Cyclamen makes an easy houseplant this winter – Chicago Tribune

Cyclamen makes an easy houseplant this winter – Chicago Tribune

I would like to buy a flowering plant for a friend to celebrate his new house he just moved into and I am looking for a suggestion.
— Randy Avers, Chicago

I think cyclamen would be a good choice, Randy. It can provide easy winter color for eight weeks with proper care.

Success in growing cyclamen begins with the environment. It will do best when placed in a north window with bright, indirect light in a cool room with a temperature of 55 to 65 degrees F. If you can’t maintain these cool temperatures and your home is over 70 degrees during the day and over 65 degrees at night, your cyclamen may start to turn yellow, and the flowers will fade a little faster — but you can still get A good few weeks of color, so if you ask me, that’s no reason to avoid this plant. Cyclamen plants sold as houseplants are Mediterranean plants and do not tolerate temperatures below 40 degrees, so protect them by placing a sleeve around them when moving the plants indoors. In nature, these cyclamines grow in cool, moist environments. There are also hardy cyclamen that can be grown outside in your garden.

One thing to keep in mind is that cyclamen plants are sensitive to over or under watering. Start with a potting medium with excellent drainage and a container with a hole or holes in the bottom for water to drain from the pot. Water your cyclamen only when the soil is dry to the touch, and do not wait too long until it shows signs of severe drought, such as wilting leaves and flowers. You want to water it enough to keep the plant evenly moist but never too wet. Try to avoid splashing the plant’s crown or foliage when watering it as this may cause disease. Make sure to soak the growing medium well and allow any excess water to drain away when watering.

You can remove wilted flowers, stems, and yellowing leaves as needed. Fertilize once every one to two months with a water-soluble fertilizer mixed at half strength. When your cyclamen gets too much fertilizer, it can affect its ability to bloom again.

Some gardeners find it very difficult to force the plant to bloom again the following season and end up buying a new plant. If you want to try, here’s the process. After the cyclamen flowers, it will go dormant as the leaves turn yellow and fall off. Stop watering the plant as soon as you see signs that all the leaves have died. Place the plant in a cool, somewhat dark place. Remove dead foliage and leave the plant for two months. Another option is to remove the soil from the tuber and store it in peat moss or vermiculite in a dark, cool place (50 degrees) for its dormant period. Later in the spring or early summer, check the tuber for new growth. When you see new growth, repot the tuber with the top half uncovered and the bottom half planted in new growth medium. At that point, you should return to normal watering and fertilize the plant with a diluted 10-10-10 or 15-15-15 mixture twice a month.

Cyclamen can benefit from summer growing outside in a sheltered spot in the garden where it receives early morning sun. Just be sure to bring the plant inside before the fall frosts. If you follow these steps, you’ll be the owner of a healthy, happy plant that provides winter color.

For more tips about plants, contact the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plant Information Service at plantinfo@chicagobotanic.org. Tim Johnson is Senior Director of Horticulture at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

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