how to plant, grow & care for cyclamen
complete growing guide
Cyclamen brighten the dark autumn and winter days and are a sure sign spring is not far off. They can be tender perennials or hardy perennials. It’s normally the more tender cyclamen species that are used as houseplants, but provided they’re kept cool in bright, airy places, hardy cyclamen also make excellent temporary pot plants. They’ll come to no harm decorating a table or window ledge for a month before you plant them out in the garden.
Explore our range of cyclamen tubers and potted plants for inside and out.
- Common name Cyclamen
- Latin name Cyclamen
- Type Tender Perennial / Hardy Perennial
- Height 10cm (4in) to 15cm (6in)
- TLC rating Easy
- Aspect Part Shade
- Planting position Front of border, Containers
- Suitable for pots Yes
- Good for pollinators Yes
- Good for cut flowers Yes
how to grow cyclamen
where to grow cyclamen
Soil type: Free-draining soil is best for cyclamen.
Aspect & position: For cyclamen indoors, unheated porches, conservatories or on windowsills away from radiators and out of direct sunlight are ideal – if plants become too warm, the high temperatures can lead to dormancy. Cyclamen don't like freezing temperatures either (don't let them fall below 10ºC), so on a frosty night bring them off windowsills and further into the room.
For cyclamen outdoors, the best position is somewhere sheltered from the elements, especially heavy rain. Under tree canopies or hedgerows is good.
when to plant cyclamen
Autumn is the time to plant cyclamen – they all fare much better planted plump and thriving, so a plant growing actively in a pot is likely to be the most successful. Tubers are also planted in autumn, for plants the following year.
choosing a cyclamen
The small-flowered varieties of tender Cyclamen persicum are as pretty as anything you'll find in a pot for indoor colour – their white, crimson and magenta colours are wonderful running down the middle of a table and spread around window ledges. In its wild Mediterranean habitat, C. persicum grows in deciduous woods, or you might find it more out in the open, with its tuber hidden under rocks and just the leaves and flowers poking into the light – to replicate this indoors, the pots need to be kept cool and out of direct sunlight.
Hardy garden Cyclamen coum is also fantastic – at Perch Hill, we have it in carpets and it’s almost as lovely in leaf through the autumn as it is in flower in early spring. The pink flowers are one of the first signs that the year is no longer moving away from us, but that we are now at the start of something new. Along with early snowdrops and aconites, the miniature flowers can’t help but lift winter-dampened spirits, and the three together, cut and arranged in a small glass, is cheer-giving.
With C. coum the new foliage comes first, well before the flowers, usually appearing in October, hovering above the coppery autumn fall of deciduous leaves. These are followed in December to March by the flowers, like miniature turbans, their petals reflexed right back to the stem. This is a different pattern from the autumn-flowering species, Cyclamen hederifolium, which flowers in late summer with leaves following quite close behind and staying fresh and carpet-like in autumn and on into the winter. Cyclamen hederifolium and Cyclamen purpurascens are also good hardy species for outdoor planting.
how to plant cyclamen
planting cyclamen indoors
Cyclamen are pretty easy and reliable plants indoors, and if you keep them cool (out of direct sunlight and away from radiators), they look good for about eight weeks.
Too much heat in a sunny window will encourage early dormancy, while growing in light, but cool conditions may see them continue to flower into April. I have mine on east- and north-facing window ledges, bringing them out more prominently onto our main dining table as and when I want them, but putting them back in between times.
It’s tempting to simply buy and plonk your indoor cyclamen, but they're worth the effort of a bit of doctoring. Planting them up in a brightly coloured bowl or something sparkly and shiny really makes a difference – but make sure you use an inner pot with drainage holes.
When repotting, try not to disturb the roots. Plant them into a loam-based compost with added grit and a handful of peat – they need good drainage and do not like to sit in soggy soil.
Gently firm the roots into the new pot or bowl and cover the compost with dried leaves or an emerald-green cushion of bun moss. That's how they'd look in the wild and it's always a good aim with houseplants to recreate this as closely as possible.
You can spread the flowers out from the base: they tend to clump together, but teased out gently and evenly between the leaves, the flowers look lighter and more elegant.
planting cyclamen outdoors
Cyclamen coum can be hugely long-lived and will thrive in unpromising places with almost no care. C. coum like some summer moisture, because they start to grow below ground long before they break surface, so these do best in humus-rich soil with plenty of leaf mould naturally or artificially added.
Cyclamen hederifolium are tougher, more resilient plants. You can tuck them in right under a hedge, or between the roots of a huge beech or oak tree, and they’ll be perfectly happy. They don’t steal the space of showier things, but accept the scantiest of sustenance, putting up with dry, thin soil as long as they have some shade.
These hardy cyclamen should be spaced 10-15cm (4-6in) apart, with a planting depth about 2.5cm (1in) below the soil surface, but they sometimes push one hip out of the soil as they grow.
All cyclamen fare much better planted plump and thriving, rather than dry, so a plant growing actively in a pot is likely to be the most successful.
If you’re planting tubers, push them 2.5cm (1in) deep and space them 5-8cm (2-3in) apart, planting them with the flattest side down and the slightly concave side uppermost.
how to care for cyclamen
For indoor cyclamen, always water from the base and allow the plant to draw up the water it requires. The worst thing is a constant dribble of water. I sit the pots in a tray of water and leave them overnight, then the whole root ball gets a good drink and the compost rehydrates. If water collects in the base of the saucer or pot-holder, tip it out and don't water again until the compost is almost fully dry, which is usually in about a week or so. The watering regime needs to change over the dormant period – see the advice on this below.
