Questions on: Cyclamen

Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service


Q: I received a cyclamen as a gift almost two years ago. This past summer, some of the leaves turned yellow, so I pulled them off. I never have allowed the plant to completely dry out (except sometimes accidentally). It has fewer leaves than it originally did, but still looks full and the plant is in its original pot. The leaves look good, but are starting to curl. Can you tell me what I should do next? (e-mail reference)

A: Since you didnít mention it, I would suggest repotting the plant. Also, check the temperature of the room that it is in. Cyclamen like it cool, so keep it away from forced- air heating vents. Don't overwater the plant, but do keep the potting media damp. Be careful to not bury the tuber when repotting. I don't know what else to tell you. Usually, cyclamen are dumped after completing a blooming cycle.


Q: A lady at our church gave me a minicyclamen in September 2005. It did not stop blooming until now. Seeing that I was very pleased with the plant, the lady who gave me the plant decided to give me more plants. She gave me a big cyclamen and two minicyclamens. Unfortunately, these plants are not looking good. Iíve treated the plants the same as the original plant that was given to me. The leaves and flowers are wilting. I thought it was because the plants needed water, but they donít drink the water in the saucepan underneath the plants. What do you think the problem could be? Thank you for taking time to answer my question. (e-mail reference)

A: Go to www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/h145cyclamen.html for good information on cyclamen culture and care by Jean Galligan, University of Minnesota horticulture technician. I suspect that you traded in all of your good luck with the first plant. That is why horticulture is not a strict science. Horticulture is a science and an art, which I sometimes think means "luck!" Cyclamen plants should be allowed to dry after their blooming period. After a six- to eight-week rest period, the plants should be repotted and the previous culture reinitiated.


Q: I bought a beautiful hybrid cyclamen at a horticultural show last fall. It flowered until the spring. At that time, the leaf stalks became limp and I thought it was heading for a rest. However, before the old growth died down, a new crop of dark green leaves emerged. Soon after that came masses of flower buds. The plant now has 30 distinctive red and white flowers, but the leaves are pale. Is this chlororis and would it benefit from a shot of chelated iron? (e-mail reference)

A: It would be better to use a complete houseplant fertilizer with iron. The crown of this plant had a storehouse of energy. It will need a rest after this blast, so back off on the watering and fertilization when it starts to show those symptoms.


Q: I received a bright, pink-colored cyclamen, which did not do well initially. The flower wilted and the leaves yellowed, but these problems were rectified with less watering. The continuing problem is that the pink flowers turned white and the new buds also are white. Why has this occurred and is there anything I can do to bring back the vibrant color? (e-mail reference)

A: Not that I know of. This is likely a chimeral mutation that was lost, so it reverted back to its original color, which was white.


Q: I received a cyclamen plant last October that had beautiful flowers. I noticed the pot was getting too small, so I repotted the plant. It has not flowered since then. The plant grows many leaves that are hearty and strong, but no flowers. The plant receives plenty of sunlight during the day and is cool at night (65 degrees). I have been watering it once a week. (e-mail reference)

A: My best advice is to be patient. The plant will get around to flowering because you appear to have it in the right growing conditions and giving it the care it needs.


Q: Iíve had a cyclamen for more than a year. It was blooming beautifully when I bought it. I thought the plant was getting too big for the pot, so I transplanted it. Although my plant continues to bloom, it is spindly. The stems on the leaves are long and droop over the edges of the pot and the blooms do the same. Do you think my plant needs a rest? Could I cut the plant back, remove all the leaves, let it sit where it is now and not water it for 90 days? It seems that ever since I have had the plant, it has always had blooms and new leaves growing. When is a good time to give the plant a rest? I don't want to loose the plant, but it is looking straggly. (e-mail reference)

A: The plant is literally exhausting itself. It also sounds like it is light deprived. Once you have given it the needed rest, begin growing the plant again with the aid of artificial light.


