The phrase Last but not Least popped into my mind as I started to write about cyclamen plants for the holidays. Not only are they last on our list of holiday suggestions, but hey are often the last plant to be purchased at retail outlets. I’ve even heard people say, “Oh don’t buy that – mine died as soon as I brought it home.” Hopefully, we can set the record straight about keeping these stunning plants healthy and happy.
Native to an eastern Mediterranean climate, cyclamen bloom when the temperatures are cool and the air is damp. During the hot, dry summer months, they go dormant. Their leaves turn yellow and wither back to the ground, growth stops and they rest, storing energy in their tubers. When cool, damp weather returns, the native cyclamen once again begin to vigorously grow and flower.
The key to cyclamen as houseplants then, is to replicate as closely as possible their native conditions. Unlike the many tropicals that need warm temperatures to thrive, cyclamen plants want it cool. Daytime temperatures that hover in the low 60s F and nighttime temperatures of 40 degrees are ideal. Since temperatures near a window tend to be cooler than the interior of a room, window sills can be a good display space for these plants.
While in bloom, cyclamen need bright light. South and west facing windows are the top choices. East windows can also work, but try to avoid a northern orientation because there just isn't enough light to pull strong blooms.
Watering is probably the biggest hurdle to growing long-lasting cyclamen. It’s best to let the soil completely dry out between waterings, but the plant shouldn’t reach the wilting stage. Underwatering will quickly cause the blooms to fade and will eventually kill the plant. I have found that judging water needs based on the weight of the pot is an effective way to judge whether or not the plant needs water. A heavy pot means no water is needed; a light one says “Water me please.” Water the soil thoroughly but don’t let water sit on the crown or remain in the saucer.
To encourage reblooming, take the time to snip tired blossoms near the base of the plant. If seed pods begin to develop, snip those off too. The more energy the plant puts into forming seed, the less it will have to produce flowers. In the plant world, seeds are necessary for the survival of the species and much more important than blooms.
In early spring, when the cyclamen quits blooming, let the soil completely dry out. Throughout the warm summer months, store it in a dark, cool, dry place. As temperatures begin to drop in the fall, bring the pot out and begin watering. If the tubers are still firm, your plant should begin to re-emerge and put on another splendid show.