Cyclamen Plant Profile

white cyclamen in a pot

The Spruce / Kara Riley

Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) is a petite flowering plant that has sweet-scented, small (1/2- to 3/4-inch) 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. Its flowers come in shades of pink, purple, red, and white. And its heart-shaped leaves are a 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).

Botanical Name Cyclamen persicum
Common Name Cyclamen, florist's cyclamen, Persian cyclamen, Persian violet
Plant Type Houseplant or perennial
Mature Size 6 to 9 inches tall and wide
Sun Exposure Part shade
Soil Type Rich, medium moisture, well-draining
Soil pH 6 to 6.2
Bloom Time Fall to spring
Flower Color Pink, white, red, violet
Hardiness Zones 9 to 11
Native Areas Eastern Mediterranean region
overhead view of cyclamen plants
The Spruce / Kara Riley 
closeup of cyclamen leaves
The Spruce / Kara Riley
closeup of cyclamen petals
The Spruce / Kara Riley

How to Grow Cyclamen

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.

To encourage reblooming during its growth period, snip dead flower stalks off at the base. 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.

Light

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.

Soil

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. 

Water

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.

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 humidity, keep your plant on a tray filled with water and pebbles, making sure the pot isn't 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 to open windows.

Fertilizer

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.

Potting and Repotting

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 pot.

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.

Toxicity of Cyclamen

Cyclamen is dangerous for pets if they ingest any part of the plant. Some symptoms of a poisoning include drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. More severe symptoms include an abnormal heart rate, seizures, and even death. So be sure to keep the plant out of the reach of cats, dogs, and other pets in the house.

Varieties of Cyclamen

There are many wonderful cyclamen varieties 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; the plant flowers in pinks and reds.
  • 'Victoria': This variety features ruffled white flowers with red accents.
varieties of cyclamen
The Spruce / Kara Riley