Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) is a petite flowering plant that has sweet-scented, small blooms on long stems that stretch up above the foliage. It is a tuberous perennial, meaning it dies down to its thick roots (tubers) during its summer dormancy period and then regrows quickly each fall. Flowers come in shades of pink, purple, red, and white. The heart-shaped leaves are medium green, often with silver marbling. It's commonly grown as a houseplant and is especially popular during the winter holiday season when you can find cyclamen blooming on shelves in garden centers and grocery stores. Seeds can be planted in late summer for blooms in the subsequent year's winter (roughly 18 months later). Cyclamen is toxic to both animals and humans.
|Common Name||Cyclamen, florist's cyclamen, Persian cyclamen, Persian violet|
|Botanical Name||Cyclamen persicum|
|Mature Size||6–9 in. tall, 6–9 in. wide|
|Soil Type||Loamy, moist, well-drained|
|Bloom Time||Fall, winter, spring|
|Flower Color||Pink, white, red, purple|
|Hardiness Zones||9–11 (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Toxic to people, toxic to pets|
Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for Cyclamen Plants
If grown outdoors, cyclamen needs well-drained soil and should be planted in an area that gets bright indirect light, but not much direct sunlight. However, Cyclamen persicum is usually cultivated for varieties that are better suited as houseplants; it is related species, such as C. hederifolium, that are more often used when growing cyclamen in the landscape.
Cyclamen persicum, the florist's cyclamen, is usually grown in pots indoors. It goes dormant for the summer, but with proper care, it will regrow and rebloom in the fall. Exactly when cyclamen goes fully dormant depends on its growing conditions. Warm temperatures propel it to dormancy, but if you keep your home cool your plant might not appear to go fully dormant. Instead, it might just lose some leaves and not look its best or bloom for a couple of months.
Give cyclamen bright, indirect light in the winter when the plant is actively growing. In the summer, when the plant is dormant, it's best to keep cyclamen in a cool, dark spot with good air circulation.
Cyclamen prefers to grow in organically rich, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic soil pH. For container plants, you can use regular potting mix but then mix some sphagnum peat into the soil to raise the acidity.
When leaves are present, the plant is actively growing. During this period, water whenever the soil feels dry about an inch below its surface. Avoid getting water on the leaves or crown of the plant (part where the stem meets the roots), which can cause it to rot. While the plant is dormant (losing most or all of its leaves), water infrequently only to prevent the soil from entirely drying out.
A common way to water cyclamen is to put the pot on a tray, then water the tray so the roots take up the moisture.
Temperature and Humidity
Cyclamen plants don't like extreme heat, drafts, or dry air. They do best in a climate that replicates their native environment, preferring temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night and between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. High humidity, especially during the winter, is crucial. To raise the humidity, keep your plant on a tray filled with water and pebbles, making sure the pot isn't continuously touching the water (as this can cause root rot).
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 and you can keep your windows open without feeling chilled indoors.
Feed your cyclamen plant with a diluted liquid low-nitrogen fertilizer every couple of weeks while in full leaf. You don't need to fertilize cyclamen while it's dormant.
Types of Cyclamen
There are many wonderful types of cyclamen available. And because they stay in bloom for a long period, you often can choose your plant while the flowers are open to know exactly what you'll be getting. Some popular varieties include:
- Sierra series: These plants have large flowers (2 to 3 inches across) in white, pink, salmon, scarlet, lilac, and purple.
- 'Scentsation': The flowers of this variety boast a strong fragrance and the plant flowers in pinks and reds.
- 'Victoria': This variety features ruffled white flowers with red accents.
Proper pruning of cyclamen involves simply removing yellowing, dead leaves as they appear. Fading flowers and seeds heads can also be plucked off, which may extend the blooming period.
