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Cyclamen persicum
Cyclamen persicum

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Bulbs and bulblike plants, Perennials, Flowers

Native to Europe, the Mediterranean region, and Asia. Grown for pretty flowers carried atop an attractive clump of basal leaves; blossoms resemble shooting stars or butterflies and typically come in white and shades of pink, rose, and red. Most go through near-leafless or leafless dormant period at some time during the summer.

Large-flowered florists’ cyclamen (C. persicum) is most often seen as a container-grown gift plant, though it can be used as a bedding plant in favorable climates. The other species described here are smaller-flowered, hardier plants better adapted to outdoor culture. Use them in rock gardens, in naturalized clumps under trees, or as carpets under camellias, rhododendrons, and large noninvasive ferns; hardy types also grow well under native oaks. All are good container plants if grown out of direct sun.

All cyclamens grow best in fairly rich, porous soil with lots of humus. Plant tubers 6–10 in. apart, 1/2 in. deep. (Florists’ cyclamen is an exception: the upper half of the tuber should protrude above soil level.) Best planting time for tubers is dormant period in summer—except for florists’ cyclamen, which is always sold as a potted plant and can be planted out anytime. Topdress annually with a light application of potting soil with complete fertilizer added (being careful not to cover top of florists’ cyclamen tubers). Do not cultivate around roots.

Plants grow readily from seed. Small-flowered hardy species take several years to bloom; older strains of florists’ cyclamen need 15 to 18 months from seed, while newer strains can bloom 7 months after planting. Grown outdoors in open ground, plants often self-sow.

Cyclamen coum

Deep crimson-rose flowers on 4–6-in. stems in winter and early spring. Round deep green leaves. Varieties with pink or white flowers are available.

Cyclamen hederifolium (photo courtesy of Jim McCausland)
Cyclamen hederifolium (photo courtesy of Jim McCausland)

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Cyclamen hederifolium

Large light green leaves are marbled silver and white. Rose-pink flowers bloom on 3–4-in. stems in late summer, early fall. One of the most vigorous and easiest to grow cyclamens; very reliable in cold-winter climates. Set tubers a foot apart. There is a white-flowered variety.

Cyclamen persicum ‘Winter Ice White’ (photo courtesy of Kimberley Navabpour)
Cyclamen persicum ‘Winter Ice White’ (photo courtesy of Kimberley Navabpour)

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Cyclamen persicum

Original species has 2-in., fragrant, deep to pale pink or white blooms borne on 6-in. stems. Selective breeding has resulted in large-flowered florists’ cyclamen (the old favorites) and newer, smaller strains; with rare exceptions, fragrance has disappeared. Plants typically have heart- or kidney-shaped dark green leaves, often with silvery mottling. They bear crimson, red, salmon, purple, pink, or white flowers on 6–8-in. stems from late fall to spring.

Good choice for color in a place to be occupied in summer by tuberous begonias. Shade is required where summers are hot. Plants lose leaves and go dormant in hot weather, but usually survive if drainage is good and soil is not waterlogged. Protect from slugs and snails; plants are especially vulnerable because tops of tubers and growing points are exposed.

Dwarf or miniature florists’ cyclamens are replicas of standards with half- or three-quarter-size leaves and blossoms. Can bloom in 7 to 8 months from seed. Miniature strains (profuse show of 1 1/2-in. flowers on 6–8-in. plants) include Miracle and Laser, both with fragrant blossoms.

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