Winter Blooming Cyclamen

I have always had great affection for cyclamen and their happy perkiness in the dead of a far broader sense than simply as holiday plant or Christmas gift. Consequently, I have amassed a tiny community of them...

among them this chirpy variety 'Candy Cane', appropriately named for its red and white tipped flowers. An acquisition from Whole Foods over the holidays, but still going strong and looking cheery in the company of my 

 red KitchenAid Mixer and red splatter ware tray...and making playful shadow figures on the mottled green kitchen cabinet wall to keep me company while I bake.

As my little tribe of cyclamen grows, mere affection has been replaced by great fondness...and great appreciation for how this natural winter bloomer with its handsome bicolored leaves 

provides just the right jolt of color at just the right time. In this case, deep saturated red blooms that melt right into the saturated red lamp shades and leather-red walls of my dining room...

and, along with a cup of hot tea, helps repel the winter doldrums, or at least delay their onset.

The cyclamen in the pot below is a holdover from last winter. With an encouraging feed (cyclamen is one of the few plants that can benefit from a bit of winter fertilizing) it will bloom white. Though I think it lovely 

on its own, with nothing but a luscious mound of moist green moss and the texture of a beautiful concrete planter to enhance its striking foliage.

Cyclamen will reward you with long blooming color if you keep it constantly moist over the winter months. Saturate its root mass, but please, no water on its foliage or flowers as this may encourage fungal problems and leaf rot.

It is the perfect plant for a cool to cold windowsill. (Remember it is a winter bloomer, after all.)  Ideal temps are between 50-60 degrees. Temps over 68 during the day, and under 40 at night (for non-hardy varieties) can cause problems -- yellowing leaves and drooping, unhappy buds and flowers. Bright light without direct sun makes a superb growing environment. 

Setting the pot on a saucer of gravel filled with water will make it love you back, and provides the extra humidity it craves in the dry, heated air of our winter homes...and also helps to keep spider mites at bay.

As plants go in to dormancy in summer, withhold water, keeping the tuber just ever so barely watered.  Leaves will yellow, turn brown and die. Store in a cool, dark place, and when winter approaches again.....and tiny leaves appear, water well and care for as prescribed.  In late winter, early spring, when outside temps are still cold, but not freezing...

I have had success planting them outside in my concrete urns,  with delicate alyssum, dianthus, pansies, violas, moss, ivy and fern...even baby lettuces.

Not a sure-fire endeavor,

but a lovely gardening risk worth taking.....with those sweet little winter-loving cyclamen.

 To learn more, join me and Linda Cavanaugh today on 4 YOUR GARDEN on NewsChannel 4 at 4:30.

Labels: , , ,