Q: I received a cyclamen plant at a holiday party. Can you please tell me how to take care of it?
A: Cyclamen (Cylamen persicum) are popular houseplants for the winter holiday season. These plants originate from the Mediterranean region. In their native habitat, they bloom during the cool months and then go dormant during the hot, dry summer.
Cyclamen can be challenging houseplants because they like daytime temperatures of about 68ᵒF and nighttime temperatures in the fifties. Warmer temperatures reduce flowering time and signal the plant to go dormant. They like bright, indirect sunlight. An eastern-facing window works well.
Water your plant from the side of the pot to avoid the main growing point of the tuber, which can be susceptible to rotting. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Wait until the soil feels dry to the touch before watering, but do not let the plant wilt.
Another option for watering would be to place your plant into a saucer filled with water when the soil feels dry. Allow the plant to soak up as much water as it can in 10-15 minutes, then discard any excess water from the saucer.
Many people enjoy cyclamen plants as short-term houseplants and then discard them after they bloom. It is not easy to get them to flower a second time.
If you’re up for a challenge and want to try coaxing your plant into bloom a second time, allow it to go dormant for about two months of the year. Gradually reduce watering when your plant finishes flowering and let the foliage to die off. This will be the plant’s dormancy (resting) period. Do not water for 6-8 weeks. Keep the plant in a cool location indoors or a cool, shaded area outdoors. At midsummer, begin watering again, infrequently. When the leaves are fully developed, resume a regular watering schedule and apply a half-strength houseplant fertilizer every two weeks.
Cool temperatures, indirect light, dormancy, and moisture management are the keys to success with cyclamen.
By Christa Carignan, Coordinator, Digital Horticulture Education, Home & Garden Information Center
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I just plant mine out with shallow ground cover so that no one will miss them in summer, and they come back and bloom in the winter.
Tony, you probably have the fortune of a warmer climate where you are in California. These can certainly go outside during the summer in Maryland, but they do need to come back inside before our winters.