How to Grow Cyclamen: Tips for Thriving Winter Blooms

Essential tips and care instructions for healthy, vibrant cyclamen

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By Alex

How to grow cyclamen

Cyclamen is one of the most common plants that bloom in winter and is often grown in pots. This ornamental plant, belonging to the genus Cyclamen, originates from the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor. Its beautiful blooms make it a popular gift, brightening cold, gray winter days with vibrant colors. Cyclamens come in a variety of colors, including white, pink, purple, and fuchsia.

This hardy plant is relatively easy to grow. It thrives mainly outdoors; however, if there’s a risk of persistent frost, you should bring it indoors to a cool, bright location away from direct heat sources.

Tips for Growing Cyclamen Successfully

Here are some helpful tips to guide you through the process.

Climate

Cyclamen is an outdoor plant that grows naturally in the underbrush, preferring a cooler climate. It tolerates cold well, down to -3°C (27°F), but doesn’t fare well in extreme heat, although it can handle temperatures around 18-20°C (64-68°F).

Despite its cold resistance, it cannot withstand frost, so during cold nights with frost, cyclamen pots should be brought indoors.

The ideal temperature for cyclamen to thrive and bloom is between 13 and 16°C (55-61°F).

Light Exposure

During the blooming period (September/October to February/March), cyclamen needs a bright location but not direct sunlight. Actually, it’s a shade flower that can thrive with little sun exposure.

During the vegetative rest period (spring and summer), it should be placed in a shaded or semi-shaded spot, preferably outdoors.

Indoors, cyclamens should be kept in a cool environment (10-12°C / 50-54°F), well-ventilated, and illuminated by filtered light.

Indoor Care

Cyclamen, a winter plant, withstands cold but not frost. It is primarily an outdoor plant, but in very cold weather, it can be kept indoors in a cool environment (10-12°C / 50-54°F). Avoid placing the cyclamen pot near direct heat sources such as stoves, fireplaces, and radiators.

As an indoor plant, cyclamen prefers spacious, bright areas. Ideally, it should be placed in a large room, like a living room, not too far from a window to receive intense but indirect light.

Watering

This plant needs regular watering to keep the soil consistently moist, but it is crucial to avoid waterlogging, which can cause the bulbs to rot. Watering should be regular but moderate, avoiding stagnant water.

The water supply should be increased during the blooming period and greatly reduced during the vegetative rest phase.

Soil Preferences

Cyclamen thrives in fertile, light, porous, well-draining, and slightly acidic soil (pH around 6). A specific soil for acid-loving plants is recommended, and coffee grounds can be added to increase soil acidity naturally. Enhancing soil drainage with perlite, sand, expanded clay, or gravel at the bottom of the pot (or in the ground for in-ground cultivation) is advisable.

Fertilizing

During the blooming period, applying a liquid fertilizer specific for bulbous plants every two weeks is beneficial. A product low in nitrogen but rich in phosphorus and potassium is recommended.

After the blooming period, fertilization should be suspended and resumed at the end of summer when buds start to swell.

Pruning

Remove wilted flowers and old, yellowed, diseased, or dead leaves as necessary. Flowers can be removed by hand, and using disinfected florist scissors to cut the stalk at the base is helpful for yellow, dry, or wilted leaves.

How to grow cyclamen

Growing Cyclamens in Pots

You can grow these plants in wide, shallow pots. Distribute draining material like expanded clay balls, perlite, sand, or gravel at the bottom to enhance the soil’s draining properties. During very intense cold periods with a risk of frost, cyclamens should be brought indoors. Indoor cyclamens should be placed in a spacious, cool, and bright environment, away from heat sources.

Regular but moderate watering is essential to avoid waterlogging, and applying a specific fertilizer for flowering plants every 15 days during the blooming period is important.

Lifespan

On average, cyclamen blooms for two consecutive months. With proper care, the plant can live for 4-5 years.

Seasonal Care for Cyclamen

Here are some tips for the best seasonal care of these plants.

Winter

Cyclamen tolerates cold but not frost, with the ideal blooming temperature around 15-16°C (59-61°F). In autumn and winter, it thrives outdoors. If you live in mild winter areas, you can grow it in the ground for flower beds and borders.

In harsher climates, it is preferable to grow cyclamen in pots, placed on the balcony, sheltered from wind and rain. If frost occurs, cyclamen should be kept indoors in a cool, well-lit room with good air circulation.

Spring

In spring, cyclamen enters its vegetative rest period and does not bloom. This is the ideal time to remove wilted, dead, or damaged flowers and leaves, making space for new buds. During this period, cyclamen should be kept in a cool, shaded place and watered only occasionally.

Spring is also the right time for repotting potted cyclamens, using a slightly larger pot and fresh, well-draining soil. Bulbs should be planted at least 8 cm (3 inches) deep.

Summer

Summer is another dormant season for cyclamen. They should be placed in a cool, shaded area, protected from direct sunlight. To encourage subsequent blooming, remove wilted flowers and dry leaves. Water sparingly, ensuring the soil does not become too dry, and suspend fertilization during this period.

Autumn

With the approach of autumn, cyclamen’s growing season resumes. Cooler temperatures bring the development of buds and new leaves, making this the time to resume watering and fertilizing.

If necessary, this is also the ideal time for repotting, using a slightly larger pot and new soil composed of three parts peat and one part sand. In autumn, cyclamen thrives outdoors in a bright location, sheltered from direct sunlight.

How to grow cyclamen

Storing Bulbs

Once the flower has wilted, gently remove the bulbs from the soil and let them dry naturally in the air, avoiding direct sunlight. Once dried, clean the bulb from soil and remove roots and stem.

Place the bulb in a paper bag or wooden box and store it in a cool, dry place (ideal temperature between 7 and 16°C / 45-61°F).

Propagation

By Seed

In summer, plant cyclamen seeds in soil distributed on a tray. Keep the seeds in a shaded area with a constant temperature of 18-24°C (64-75°F) and spray them with water to keep the soil surface moist.

The first sprouts will appear after about a month. Once the new plants are sufficiently grown, they can be transferred to pots or the ground.

By Dividing Bulbs

In spring, during the plant’s vegetative rest period, extract the bulb from the soil and divide it into 2-3 parts using a sharp knife, ensuring each part has a bud. Prepare small pots with soil mixed with sand and plant the bulb portions in each.

Common Issues

Fungal Diseases

Cyclamen is highly susceptible to waterlogging, leading to fungal diseases like powdery mildew and gray mold. In case of fungal infections, remove affected leaves, suspend watering, and move the plant to a less humid location with better air circulation.

Pests

Mites, which develop on the underside of leaves, can cause leaves to dry out and deform. If infested, wash the leaves with warm water and spray with a specific insecticide.

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Mistakes to Avoid

  • Excessive and direct light: causes flowers to wilt and leaves to yellow.
  • Insufficient light: slows or stops blooming.
  • High temperature during blooming: ideal temperature should not exceed 20°C (68°F). Indoors, place in a cool, bright room away from direct heat sources.
  • Exposure to drafts: protect cyclamen from drafts both outdoors and indoors.

Troubleshooting

  • Rotting: Often caused by a too warm environment. Move the plant to a cooler room or outside, bringing it indoors only in case of frost.
  • Yellow Leaves: Usually due to overwatering or excessive heat. Remove yellow leaves, move the plant to a cooler place, and suspend watering for a while.
  • Wilting: Commonly caused by excessive watering. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Avoid wetting the leaves or flowers during watering.

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