We cover the hardy cyclamen in this first section, then cover the Florist's Cyclamen below.
Hardy Cyclamen Species
The hardy species of Cyclamen, C. hederifolium and C. coum, require very little maintenance. Their leaves appear in winter when they are most welcome, and recede in summer when other plants are ready to take center stage.
C. hederifolium is one of very few no care flowering perennials. It is attractive in leaf and flower, and increases in size at a steady rate but never needs division. Seeds are frequently viable and spread by birds that favor their sweet coating, but since cyclamen don't grow well in the open, excessive reseeding is usually not a concern. New seedlings that do survive are often in difficult dry shade areas where they are welcome.
C. coum blooms in January, when no other pink flowers are available, and its flowering is surely a sign that the new season has begun. While it shares the attractive mottled foliage, summer dormant habit, and no maintenance character of C. hederifolium, C. coum shouldn't be combined with C. hederiflium to extend the bloom time, as the less vigorous C. coum will be choked out over time.
In the Pacific Northwest Florist's Cyclamen are considered annuals or houseplants because they do not tolerate temperatures below 30ºF for extended periods of time. They can succefully grow on a protected porch to provide blooms all winter.
Florist's cyclamen, with its large flowers and long bloom season brings a special brightness and texture to fall, winter, and spring containers. Other winter flowers cover a range of subdued colors, but these flowers are big and bright and remind us that another season is always just around the corner. Plus many varieties are fragrant too! Not only do they have charming flowers, but they also have beautiful heart-shaped leaves with unique silver markings. Florist's cyclamen make the perfect gift for the winter season.
Origin: 23 species from Central Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. Native habitat ranges from alpine meadows, deciduous woodland, and areas of rock and scrub
Culture: Good drainage is essential; note that all the above microclimates are likely to have freely draining or rocky soil. Florist's cyclamen prefers bright indirect light, while C. hederifolium and C. coum can be planted in full sun or light shade since they will be dormant during portion of the year when hot sun might burn them.
In the ground, cyclamen need no supplemental water. Container grown, the soil must neither dry out completely nor be soggy. Use a freely draining potting mix, plant the tuber with its crown just above the soil surface, then add 1-2 inches of gravel or grit on top.
Maintenance: Varies some by species. For the two hardy species, C. hederifolium and C. coum, very little maintenance is required. Clear up spent leaves and flowers at the onset of hot weather if desired, and ensure the area receives as little supplemental water as possible (none is best) until the first fall rains bring about active growth.
For florist's cyclamen (which has been bred from C. persicum), some special care is required. It can neither tolerate freezing nor having the soil constantly wet, so it must be kept in a protected, covered location.
During cold snaps, more protection such as bringing it inside may be necessary, but one must also keep in mind that prolonged temperatures of 68 degrees or warmer will force it into "summer" dormancy. Therefore, a garage or basement may be the best protection during cold snaps. Water containerized cyclamen by setting its pot in 2-3" of water for about 30 seconds, and do so only when dry at least an inch down from the top.
Pest and Disease: To say the slugs like the leaves may be going too far, but in winter, a slug will eat any leaf it can find. Since cyclamen generally prefer places with some protection from winter rain, slug bait should be a viable control option.
Botrytis (grey mold) prefers many of the same conditions as cyclamen, and can be an especially bad problem for container grown cyclamen. Treatments include strong fungicides and are not always effective, so prevention is of the utmost importance. Keys to prevention include: not overwatering and never pouring water onto the crown, planting containers with the top of the tuber above the soil and then covering with an inch of grit, cleaning up spent flowers promptly, encouraging good airflow (especially at night,) and avoiding excess nitrogen in the fertilizer.