Q: You often comment in your column about cyclamens and you frequently advise readers to discard their plants once they have bloomed because they are so difficult to maintain. I have been extremely fortunate with my plants and want to share my experience with you. Some years ago, the janitor in our building fished a potted cyclamen out of the dumpster and gave it to me. I nursed it back to health and it has flourished for years. It frequently blooms throughout the year. I have counted as many as 30 blooms at once, with as many buds still to bloom. I was curious about how the plant could be propagated. When the plant was in full bloom, I took a Q-tip and swabbed the inside of all the blooms several times a day. Many blooms set seed pods that produced about a tablespoon of seeds. I planted the seeds and about 20 produced plants. I potted three of the best looking plants and now these plants are producing blooms. What is even more unusual is the fact that the original plant was in a 5-inch pot and in time, the bulb grew to cover the surface area of the pot. Last spring, when my wife was repotting some of her houseplants, I asked her to repot my cyclamen. Unfortunately, she misunderstood my instructions. She took off some stems, potted them and discarded the bulb. The stems, of course, died. However, late in November while I was cleaning out the dead growth of a large bed of lily of the valley on the east side of our garage, lying on the surface was the original cyclamen bulb. It had survived the summer, several killing frosts and neglect. The bulb had several healthy leaves and stems. I repotted the bulb and it is again blooming nicely. It now has about 20 buds.

I keep the plants near a west-facing window. I keep my office cool, barely over 60 degrees during the winter. I water from the bottom and lightly fertilize once a month. (Grand Forks, N.D.)

A: You have an amazing success story! You either have the golden touch with plants or are very lucky. Have you tried the lottery? Thanks for sharing an interesting story


Q: My mother gave me a beautiful cyclamen in April as a sentimental gift of appreciation for some hard work Iíve done for her. I am desperate to keep it alive, but seem to be failing. Some Web sites say give it lots of water, but some sites say back off on watering. Everyone seems to be so knowledgeable, yet every site offers different advice. It all seems a little advanced for my limited plant knowledge. Could you please help me out with some ďbaby stepsĒ for nursing this thing back to health and keeping it alive? (e-mail reference)

A: I will do my best to provide you with some ďbaby steps.Ē Cyclamen need bright, but indirect light. These plants prefer a cool environment at all times (between 55 and 65 degrees), which feels chilly to most of us indoors. Along with a low temperature, these plants need high humidity. This can be accomplished by placing the plant on a tray of pebbles that you keep water in or by using a humidifier in the room. Donít mist the foliage. Some people say they have grown cyclamen by watering over the tubers. I will stick to what I have seen that works. Place the pot in a bath of water that covers half the pot. Allow it to stay that way until the top of the media is glistening with moisture. Then lift it out and allow the water to drain. Use a diluted solution of typical houseplant fertilizer every two weeks. Some people say that they have been growing cyclamen for years. Typically, once the flowers fade, remove the stalk and everything else. Once the flowering ceases, most plants are dumped because they begin to go downhill. If you can, back off on the watering and allow the tuber to dry completely. Keep the plants in their pots somewhere cool through the summer. New growth should begin emerging sometime in late summer or early fall. If or when that happens, knock the plant out of the pot, repot with fresh soil and relocate it in the same bright, cool location. The cyclamenís beautiful flowers seduce most people when they give them as gifts. They donít realize that these are difficult plants for most people to care for successfully. I usually advise enjoying the plant as long as possible. You shouldnít worry about failing to keep it alive indefinitely because professional growers face the same challenge! I am sure your mom will not take offense if your plant should go the usual way of just fading away.


Q: I read the questions on your Web site, but didnít find this one. The cyclamen I have appears to have a seedpod growing. Itís a round thing on the end of a stem and is hanging over the edge of the pot. Iím interested in trying to grow a plant from seed, but Iím not sure when to remove the pod, how to remove it correctly or how to plant the seeds. Can you tell me what to do? (e-mail reference)

A: Allow the pod to remain until it dries. If you want, place a bag over the pod to catch the seed in case it opens before you get to it. It is a challenge to grow cyclamen from seed because it needs to germinate in the dark and at soil temperatures between 68 to 72 degrees. Germination takes four to six weeks. Use a peat-based medium and RO or distilled water. Expect it to take several years to get them to bloom, if at all, so I hope you are a patient person!


Q: I live in Zone 5 and have several established beds of cyclamen hederifolium and cyclamen coum. Within the next year or so, I will be selling my home and would like to bring the plants with me. Is there a preferred season to dig the tubers? Can they be stored indefinitely? Would you store them in peat moss in an open carton? Is there a preferred season to replant them? Should they be soaked in water prior to replanting? (e-mail reference)

A: This is a plant that I have no experience with, so I am going to pass on attempting to answer your questions. None of my references has the information you asked for, so I hope some of our readers can provide some insight. If I donít hear from anyone, try to use good common sense. Most plants are better transferred while dormant. Plant parts never can be stored indefinitely. Dusting the stored tubers with sulfur or activated charcoal would be a good inclusion with the peat moss. Rehydrating the plants prior to replanting sounds like a good idea, but no more than overnight. It works for other plant species brought out of storage, so why not hardy cyclamens? Thatís as far as I dare go with my limited knowledge. If I learn anything more from valid sources, Iíll let you know.


