Cyclamen is a beautiful little plant that can add some winter color to your flower beds with its fall-to-spring blooms.
It’s also a great plant for naturalizing in a shady border, under trees, or on banks.
And the intricate patterns you find on the heart-shaped leaves of this plant are absolutely stunning.
But many people don’t have much luck when it comes to looking after cyclamen plants, and that’s usually because they have ended up with a non-hardy variety that has died off on them.
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How Long Do Cyclamen Plants Last?
There are hardy and non-hardy versions of the plant. Hardy cyclamen in ideal conditions can easily live for over 30 years but the non-hardy versions can’t tolerate being frozen for long, and if left outside in most colder winters, will die off quickly.
There are many types of cyclamen available for sale in nurseries and garden centers, and If you buy one that is hardy and supposed to be planted outdoors, such as cyclamen Hederifolium, it should reproduce and last for years.
Given the right care, It will also last for years indoors as a potted plant.
But if tender varieties of cyclamen are exposed to frost, they won’t last long.
How Can I Tell If My Cyclamen Is Hardy Or Non-Hardy?
Usually, any cyclamen with lots of big and brightly colored flowers is not a hardy one.
The brightly colored ones that you often see for sale around November are usually the non-hardy ones.
Sellers often don’t know or just won’t bother telling you that they are selling you a non-hardy variety of cyclamen.
Then, you go and plant it outside and it just doesn’t last.
If you want to buy a hardy variety, look for cyclamen Hederifoliun.
It is the most common type of hardy variety.
It is pale pink and usually blooms in autumn or spring (sometimes both).
Where should I Plant Cyclamen In My Garden?
It is recommended that you choose a spot in your garden that will provide dappled shade for your cyclamen.
Beneath a tree or between shrubs in a shady corner of your garden is ideal.
Plant the tubers in the ground, about 5cm deep (with pinkish shoots facing up and roots facing down).
Plant the tubers in early autumn and with no more effort, these plants will continue to bloom every Autumn.
Just make sure you are planting a hardy variety of cyclamen, such as cyclamen Hederifoliun.
If it’s a very dry area where you are planting them or if the soil begins to look very dry, you may want to give them a little water during their first Autumn, until the roots become established.
But if it rains or is any bit moist don’t bother.
Also Read: Will Soil Rot My Fence?
How To Care For Your Potted Cyclamen Indoors
If you buy a potted cyclamen at the store and take it home, the first thing to do is to check the container for any plastic or foil wrapping that may be blocking the drainage holes.
Remove this straight away because it can easily cause waterlogging which will rot the roots of your plant before you even have a chance to care for it.
Keep It In A Cool, Bright Room
Keep your cyclamen in a cool room (50-65F) with lots of bright indirect sunlight and away from cold draughts and air-conditioning.
Water When Soil Is Dry
Water it from fall to spring, where it should continue to bloom.
Make sure it has good drainage and only water it when the soil feels dry.
Allow It To Go Dormant
Once the beginning of summer comes around, stop watering the plant so that dormancy is induced.
Then move your cyclamen to a dark, cool room and only water it a little when the soil becomes bone-dry.
The plant will look like it’s dying, but it’s not.
Revive It In October
Once October comes back around, start watering the plant again, move it to a room that gets lots of bright, indirect sunlight and it will come back to life and bloom all winter.
And repeat the process at the beginning of next summer
The Life-Cycle of Cyclamen
Being native to the Mediterranean region, cyclamen are active in the fall to winter and spring and dormant in the summer.
Cyclamen are tuberous perennials.
The tubers are wheel or disc-shaped, which is where the plant gets its name.
The tubers start out very small as the plants grow from seed, but they get wider with age.
Sometimes the tubers exceed 6 inches across.
The very oldest cyclamen tubers can even reach the size of a dinner plate.
Most cyclamen tubers should be planted just below the soil surface.
The early spring-blooming varieties will benefit from being planted a few inches deep.
This prevents them from sprouting too early while it’s still a bit too cold for the plant.
When Will The Leaves Appear On A Cyclamen Plant?
Leaves appear in the fall or winter on most species of cyclamen.
The leaves grow from 2 to 4 inches above the soil and remain until the plant’s dormancy period when they will die off.
Cyclamen Flowers And Pollination
The flower stalks grow directly from the tuber and can be up to 5 inches tall.
The flowers range in color from white to pink to purple, and even red.
The flower stalks curve so that the flowers face downward, like a candy cane.
Each stalk produces a single flower with either four or five petals.
The petals are fused together at the base to form a tube-like structure called a corolla.
Where the corolla splits into individual petals there is sometimes a small lip called an auricle.
The auricle gives bees a foothold as they hang upside-down to drink the cyclamen’s nectar and pollinate the flowers.
Once the flowers are pollinated and begin to set seed the flower stalk coils around and around, very like a spring, pulling the seed pod beneath the leaf canopy.
The seed capsules have five chambers and contain between 5 and 40 sticky, sugar-coated seeds.
When ripe, the pods split open and ants, attracted by the sugar, carry the seeds away.
How To Care For Your Cyclamen Plant
Because cyclamen are native to the Mediterranean climate where the summers are hot and dry and the winters are cool and wet, but rarely freezing, they have adapted to a summer dormancy period.
In this way, they can survive a long period without much water and grow quickly in the fall with the return of the rain.
Cyclamen’s herbaceous foliage will die back for its summer dormancy period.
During dormancy, the plants do not drink much water and are very sensitive to overwatering.
The tubers can easily rot under summer irrigation if they are in soil that does not have excellent drainage.
Sunlight Requirements For Cyclamen
While some cyclamen plants are happy with a small amount of direct sun, most prefer to grow under trees and shrubs or in rocky crevices, where they successfully compete with tree roots for the water they need.
In keeping with their adaptation to a sheltered existence, they will not tolerate a windy environment.
Cyclamen plants are a little temperamental when it comes to watering.
If you let them get too dry they tend to get droopy and if you overwater them or leave them to sit in standing water their leaves start to turn yellow and die.
Test the top inch of soil with your finger and only water your cyclamen when the soil has dried out a good bit – but not bone dry.
But test the soil every so often so that the plant doesn’t dry out for too long.
Water the soil around the plant and try not to pour any water on its stems or leaves.
When dormant, water even more sparingly, only to prevent the soil from becoming bone-dry.
Best Soil For Cyclamen
Cyclamen can tolerate a wide range of soil types and varying pH, but they prefer well-drained soil that is slightly alkaline.
Avoid soil pH that is below 5.5.
To ensure good soil drainage mix in some perlite or pumice.
The woodland species of cyclamen would appreciate some leaf and bark compost added to the mix.
Mulch your cyclamen plants annually with partially composted leaves or bark chips to keep the soil temperature more even and to protect the tubers from hard frosts.
Cyclamen plants are super-easy to look after, especially if you plant them out in the garden where you can more or less forget about them until you see their blooms every year.
People usually get caught out when they are sold in a non-hardy variety thinking it’s okay to plant out in the garden.
Then folks think it’s their own fault when the plant dies during the first frost… which it isn’t.