Propagating cyclamen is a difficult process, as stem cuttings to not readily root, and the cultivated varieties are often hybrids that do not produce fertile seeds. The best way to propagate these plants is by dividing the corm-like tuberous roots, though this must be done carefully to ensure viability. Cutting the tubers often opens the root up to rot, so be prepared for failure. Here's how to attempt it:
- In summer when the plant is fairly dormant, extract the plant from its pot and remove the stems.
- If the corm-like tuber has developed offsets, carefully break these away from the main root. If there are no offsets, look for growth eyes, and carefully slice the tuber into pieces, each piece containing at least one growth eye.
- Immediately replant the pieces in a well-draining, peat-based growing mix. Each root piece should be just barely peeking up out of the potting mix.
- Moisten the potting mix, but then place it in a dry, shady spot. In the fall, move it into a brighter location and begin watering weekly, which will stimulate new growth.
How to Grow Cyclamen From Seed
Many florist's cyclamen plants are hybrids that do not produce viable seeds. But If you want to try it, look for seed pods that develop after the flowers fade. Harvest these, break them open, and plant the seeds in a small pot filled with potting mix blended with compost. Barely cover the seeds with a sprinkling of compost or potting mix, and lightly moisten them. Set the pots in a cool, dark place until they sprout, which can take one to two months. After sprouting, move the pots to a spot with bright indirect light and keep lightly moist until they develop into mature plants—it can take two years or more before they develop roots that can sustain flowering.
Potting and Repotting Cyclamen
When first potting your cyclamen, select a pot that leaves around an inch of space around the tuber. Place the tuber in the potting mix so that it’s poking slightly out of the soil.
Cyclamen should be repotted every two years. You can repot while the plant is dormant in the summer with fresh potting mix and a slightly larger container. Follow these steps to repot:
- Fill the new container partway with potting soil.
- Then, lift the tuber out of the original pot, and brush off the old soil but don't rinse it.
- Place the tuber in the new pot, so its top is about 2 inches from the rim. Cover it with potting soil.
- Place the pot in a shady, dry spot for the rest of the summer.
- Start watering it around September, and you should start to see new growth emerging.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
A fuzzy gray fungus, called botrytis, is caused by overly wet soil and can turn leaves yellow with brown patches. Cut off affected leaves to improve air circulation but throw out the plant if all the leaves are in poor shape.
How to Get Cyclamen to Bloom
Though many people tend to treat indoor cyclamen as annuals and toss the plant after it blooms, you can enjoy the same plant as it reblooms year after year. To encourage reblooming during its growth period, snip dead flower stalks off at the base, as well as any yellowing leaves. Then, as blooming slows, gradually allow the plant to dry out for two to three months. It is going into its dormant stage, and too much water will cause the tuber to rot. A little water is recommended, but you don't want the soil to remain wet. To find buds, you may have to spread apart the leaves a tiny bit.
Care for Cyclamen After Flowering
The special care required by cyclamen occurs in the summer, not the winter. Potted florist cyclamen plants actively grow during the winter, so this is the time when they should be moved into a spot with plenty of bright indirect light. Correct watering is critical during this time, as the roots are highly sensitive to moisture and can easily develop rot. Wait for the leaves to begin to droop and the potting mix is dry to the touch before watering again.
As winter gives way to spring and summer, potted cyclamen naturally enter a semi-dormant stage, and at this time they should be allowed to go dry and moved into a cool, shady location. Avoid the temptation to water during this time, as the roots will likely develop rot. At summer gives way to fall, they can be moved into a spot with bright indirect light and nursed with gentle watering until new green growth begins to develop.
Is cyclamen easy to care for?
Yes, a cyclamen houseplant is easy to care for as long as it's not overwatered.
What is the difference between florist's cyclamen and hardy cyclamen?
Florist's cyclamen is tender and can typically only be grown indoors as a houseplant. Hardy cyclamen can be grown outdoors in cooler areas. When buying cyclamen at a garden center, be sure to check which one you are buying.
How long can cyclamen live?
Since cyclamen is a perennial, it can live indoors and outdoors (with the right conditions) for dozens and dozens of years.