Q: There appears to be white mold on the top of the soil of my cyclamen. Whatever it is appears to be making the plant lose its leaves. They donít even have time to turn yellow before the leaves come off with a tug. I scraped the top layer of soil off the plant, but Iíd like to keep it from coming back. I donít think the roots have rotted because it has been putting out many leaves, though it has slowed down recently. (e-mail reference)

A: The white mold could be a saprophytic fungus growing in the soil or an accumulation of salts. I suggest you consider repotting with fresh, pasteurized soil. If your container is not a free-draining pot, replace it with one that is. I suspect the mold is a saprophyte that is causing some type of dysfunctional behavior in the plant. Repotting and using fresh soil would correct the problem. While in the repotting process, check the crown to be sure no rotting has started. Cut out any decayed parts.


Q: I am commenting on a previous issue concerning a cyclamen plant. Iíve had good luck with my cyclamen, which was a Valentine gift several years ago. It sits in an east window with indirect light. I water it once a week during the winter and maybe twice a week when itís in full bloom. I water from the top, which I understand is something I shouldnít do. When I need to, I remove the yellowing leaves and paling blossoms. It is still in its original pot, but it seems to enjoy life there! (e-mail reference)

A: Thanks for sharing your success story. Keep on doing what youíve had success with, no matter what the experts say.


Q: I read some articles written about problems with cyclamen plants. They were very helpful. I got a beautiful cyclamen with pink blossoms for Valentineís Day this year. Iíve had a few of the leaves turn yellow and some of the blossoms are dying, but I now know what I need to do with my plant to keep it alive. (e-mail reference)

A: The plant now needs a decrease in watering so it can dry out. Carefully pull off, but not cut, all the dead and dying leaves and flowers. Keep the corm dry from around May through July. After July, gradually return to your original watering cycle. Be sure you are watering the soil, not the corm or foliage. When the plant begins to flower, fertilize with diluted solutions about once a month. Keep the plant in a bright location, but not in direct sunlight. When it flowers, try to keep the temperature as close to 60 degrees as possible.


Q: I got a cyclamen plant about a week ago. It started losing flowers and the leaves are turning yellow. I wrote to a place that has experts on cyclamen. They told me I was overwatering, so I stopped watering it as often. They also sent an article that says that if it gets too wet, the roots will rot. I read on another Web site that my problem is not watering enough, so I began giving it a little more water. So far, there hasnít been any improvement. Does the plant need more or less water? Have the roots rotted? Iíd really appreciate any information about cyclamen care you could give me. I got the plant for a special occasion and it means a lot to me. (e-mail reference)

A: The wilting can be caused by too little or too much water. In the latter case, it is caused by anaerobic conditions existing from saturated soil and possibly rotting or rotted roots unable to take up water. Cyclamen are very fussy plants. They never should be watered from above. Water by immersing the pot in tepid water and then allowing the excess to drain. On the other hand, the plant never should be allowed to dry completely. Keep the plant in bright, indirect light and try to keep it in a location where the temperature stays around 60 degrees.


Q: My wife and I have corresponded with you before and always enjoy your advice. We moved into a new home and received a cyclamen from a friend. I have had little luck with cyclamen in the past, and this one seems to be going the same way. It was full of buds and blooms, but within three weeks the leaves started turning yellow and dying. I tried to increase the humidity by putting it in a saucer filled with rocks and water, but not letting the plant sit in water. Does this plant have to go through dormancy? If so, how long? (Mellette, S.D.)

