Cyclamen season delivers floral delight
It's finally cool enough for one of my favourite flowering plants - cyclamens. These are one of the best plants for pots in shady areas or indoors.
Even if they didn't flower, cyclamens would be worth growing for their lovely heart-shaped leaves. They are superbly patterned, marbled in shades of green, white or silver. But for most people the main attraction is the profusion of brilliantly coloured flowers. These might be white, pink, red, crimson, mauve or purple. Sometimes they are bi-coloured. They are held in large numbers on strong fleshy stems high above the foliage and we get to enjoy them right through autumn, winter and into spring. Many are fragrant, particularly colours other than scarlet.
It's easy to fall in love with a cyclamen, and a strong and healthy plant will last for months with minimal care as long as you follow a few simple guidelines.
There's no need to take the cyclamen out of its plastic pot. Simply sit the plastic pot inside a nice pot or basket.
Choose a cool position with good light but out of direct sunlight. Put the cyclamen outside at night while you have heaters or fireplaces going. If the plant gets too warm, the leaves will turn yellow and go limp, and the plant will stop flowering and look miserable.
Keep the foliage dry. Avoid overhead watering as this will encourage fungal disease and could lead to rot. When your plant needs a drink, sit it in a saucer of water for half an hour then remove it and let it drain. Or water it carefully from the top, avoiding the corm and the foliage. Allow the potting mix to get a little dry before you water again, and don't leave the pot sitting in water for too long.
Remove spent flowers to encourage more but don't cut or break them off. Instead, grasp the stem at its base and gently twist to remove it without damaging the corm.
As the weather warms, the cyclamen will begin to enter its dormant phase. If you view your cyclamen as a great value alternative to cut flowers, just empty the pot into the compost heap. But if you want to have a go at bringing it back next year, put the pot on its side (to keep the corm dry) in the shade and ignore it until you see new leaves emerge at the end of summer. That's the time to repot it into fresh premium potting mix and start the process again.
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