You can re-pot with fresh soil and a slightly larger pot while the plant is dormant.
  • Begin watering again in September. By then you will probably be seeing new growth starting.
  • Make sure you bring the pot back indoors before a frost preferably earlier, when nighttime temperatures start dipping into the 50s F.

    There are many wonderful cyclamen hybrids available and since they stay in bloom for a long period, you can choose your plant while the flowers are open and know exactly what you are getting.

    Some Notable Cyclamen Varieties to Grow

    • Sierra Series - Larger flowers (2-3 inches) in white, pink, salmon, scarlet, lilac and purple
    • "Scentsation" - An open-pollinated variety with a strong fragrance. Flowers in pinks and reds.
    • "Victoria" - An open-pollinated variety that has ruffled white flowers with red mouths and margins.