A: Thank you, glad the advice has been of value to you! Cyclamen plants are difficult to get to rebloom. I cannot claim success myself, so I will only be able to give you ďtextbook advice.Ē The yellowing could be from hot, dry air, which is not unusual during midwinter. Dry air seems to be the plantís biggest nemesis. Keep a pebble tray filled with water with the potted cyclamen sitting on top. This will keep the air humid around the plant. Keep the plant reasonably cool. The ideal temperature is 50 to 60 degrees. Provide ample, bright, indirect light. Once the flowering has ceased, reduce the watering and stop fertilizing. Place the pot on its side in a cool spot and keep it dry until midsummer. Then repot using fresh potting soil, place it in a bright spot and water to keep the soil continually moist. As stated, I have not had good luck raising cyclamen. Typically, I dump them after a season of frustration. Good luck!


Q: Are you familiar with mutations such as having partially pink petals and white petals with a pink line in the middle of the petal in otherwise all white miniature or wild type cyclamens? (E-mail reference)

A: Those are usually somatic mutations known a chimeras. Many apple mutations are the result of this process.


Q: I enjoy your comments, but don't throw out all cyclamens. I have a survivor. I was given a gorgeous plum colored plant for Christmas, 2001. It bloomed until September. I continued my regular treatment which included, almost every day, rain water with a few drops of Miracle-Gro. It dropped very few yellow leaves and began sending up new ones which then turned to flower buds. By the next Christmas it was even lovelier with more than thirty flowers. It is in an east window with lace sheers. It has been a delight for me every day. (Aneta, N.D.)

A: Thank you for proving me wrong on this species. If everybody had your talent for growing cyclamen, I wouldn't give out such advice. Keep your thumb green!


Q: I wanted you to know that you can keep cyclamens blooming. I have had a pink one since 1982 and a white cyclamens since 1995 and both are still blooming. I just repotted both into the same pot and now I have white ones and pink ones blooming in the same pot. They are in the south window and need lots of sunshine and lots of water. They are beautiful plants and since I repotted them they are nicer yet. (Tappen, N.D.)

A: Glad to hear it! You are a talented horticulturist to be able to do what usually takes skilled florist or greenhouse growers to accomplish! Thanks for sharing your success story.


Q: I have a cyclamen that I took with me after moving to a different home. I water with distilled water and fertilize twice a month. But this year it does not seem to want to bloom. It grew lots of new leaves but no flowers. It was fairly close to a heater so I moved it to a window sill where it's cooler. It didn't seem to like it so I moved it back. Is there any chance that it will bloom again or should I just give up? (E-mail reference)

A: You must like challenges. My advice, to most people, is to dump cyclamen plants after they flower. They need a bright light source but not direct sunlight. You may have to buy a plant light to provide it with enough energy. I assume you let it go through a dormancy period where it was allowed to dry for a period of time before you resumed watering. If you didn't, that may be the problem. There are easier plants to grow. If this one frustrates you, get rid of it and move on to others which will repay your attention with more beauty.


Q: I recently received a boxed amaryllis bulb kit. When I opened it, I found that the bulb had already begun sprouting. It has grown to about 6 inches tall and there is a bloom-looking thing on top. Unfortunately everything is white. Will it recover or is it useless? I also recently bought a cyclamen. It just finished blooming so I cut off all the old blooms. Is it possible to keep it growing without letting it dry out? (Vermillion, S.D.)

A: In answer to both of your questions, I donít know. Your reference to everything is white leads me to believe that it is moldy. Gently squeeze the bulb to see if it is still firm. If it is, there is a chance it will recover. The white stuff could just be a surface mildew that may not be lethal to the bulb. If the bulb is mushy, then you might as well dump it, unless it is continuing to grow for you. Frankly, I have never grown a cyclamen after blooming so I don't know what the results would be. My references tell me that watering should be withheld and the pot placed on its side in a cool spot and kept dry until midsummer. Then repot using fresh potting soil and begin the process of watering and fertilizing. You might try what you are suggesting to see what the results would be. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


Q: I read with interest the letter and comments regarding the Cyclamen plant. I, too, have had a Cyclamen (purchased from the florist) for three or four years now. It blooms profusely in the winter, and all with minimal care. During the summer months, I set it outside on the north side of the house. During the winter months I have it in a south window in my low temperature basement (50 + degrees). I also water from the top. Last fall I transplanted it to a larger container, and it has seemed to flourish. The foliage has never died back for me. (E-mail reference)

A: Thanks for your note. What I tell people who do what you are doing successfully is to ignore any advice to the contrary. Years of research can go into growing certain plants, books can be written on what plants require, and graduate degrees can be earned by studying the foibles of plant growth, reproduction, and crop yields and be absolutely correct. But nature is full of contradictions to the research. Right outside my office on campus, I am waiting impatiently for trees to die that should have died more than six years ago because they are completely surrounded by concrete and blacktop, defying the laws of requirements for plant growth: aerated soil, a balance of nutrients, light and water. Yet, they grow on every year as if nothing is wrong! Someday they will die, then I can say what killed them .... finally!


