ASK THE MASTER GARDENERS
Q: How should I care for the cyclamen I received for the holidays? Can I plant it in the garden after it finishes blooming?
A: The cyclamen plants that grace our homes during the holiday season are hybrids derived from Cyclamen persicum, which grows in the woodlands and rocky hillsides of the south and eastern Mediterranean region. In the mid-1800s, English and Dutch breeders started to select and backcross species to obtain bigger flowers, which eventually led to the current mass production of cyclamen in different colors, double flowers, frilly petals and picotee (petals with pale edges) forms. In our area (USDA Zone 6b/7a), these hybrids, called florist’s cyclamens, do not transplant successfully into the garden after blooming.
Follow these simple rules to keep your cyclamen plant happy at home.
Light: Cyclamens prefer a bright environment but no direct sunlight. A northern window is optimal.
Temperature: Cyclamens prefer a daytime temperature below 70 degrees and cool nights (40-50 degrees). An overheated home will will shorten the bloom period and cause the leaves to yellow.
Water: Wait until the soil surface is dry to the touch, give it a good soak and let it dry for a few minutes. Cyclamens grow from tubers, underground organs that store up energy during dormancy. Too much water causes the tuber to rot.
Air: Keep good air circulation around your plant, to prevent diseases.
Because florist’s cyclamen are bred for seasonal enjoyment, getting yours to bloom again indoors the following year is a difficult and often unsuccessful process that is better left in the hands of professional growers.
For repeated blooming, consider instead some of the hardy garden species such as C. hederifolium, C. coum and C. purpurascens. Depending on the species, these cyclamens prefer a woodland or rock garden setting. With their staggered blooming they will add color to your garden almost all year.
Cristina Malinverno, Blauvelt, master gardener, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland