Southern Gardening: Winter-blooming cyclamen make great indoor plants

January 4, 2014 10:09:05 PM



Let me offer a suggestion if you looked around your house this Christmas season and enjoyed the poinsettias but wished for a little variety. Next year, bring home some cyclamen to decorate your living area over the winter. 


Cyclamen is a great indoor plant with a long blooming period that produces loads of colorful flowers. 


Its traditional flower colors range from red to pink and white, making it ideal for Christmas decorating. But some of the most attractive colors are the soft pastels of pink and purple, which can put a twist on your holiday decorating. 


The nodding flowers of cyclamen have swept-back petals held on straight stems above the foliage. The cordate or heart-shaped leaves have varying patterns of silver and gray, which is another highly attractive feature of cyclamen. 


Cyclamen like lots of bright, indirect light when grown indoors. 


Be sure to keep yours away from heating vents. Cyclamen like high humidity, so low humidity caused by the house's heating system can be a problem during the winter. Work around this problem by keeping your cyclamen container on a layer of pebbles in a tray filled with water. Never place the container directly in the water as this would overwater the plant. 


If you like the plant so much you want to see if everywhere, try some cyclamen in containers. Cyclamen like temperatures in the 40 to 60 degree range, which means we can grow them outdoors for much of the Mississippi winter. Colorful containers arranged by the front door can cheerfully greet visitors. And since you grow them in containers, you can whisk them indoors if a spell of cold weather moves in. 


Watering is the biggest problem most home gardeners have growing cyclamen successfully. Avoid overwatering at all costs. Always wait for the potting mix to feel dry to the touch, and then water thoroughly around the outside of the container. Never pour water directly on the crown of your cyclamen, as this can encourage crown rot. Place the container in the sink to allow it to drain completely before you put it back out for decoration. 


Although cyclamen look great through the winter, as the weather begins to warm, the leaves will start to turn to yellow eventually. Many gardeners take this as the signal to throw the plant away and buy a new one next fall, but the adventurous gardener can try to keep it all year and get it to bloom again next winter. 


If you want to try to get your cyclamen to bloom a second time, stop watering the yellowing foliage, allow it to wither, and let the potting media dry out. After a couple of months, repot the tuber in a slightly larger container, keeping half of the tuber above the potting mix. Resist the urge to water the transplant. In the fall when temperatures fall, new leaves will start to sprout. Now you can water your cyclamen well. 


So if all this talk of cyclamens has made you want to try your own, here are a few tips for choosing a cyclamen at the garden center. Select one that has just a few flowers open, leaving the majority to bloom after you bring it home. Make sure the flower stems are standing straight and have lots of flowers buds hiding under the foliage. 


Next fall, add some cyclamen to your home decorating scheme, and enjoy the variety this colorful plant will bring.