Q: How and when is the best way to divide a cyclamen? Directions with the plant I got about five or six years ago said to discard when finished blooming. The foliage was too pretty to discard, and in a few months it started blooming again, and has been in almost constant bloom ever since. I have taken the whole plant and put it in a larger pot several times, but now have it in the largest pot I can handle. It is full of blossoms, but is very crowded and the foliage is only about half the size it used to be, and it needs to be watered at least every other day. Contrary to your advice in a recent column, I have been watering it from above. The pot is too large to do anything else. I definitely don't want to lose this plant. (Wagner, S.D.)

A: Well, you have defied the odds in two ways: watering from above and attempting to keep the plant beyond the blooming stage. Let's see how far we can go now! Try dividing the crown or tuber with some shoots attached and repot. The plant needs to go into a resting period this summer, so allow the foliage to die down, and keep everything dry and cool until fall. Begin watering again (this time from the bottom - don't keep pushing your luck!) and you should get some regrowth showing in about three weeks.


Q: I just received a Cyclamen for valentine's day and don't really know much about it. Can you help me? In pictures I've seen the flowers stand up high. Mine are not. How can I help them? (Beach, N.D.)

A: I'm glad you are writing so soon after getting a Cyclamen. It sounds like you are overwatering it, or possibly watering it from overhead. Cyclamen need to be watered via the immersion method, where the container is placed in a tub of tepid water to just below the soil or compost line and allowed to stay until the surface glistens. Then remove the plant and allow the container to drain freely for about 20 to 30 minutes before returning it to a north window or other cool location. Keep in mind that the potting medium needs to be kept moist, not saturated, not watered overhead, and the water should be room temperature.


Q: I am house sitting for some friends that own several cyclamens. In a note, I was asked to put the cyclamens in a foot of water twice a week. Is that true, and if so, do I simply submerge the whole plant in water like in the sink? Does the water have to cover the whole plant, leaves and all? And for how long do they stay submerged? (E-mail reference)

A: Cyclamen should be watered from below by placing the pots in a shallow water-filled bowl or pan; this permits the potting mixture to take up as much water as it needs. After 10 minutes the pots should be lifted out and permitted to drain. Never allow water to be poured on the leaves.

Your friends only gave you partial information and advice--dangerous, because if you had immersed the plants completely they very well could expire. And, they are very expensive to replace.


Q: I have noticed you get a lot of questions on cyclamen. I don't have the greenest thumb in the world, but love plants. My husband gave me a cyclamen for Valentineís this year and it stayed pretty for a couple weeks, then after the flowers slowed up the leaves started to turn yellow. What can I do to save my cyclamen? (E-mail reference, St. George, Utah)

A: Cyclamen plants are beautiful to get as gifts but require a little more than average attention for continued blooming cycles. Since yours is already in a state of decline, slow down on the watering until the leaves completely turn yellow and dry up, then stop the watering completely. Store the plant in a cool, dry place until early fall when signs of new growth should begin appearing. Knock the soil off the tubers and repot in the same pot, using a soil based potting soil. Set the plant in a bright light location and begin watering from the bottom of the container--never over the top. This is best accomplished by dipping the pot in a water-filled bowl, allowing the water to seep in until the soil is wetted completely. Then allow the pot to drain. These plants are challenges for even experienced commercial growers to tackle, so don't be too discouraged about this if yours fails.


Q: I have seen several questions about Cyclamen plants. I have a plant that we have had for five years. We keep it in the shade in the summer and in the winter indoors where it gets lots of light and even temperature. It has been repotted once, and it has been in bloom most of the time. (E-mail reference, Eureka, S.D.)

A: Thanks for letting me know that it is possible to keep a Cyclamen going. Whatever you are doing, keep it up, and write a book about it.


