November 2017: Cyclamen Houseplant of the Month
The story of Cyclamen
Thanks to its white and brightly coloured flowers, Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) is the ideal plant to combat the dark day blues. It may look delicate, but it’s a strong bloomer that emerges from a sturdy corm. It offers all sorts of excitements. The green leaves grow in a rosette, are heart-shaped and often have attractive silver-grey or pale green markings. Slender stems unroll between the leaves on which incredible flowers emerge which stand out like flags. They can be smooth, have fringes or stick out wide like a rara skirt, and come in colours that nature has made special effort with.
Cyclamen has long been known as a decorative plant, and is a member of the primrose family. The species that occurs in the wild in the forests and on stony mountain slopes around the Mediterranean from Spain to Iran is the ancestor of today’s houseplants. The philosopher Plato described the plant as far back as the 4th century BC. Cyclamen arrived in Europe in the 16th century, where it was grown in the English Queen Elizabeth’s botanic gardens, amongst other places. The plant faded from view for a while after that, but came back into fashion in the 19th century thanks to the Romantics, and has never dropped out of sight again.
What to look for when buying Cyclamen
- Alongside colour and flower shape, it’s a good idea to check whether the plants on offer are specifically houseplants or patio cyclamens.
- Cyclamens are offered in various pot sizes, from mini to giant. In all cases look for an attractive round full structure, the number of flowers per plant, the ripeness and the number of buds that have developed under the leaves and can ensure long continued flowering.
- The plant should be free of disease and pests when purchased. Botrytis manifests itself in black patches on the flowers (spot) or mouldy patches between the leaves (grey mould). Check that the plants have not been placed close together for too long, and ensure that the flowers and leaves never get damp or wet from watering, condensation or excessive humidity. Working clean and dry, not placing the plants too close together and removing them from the sleeve is important in order to prevent botrytis.
- If the flowers or the foliage are damaged or flawed, this is often the result of shipping or storage. There may also be wilted flowers on the plant, or the plant may be drooping due to lack of water. Yellow leaves indicate conditions which are too wet or too dry. Cyclamen can cope well with cool temperatures, provided it’s above freezing
Choice of range
The choice of cyclamens is largest during the period when there is an R in the month. The best-known are the F1 cyclamens: uniform, strong plants with good flowering characteristics. The range includes large-flowered, medium-flowered (midi) and small-flowered (mini) cyclamens. There are also micro-cyclamens, supplied in a 6 cm pot or a vase. The range of colours is endless, but red, white, pink, lilac and bicoloured plants predominate. The flower can be smooth or have fringes, and the foliage can be green or silver. New shapes and scented flowers are making the range ever more diverse.
Care tips for consumers
- Cyclamen like a cool and light spot, and does not like full sun or sources of heat nearby.
- The plant drinks a lot. Keep the soil slightly damp. Ideally, cyclamens like to take up their own water at room temperature from a saucer which can then be removed. The plant will indicate when it needs water again by drooping a bit.
- Regularly remove wilted flowers and plant in order to encourage new buds to open.
- It’s a good idea to give some plant food once every 3 weeks to ensure lengthy and lavish flowering.