Apart from a couple of orchids all of my houseplants are foliage plants, so a few of weeks ago I thought I’d add a bit of colour to my windowsills with some Cyclamen persicum plants. These autumn and winter-flowering cyclamen are native to the Middle East and cultivars of them have become popular indoor plants. While there are several types of cyclamen that are hardy enough to grow in the garden, this cyclamen will not tolerate the cold winters here in the UK so they need to be grown indoors.
The flowers are unusual, with petals that are swept upwards forming flowers that look like small crowns. They come in white, red or various shades of pink. The leaves are attractive too, a pretty heart shape with silvery marbled markings on a backdrop of green.
They have a reputation for being a bit fiddly to grow but that’s partly due to getting the watering right. Rather than watering the compost directly, which can cause fungal problems and lead to the centre of the cyclamen rotting, it’s better to water from below. Simply fill a sink or large bowl with a couple of inches of water and stand the pot in the water for 10 minutes so that the water can be absorbed from the base.
The other reason for Cyclamen persicum failing to thrive is placing them in the wrong position. They don’t like the cold, but equally if it’s too warm the plant will think it’s summer, stop flowering and go into a period of dormancy. The best place to display these cyclamen is a cool windowsill – north or east-facing – away from chilly draughts and the hot air from radiators or fire. A cool porch or conservatory would be ideal too.
Deadhead regularly to remove faded flowers and new ones will appear, these should continue until late winter. At this point the plant will start to die back. Generally the plants are discarded at this point, but with a little care it is possible to keep them so that they bloom again the following autumn. To do this mimic the conditions the plant would experience in the wild by reducing the amount of water - the leaves will naturally start to yellow and fall. Put the pot somewhere cool and dry over the summer – a shelf in a shed or garage is perfect. Keep the compost barely moist, just enough so that the tuber doesn’t dry out. In September repot into a soil-based John Innes No 2 compost and add some grit to improve the drainage. Gradually start to water every week or so when the compost feels dry and fresh growth should start to emerge.
Om Louise Curley
Louise is a horticulturalist, garden writer and author of the award-winning book The Cut Flower Patch. She’s passionate about the power of plants to make us feel happy and is an advocate for organic gardening and encouraging wildlife into gardens.Get to know Louise Curley
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