Q: My cyclamen has finished flowering and is dormant, apart from what looks like a seed pod. Do these plants have a seed pod, and if so, how do I treat the plant/pod, how long does it take to mature, and can I grow them from seed? (E-mail reference, Tasmania, Australia)

A: Yes, those are seed pods that are on your plant. Collect them and sow the seeds within them in a cool location in richly humus soil. Keep the seeds covered, and in about three to four weeks some emergence should be apparent. If you can keep the temperature between 62 and 64 F. at that time, it would be perfect. It takes between one and two years for the plantlets to reach sufficient maturity to flower. Be sure to keep them shaded to prevent sun scald. Since your seasons are the opposite of ours, it will be difficult to keep the plantlets cool enough. You may have better luck storing the tuberous plant dry in the container in a cool location until your fall -- March or April- - when (if you are lucky!) you should see some new growth emerging, and you can begin the whole cycle over again. Generally, they are such fussy plants to grow that the standard recommendation is to discard them after they have finished flowering. Cyclamen growers are specialists that have learned all the nuances of growing them. I certainly don't consider myself one, as I've taken the easy road out and dumped them after they flowered!


Q: I was given a cyclamen plant last summer and it is still growing. It stopped flowering after two months, but the beautiful multi shaded leaves keep coming, and now I see a few flower buds coming again. Should it be transplanted soon? Could it be the roots are crowded? When it dies, can it be brought back after a dormant period? How should I treat it when dormant? I can't seem to find any information in any of the garden books. They only describe it and give its history. I would appreciate any help you can give me. (New England, N.D.)

A: Cyclamen thrive in a cool room, so placing it in a north facing window is best. While flowering, keep it well watered and on a tray of pebbles filled with water to keep the humidity high. After flowering, reduce watering. Place the pot on its side, and keep it dry and in a cool spot until mid-summer. Then, repot in fresh compost (high organic potting soil) and place in a cool, well-lit spot. Water enough to keep the compost moist.


Q: Can you tell me how to care for my cyclamen plant? It blooms beautifully, but the leaves turn under at the edges. I also try to keep the soil moist and away from direct sunlight about 3 feet. (Jamestown, N.D.)

A: You have presented a problem that I've never seen before! Cyclamen mites don't appear to be the problem, so I can only speculate. Cyclamen like to be watered via pot immersion, preferably with distilled water or rain water. They need cool conditions, 50 F to 60 F. They should be allowed to dry down after flowering. And they are sensitive to dry air and strong, bright light.


Q. I would like to answer a question you received from someone about growing cyclamen. Purchase a pot and a larger saucer, plus a clear, thin, plastic saucer that can be cut with a knife or scissors. This smaller saucer will be placed upside down in the bottom saucer. Cut a hole in the clear saucer the size of a nickel. When you water the plant make sure you always have water in the bottom saucer. This will allow this water to "wick" up to the bottom of the plant, which must be moist, but never standing in water.

I also mulched my cyclamen with the old leaves as they fell off the plant. Just place them very loosely around the stem of the plant. You don't want to create mold and mildew.

Place the plant in an east window with filtered light in the summer, I kept the windows uncovered in the winter. This room was cool in the evenings and normal living temperature during the day. Good luck, I hope they enjoy these jaunty flowers as much as I did. (e-mail)

A. Thanks for the advice on the cyclamen.


Q. After reading your column, I have discovered that many people are writing to you about cyclamen, and I would like to share with you some of my experience. I think that they are quite easy to propagate, and I have had a lot of luck in doing so. When they are through blooming I cut them back and set aside for about three months. I then bring them out and care for them in the usual way and they grow and blossom beautifully. The last one had such a large root bulb that I cut it in half and planted two plants. They are coming along nicely. I don't have a green thumb, so I think that anyone can care for cyclamen! (Carrington, N.D.)

A. Thank you for providing so much interesting information about cyclamen plant culture! I am pleased to have your experiences on file and available for our readers to enjoy. With your apparent good luck you should get into gardening more extensively!


Q. I have three cyclamen and two have quit blooming. I am wondering how to redo them. (Devils Lake, N.D.)

A. You are a brave person to tackle the perpetual care of a cyclamen!

After blooming, they need a drying period in a cool location (50 to 60 F). This should go on for about 90 days. Then begin watering and fertilizing once again. Keep the plants in bright, but indirect, light.

Other than this, I don't know what else to tell you. You are attempting something I would never undertake!


Q. I have a question about how to grow cyclamen. Are there male and female plants? There is a lady here whose cyclamen has bloomed for two years steady, but mine still hasn't. (Mahnomen, Minn.)

