Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What to do with holiday leftovers–Part III–Cyclamen

Another flowering plant that’s popular for Christmas and imagesCAWF9VSBeven on into Valentine’s Day is the Cyclamen, c. persicum also called the florist’s cyclamen.   

Trivia : In the language of flowers, the cyclamen stands for “sincerity & sincere affection”.

The ancestors of the cyclamen originated in the mountainous areas of Iran and around the Mediterranean region. They flower prolifically and range in color from cherry red and purple to pink and pure white.  The heart-shaped  leaves have silver margins and the long-lasting flowers rise above them  looking a little like hovering butterflies.  This makes them very popular Valentine’s Day plants.

Florists love cyclamen for their showy flowers  and because they are relatively easy to keep and last a long time.  Growers like them because of the lower heating costs needed to bring them to market.  

I have to agree that cyclamen are great houseplants for those of us that keep our thermostats set lower to save money, especially in these days. 

If you’re energy conscious, you’ll be pleased to know that cyclamen prefer living with people who dress in layers.   Cooler house temperatures of about 60 to 65 during the day and slightly cooler at night are needed to keep them happy.   Cyclamen don’t flower as long in the hot, dry conditions created by woodstoves and central heating.

You can compensate for some of the heat and humidity by placing them on a saucer filled with pebbles and water in a cool window or room  that has indirect light or morning only sun.

imagesCACXZVEVCyclamen are also heavy drinkers.  When they  dry out even slightly, they get moody and droopy.  I’ve had mine go droopy the day after I water them so now I water from the bottom and then check the top of soil with my finger every 30 minutes,  I add more water to the saucer till the top of the soil is good and damp and then I let the pot drain in the sink for a bit.  This takes a little longer than watering from the top but I think they absorb more water this way.  

I recommend fertilizing cyclamen once a month while they are in active bloom with a diluted organic liquid fertilizer that has low nitrogen.  Nitrogen tends to push plants into producing lots of foliage which you don’t want to do with cyclamen but like amaryllis, cyclamen grow from a bulb and use up most of their life energy blooming and then they go into rest mode, so regular feeding while they are actively growing is necessary.

Tip: To remove spent leaves or flowers, grab then at the base of the plant and give them a slight twist as you pull .

If you water yours from the top be careful not to pour water directly into the center of the plant.  Cyclamen grow from a “corm” (a type of bulb) which looks similar to a beet root.   If the corm stays wet in the center, it can get moldy and rot.

You can expect to get several months of bloom from a cyclamen after you bring it home.  Once it’s finished flowering it will be very tired and need a long nap.  Cut back on watering and don’t fertilize when the leaves start to turn yellow. The leaves will continue to wilt,  turn yellow and dry up (that’s OK) and the plant starts to look bad enough to make you want to hide it or toss it—but DON’T!

Tip: If you wait till the leaves are dry and crispy you can rub them off easily with your fingers without pulling on the corm. 

While it’s going through its “awkward stage” store the pot in a cellar or basement that’s cool and has good air circulation.  You can also put it outside (when temps are above freezing) but make sure you tip the pot on its side or put it where it will be out of the heaviest rain.  A little water won’t hurt  but if the soil or the center of the corm stays wet and there’s no root activity (they’re napping), the corm will rot.


You can also repot in late summer.  Use a well-draining soil-based mix with organic matter (peat or humus). Make sure that the top of the corm is sitting out of the soil.  If the corm is buried, you’ll get lots of leaves but few blooms.

Resume watering in September or earlier if you see imagesCAXH5FCSgrowth starting.  Plants summered out of doors need to be brought back inside before a frost.  Place them in a cool window with lots of indirect light and wait for the show to begin! 

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