|The florist cyclamen is derived from Cyclamen persicum, a Mediterranean plant. In nature it goes dormant during the summer months, comes into growth as cooler, damper weather starts, flowers in autumn, winter or spring, and goes dormant again as the summer becomes warm. Cyclamens grow from tubers that are round and rather flat. The tubers are the storage organs that keep the plants alive during their summer dormancy.
When choosing a cyclamen be sure to select one with only a few flowers open. The flower stems should stand straight up, and there should be lots of buds tucked underneath the foliage that will develop and bloom later.
Photo: Deb Brown
From late autumn to early spring, provide your plant with as much light as possible. Sunburn is usually not an issue this time of year, although you may want to avoid placing your cyclamen directly in front of a south-facing window.
Aim for temperatures between 40° and 50°F at night and day temperatures less than 68°F. A cyclamen won't be too happy in a house heated much above 70°F, with the dry atmosphere that goes with it. If you are unable to provide cool enough conditions, the plant will survive for a time, but eventually it will develop yellow foliage and its blooming time may be cut short. It will probably tolerate a less than ideal location for a day or two as long as you return it to a better place shortly afterwards. The plant will tolerate indoor conditions even better if you move it to a cool spot at night. Make sure to provide as much light as possible in its daytime location.
Watering incorrectly can cause many problems, especially when too much water has been applied. Always wait until the soil surface feels dry before you water, but don't wait until the plant becomes limp. Do not water the center of the plant or the tuber may rot. A cyclamen prefers to receive a good soaking, then dry out partially before receiving a good soaking again. Allow the plant to drain over a sink or empty the water collection tray beneath the container after a few minutes. This will help prevent the roots from remaining too wet, which can lead to rotting.
Fertilize your cyclamen with a water-soluble fertilizer recommended for use on indoor plants, mixed half strength. Apply it every 3 or 4 weeks, starting about a month after you receive the plant. Overfeeding is more likely to produce foliage than flowers.
Dead flowers or leaves should be removed by giving their stems a sharp tug. If a sharp tug doesn't remove them, wait another day and try again. You don't want to risk yanking out a chunk of the tuber along with other healthy leaves.
In fall when new leaves start to grow, water the soil thoroughly. If you have trouble getting the potting soil to take up water, add a couple drops of hand dish-washing detergent to the water. This will not harm the plant, but will act as a wetting agent. If new growth hasn't occurred by late October you can go ahead and water it. As long as the tubers are still plump and hard, they should be okay. Wait for shoots to appear and the soil to become dryish--then water thoroughly again.
The amount of time it will take is uncertain, but if all goes well the plant should eventually bloom again. However, it may not be as spectacular as it was the first time. In other words, the flowers may be smaller, and lighter colored. There may be fewer of them, and their stems may not stand straight up. Still, it is fun to get them to bloom again, and worth the effort if you succeed.