You don’t need to water outdoor cyclamen as they will get the rain. If there is an unseasonal drought, check any plants growing outside in pots.
For outdoor cyclamen, top dress pots with compost annually in early autumn.
Damaged flowers can lead to the tuber becoming rotten. To avoid this, remove flowers just before they begin to go over. Do this by pulling the entire stem out of the tuber with a yank, if you leave anything behind the rot can potentially continue down into the tuber.
Cyclamen growing outside will naturalise over several years. It also spreads by seed: the stem holding the seed head twists itself into a spiral which pulls the seed head down to ground level. It becomes very sticky and ants and other insects take the seeds to more far flung places. Growing cyclamen from seed is a tricky business and the obvious thing to do is to buy cyclamen in pots and plant them out rather than growing from seed.
For indoor cyclamen, stop watering when they stop flowering and let the leaves go yellow and wither. This is usually in April, but could be a few weeks later. Then put them somewhere cool and dry, for the summer. They will even be happy outdoors as long as they are out of the rain.
If you keep them too moist in the dormant months, you may lose your tuber to rot.
In September, repot them into a slightly larger pot, teasing out the roots. Water sparingly, keeping the compost just moist. Bring them undercover if they’ve been outside
In the right cool place with gentle watering, they should be in flower again soon after Christmas and will get bigger and better each year.
- As potted cyclamen plants die back, reduce watering and allow them to go into a dormant period.
- Lightly water cyclamen in pots to keep the soil moist.
- Mulch cyclamen in pots outdoors with a thin layer of compost ahead of the foliage.
- Repot indoor cyclamen in pots.
- Deadhead any fading flowers.
- Do this by pulling the stem from the tuber with a yank.
pests, diseases & common issues
This fungal disease can affect cyclamen, causing a fuzzy grey mould to appear on stalks and leaves. You’ll also notice spots on the petal leading to shrivelled, brown flowers. Humidity – warm, wet conditions – are the main cause. Cyclamens need good air circulation, free-draining soil, a good watering regime and a cool spot.
Cyclamen mites are really tiny and live out of sight inside flower buds and young leaves. The signs you have mites include stunted and deformed growth, leaf curl and discoloured and failed flower buds. Young plants are most at risk and humidity helps the mites thrive. Keep a close eye on your plants, particularly those undercover in a greenhouse, and improve air circulation and temperature around the plant.
why is my cyclamen drooping?
Overwatering can cause the plant to rot, which leads to wilting stems and flowers. Drooping and wilting is also one of the signs of grey mould. Cyclamen needs good air circulation and cool conditions.
why are my cyclamen leaves turning yellow?
It’s normal for cyclamen leaves to turn yellow at the end of the flowering season as it moves into dormancy.
Rot due to overwatering and humid conditions can also result in yellowing leaves. If you suspect this is the case, stop watering and move the plant away from heat sources. If the crown of the plant is completely rotted, it may be too late to save it.
why is my cyclamen not flowering?
Flowering times will vary according to the variety. But if tubers are planted too deeply they may not flower. And cyclamen in pots will need nutrients, so re-pot indoor plants in fresh compost in autumn.
do slugs eat cyclamen?
Luckily, slugs steer clear of cyclamen.
why is my cyclamen dying?
The main things that go wrong with cyclamen indoors are that we water them too much and keep them in too warm an environment. Check the conditions the plant is in and monitor your watering. Then check for mites or grey mould.
why are my cyclamen leaves curling?
This could be an attack of mites. If there are no other signs of mites, it could be the plant is under stress, so check the conditions (ensure it’s cool and in an airy spot) and that you water only when the compost is almost dry.
frequently asked questions
are cyclamen perennial?
Yes, with the proper care cyclamen will come back year after year.
how do you water cyclamen?
Watering varies during active growth and the dormant period. Allow the compost in pots to almost fully dry between waterings and water from the bottom. Cyclamen outside will get the rain.
do cyclamen spread?
Yes, cyclamen growing outside will naturalise over several years.
how long do cyclamen last?
In a small vase, cyclamen can last up to 5 or 6 days. Indoor pots flower for a couple of months.
are cyclamen frost hardy?
Hardy cyclamen, such as C. coum are frost hardy. More tender types need to be brought in before the first frosts.
are cyclamen plants poisonous to cats?
Yes, they are toxic to cats, dogs and other pets.
do you deadhead cyclamen?
It’s best to deadhead any flowers going over by pulling the stem with a yank as damaged flowers can lead to the tuber becoming rotten.
how do I get my cyclamen to rebloom?
If you give your cyclamen proper care through its dormant period, it will reflower the following season.
when should I stop watering my cyclamen?
Stop watering your cyclamen when it stops flowering and let the leaves go yellow and wither. This is usually in April, but could be a few weeks later.
how to cut & arrange cyclamen
If you have a good carpet of cyclamen growing in the garden, you can make an excellent miniature flower arrangement. Gather a few flowers and leaves for an egg cup or small vase. Sear their stem ends in boiling water for 10 seconds. They will last 5 or 6 days, and you won’t even have to go outside to be reminded that winter is edging away.
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