A. I assure you that cyclamen are not separate-sex plants. Sometimes it takes a long time for cyclamen to produce flowers—15 to 16 months from seed. Also, your lady friend could have her plant in a better location that is more conducive to flowering: bright, indirect light.

Also, are you watering yours from below by placing the pot in a shallow, water-filled bowl and removing after about 10 minutes? The cyclamen is a challenge to grow, even for those with a greenhouse! At best, they are considered holiday gift plants, which are best discarded after blooming.


Q. I have a fairly young maple tree that consistently develops numerous shoots around its base. Why does this tree do this when my other maple trees do not? I also have a cyclamen that is finished blooming and I would like to know how to care for it. (Gary, Minn.)

A. The cyclamen prefers cool, partially shady environments. When it is not in bloom, allow it to dry out, and remove all yellowed and dry foliage. Then, in the fall, repot and commence water/feeding again. Fertilization should be about every two weeks during bloom.

Concerning the maple; it could be due to a number of factors—planted too deep, root injury, or it was grafted on an aggressive root stock. If possible, dig up this fall when dormant and reset to a shallower depth.


Q. This is a leaf from a peace lily. I have tried to keep it watered properly in a corner of the living room out of direct sunlight, and very little draft. First the very tips turn brown, and then gradually the whole leaf.

Also, can you tell me why my cyclamens tend to let all their stems droop down? There again, I try to keep it moist, out of the direct sun. Why is it doing this? (Fargo, N.D.)

A. It sounds as if you are doing everything right, except pouring off the excess water from your container's saucer. While this plant needs ample moisture to thrive, it should not have the roots standing in it.

Cyclamens need rest periods and yours may be trying to tell you just that.


Q. Thank you for the information on the care of the cyclamen plant. I would like for you to examine these leaves I am sending. They were a bright green. Now they are brown and some have dark specks. Could that be plant lice? Thank you. (Dickey, N.D.)

A. The leaf samples you sent had no evidence of insect or mite activity that I could detect with my microscope.

The spots you are seeing appear to be corky lesions that usually come about from overwatering. What I was looking at could have also been dried fungal sporesagain brought about by excessive watering.

I am glad the information on the cyclamen helped. Please refer to the last page of our houseplant circular, PP-744, "House Plants: Proper Care and Problem Solving," and the color photos of plant diseases to help you in better diagnosing what problems may exist with your plants.


Q. I have a cyclamen plant about a year old. It blossomed beautifully when I got it. Now I wonder if it needs transplanting or fertilizer. The center leaves are bright green, but the outside ones get droopy so I cut them off. The center is full of stems that look like maybe they will be the blossom. They don't show much signs of life. I water them often with snow water. Then they seem to pick up for a while. What kind of care do they need? I hope you can help me. Thank you very much. (Dickey, N. D.)

A. The plant is attempting to "tell" you that it needs a rest period. Back off on the watering, keeping the soil media barely moist. Pull off the dead leaves and flowers. Allow it to stay dry from May until July, then begin watering again. A repotting in mid-August with a compost-rich medium will help. Fertilize every two weeks with Schultz's Houseplant Fertilizer or something similar during active growth.  This is a challenging plant for anyone to grow, so don't become discouraged!  Thanks for writing.


Q.I enjoy reading your column every week.  I am having a problem with my Christmas cactus. It bloomed real nice around Easter, now it is getting these scabby deals on the leaves. Can you tell me what is causing this?  The cyclamen that is almost two years old was cut back when it finished blooming and it keeps coming back and is blooming again. I guess we can keep them growing.  Thank you. (Fargo, N.D.)

A.It could be that you are overwatering your Christmas cactus to produce the edema (corky growths) your plant is showing.

The plant should be given two rest periods during the season.One for two months after flowering and the other in early fall to prepare for flowering. It should be kept moist during active periods of growth, and dry during rest periods.

Whatever you are doing with your cyclamen, keep it up! Getting them to rebloom is something that most professional growers don't attempt. Congratulations on your success.


Q: How do I pinch back or pluck off the flowers from my cyclamen? Thinking that they would bloom again, I started breaking off the flowers at the top. Then I read that I should break the whole stem off at the base. Which is the correct way? (e-mail)

A: Cyclamen should always have the entire flower stalk removed as the flowers fade. This can be accomplished by twisting the stem and pulling sharply. Remove any damaged or yellowing leaves in same manner.


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