Question: I received a flowering cyclamen over the holidays and need some help with fertilizer, growing and care as a houseplant. Does a cyclamen grow from a bulb or from seeds? Anita, New Hampshire
Answer: The cyclamen flowering is one of the loveliest of holiday houseplants, and yet it is probably the least satisfactory holiday plants when brought into the average home. It’s not at all unusual, in fact, for a plant to last only ten days to two weeks – that being the approximate life of the blooming cyclamen and the larger buds that are on the plant when it arrives. The smaller buds usually fail to develop under ordinary care, and so the cyclamen plant is worthless as far as bloom is concerned as soon as the large buds have finished flowering.
Care as a Houseplant
To find out just what conditions cyclamen need to make them last longer, 20 flowering plants were placed in New Hampshire homes. And to insure their getting no better than average care, no instructions were distributed with the plants, and no plants were given to the people who had grown cyclamen before.
Ten of the 20 plants were unsatisfactory, the majority of these failing within the first two weeks they were in the homes. What caused these ten plants to fail? Nine of the ten failed for lack of water or because of drying and high temperatures. The other one failed because it developed crown rot from standing in a jardiniere full of water.
The cyclamen wilts quickly when watering is neglected, and, even though it is then watered and revives, the smaller flower buds often blast. So the first rule to follow for getting the most from your Christmas cyclamen is to check the soil often and never let it get so dry that the plant wilts severely. We like cyclamen because they can tell you when they need a drink. The flowers wilt slightly first, and apparently no damage results if the plant is watered immediately, before the foliage shows signs of wilting.
Successful Cyclamen Growing
Now let’s see how the most successful cyclamen plants were grown, In other words, how can we help our own cyclamen to last two to three months or even longer?
Four of the ten successful plants were given sunny windows, and six were given little or no sun but good indirect light. Four these trials it would appear that an east, window would be ids or a south window with the shade of light drapery. Too much sun will cause rapid drying and therefore would lessen your chances of success. Of eleven plants kept in sunny windows, seven failed. Still, good light is necessary if you want your plant to bloom for two months or more.
If you live in a home where the night temperature is kept above 65°, you would do well to trade your cyclamen for a poinsettia. The plants studied it, this experiment were subjected to night temperatures ranging from 45°, on a sun porch, to 72°. None of the plants grown at above 65° were satisfactory.
Fertilizing Your Cyclamen
Feeding of cyclamen is not necessary, since these plants have been well grown and fed for 15 months or more by the florist. A weak liquid fertilizer may, however, increase the size and color of the last flowers.
Pest Control on Cyclamen
Insects need not be a problem on cyclamen, although a knowledge of the principal pests may help you select insect-free plants. The cyclamen mite is by far their worst enemy. These pests are too tiny to be seen without the aid of a powerful lens, but they cause a characteristic curling and deformation of the leaves, especially the new ones. Be on your guard for this pest, and pass up any plant that shows the least symptoms of mite. Should a suspicious looking plant be sent you as a gift, he very careful that it is kept away from your African violets. The cyclamen mite is the African violet’s deadliest enemy also.
Red spider mites, which are larger and more easily seen, may also be present, although you may not detect them until the plant has been in your home for several weeks. Unless you examine a plant closely, the first signs you will see are a webbing over the foliage and flowers. The tiny spiders and the webbing are easily removed by syringing the plants in the kitchen sink. Regular washing in this way will be necessary, but this pest need not cause you to lose your plant.
A few people are successful in carrying cyclamen over from year to year. But unless you have a cool, partially sunny window in which to grow them, the chances are very much against you, for the cyclamen is not an easy plant in the home. There are two ways they may be handled.
After flowering, some growers allow their plants to ripen by gradually withholding water until the leaves have all dried. The tuber may then be shaken out and repotted in a good house-plant soil mixture. Watering once a week or even less often will suffice until growth is resumed.
Another method, which is just as successful, is to shift the plant to a larger container after flowering and keep it growing. It will lose some of its leaves, but not all, and will rest to some extent.
In either case, regular foliar feeding will be needed to keep it growing actively. A cool, partially shaded porch, or a lath-house, will give you an ideal location for growing cyclamen through the summer.
It’s not easy, but it’s lots of fun for those who really love to grow plants.