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Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum), also known as sowbread and florist cyclamen, is one of the most beautiful flowering houseplants. They're easy to care for and grow elegant, brightly colored flowers against cute, heart-shaped leaves in hues of light and dark green.
These attractive plants have a long history, originating in the Middle East, Mediterranean, and southern Europe. Long considered medicinal by Europeans, they were frequently planted near places of worship as a symbol of deep, abiding love and devotion because the tuber-like root bulbs of wild cyclamen varieties can be divided and replanted over and over again.
Today, cyclamen plants are prized as ornamental houseplants that flower in winter and are often given as holiday gifts. While these members of the primrose family are typically meant to be thrown away after their seasonal blooms fade, it's possible to keep them flowering year after year with the proper care.
- Botanical Name: Cyclamen persicum
- Common Name: Cyclamen, sowbread
- Plant Type: Perennial
- Mature Size: 6–9 inches tall and wide
- Sun Exposure: Partial light
- Soil Type: Well-drained
- Soil pH: 5.5
- Toxicity: Toxic
While it's flowering, your cyclamen needs close attention. Feed it with houseplant fertilizer every two weeks, and water frequently enough to keep the soil consistently moist. When blooming stops in late winter, the plant will go dormant and begin to lose its leaves. Water it very sparingly in spring. When summer comes, move your cyclamen to a warm and dark or shaded spot in your home, and stop watering completely for two to three months.
The warm-weather dormant period is a good time to repot, which you should do every other year or so. Fill a pot one size larger with standard potting soil, and replant the tuber, making sure the soil level around the tuber in the new pot is the same as in the old pot.
In late summer, you can resume watering your cyclamen, taking care to soak the plant deeply the first time. Move it back into an unheated or cool spot in your home with bright light. Soon, you should see new leaves emerging from the plant. If you've given the plant good care and the right conditions, it'll flower for you again in winter.
Best Growing Conditions for Cyclamen Plant
You're likely to see cyclamen in shops and plant nurseries from early fall through early winter. Their blooming period can last as long as eight weeks, typically in December and January. When choosing a specimen, carefully check behind open blooms, and choose a plant with many unopened buds, which will give you a longer bloom period.
As your cyclamen's flowers fade, remove the dead blooms to help promote the opening of new buds.
When you get yours home, place it a spot with lots of bright, indirect light and cool temperatures. After flowering, move your cyclamen to a shaded, dark place. Unlike many houseplants, cyclamen do best with cooler night temperatures, ideally in the 40s, although they can still survive nights as warm as 65 degrees. Consider keeping your cyclamen in an unheated portion of your home to best simulate these conditions. Cool temperatures can extend the bloom period up to an additional two months.
Cyclamen Plant Varieties
Florist cyclamen plants, derived from wild Persian cyclamen, are typically available as houseplants and will grow to about one foot tall. Wild or hardy varieties like sowbread (C. coum), ivy-leaved cyclamen (C. hederifolium), and Neapolitan cyclamen (C. neapolitanum) grow to about six inches high and are grown as perennial outdoor garden plants.
How to Propagate Cyclamen Plant
Unfortunately, florist cyclamen can't be propagated from dividing tubers like hardy cyclamen species, which are typically grown as outdoor perennials, can. The cut sides of the tuber typically don't heal correctly, and the tubers just rot after being planted.
Commercially, florist cyclamen is propagated by seeds, which must be planted under specific light and temperature conditions around 18 months to two years before the plant will bloom. For this reason, it's best to simply purchase a new plant if you want another one, or follow the care directions above to keep the same cyclamen plant blooming year after year.
Common Growing Problems
If you allow the soil to dry out while the plant is in flower, the blooms may die off. On the other hand, if the plant gets too much water, the leaves will start to droop. Cyclamen plants prefer the soil moist but not boggy.
Is Cyclamen Plant Toxic?
All parts of the cyclamen plant are toxic to humans and animals. Signs of ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, drooling. If the poisoning is severe, it could lead to seizures, abnormal heart rate, and death.