Looking for cyclamen care tips? You may associate flowering cyclamen plants, specifically cyclamen persicum, with the holidays. But you can grown them all year round. Learn about caring for cyclamen with my guide!
Cyclamen care & keeping your plant happy
I’ve been writing a lot about some seasonal holiday plants. And today I’m writing about a plant that is lesser known than the poinsettia but produces lovely colorful flowers—cyclamen! Have you heard of it?
What is cyclamen?
Cyclamen is a genus of flowering plants in the family Primulaceae. There are about 20 species of cyclamen, which are native to Europe, the Mediterranean, and parts of western Asia.
Cyclamen plants produce lovely heart-shaped leaves and showy flowers that have delicate petals and range in color from white to pink and purple. Their flowers kind of remind me of polka dot begonia flowers.
The plants are often grown as houseplants or as outdoor annuals or perennials in gardens. I’ll be covering the care for both—either in a pot indoors or in a pot or in the ground outdoors in the garden.
What is the popular kind of holiday cyclamen?
Many shops sell the popular cyclamen persicum around the holidays. It’s also known as the florist’s cyclamen or the Persian cyclamen. This species is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and produces fragrant flowers and colorful, patterned leaves.
Hobbyists often grow persicum as a houseplant because of its ability to tolerate lower light conditions and cooler temperatures (50-70 degrees Fahrenheit). They are popular gifts around the holiday season, and you’l often see them decorating homes and offices.
Cyclamen hederifolium and cyclamen coum are also popular varieties you may notice in stores around the holidays. Both of these are native to Europe and look pretty similar.
Why is cyclamen associated with the holidays?
While it certainly looks lovely as an addition to holiday decor, its association to the holidays is probably due to its care needs. Cyclamen plants are able to tolerate cooler temperatures and lower light conditions. This makes them a good choice for indoor cultivation during the colder months of the year. As a result, shops often sell them as houseplants during the holidays.
Are cyclamen indoor or outdoor plants?
You can grow cyclamen plants both indoors and outdoors depending on the specific species and your climate. You can typically grow the persicum variety as a houseplant—but you can also grow it outdoors.
For cyclamen hederifolium and cyclamen coum—they are hardier plants that you can grow outdoors as annuals or perennials in gardens. These plants are native to Europe and tolerate cooler climates well, making them ideal for outdoor cultivation in certain regions.
If you have your plant outdoors, it is worth noting that cyclamen generally is not frost tolerant (though some types can withstand a light frost). You should protect it from freezing temperatures. If it is exposed to freezing temperatures and dies off, it will probably resprout.
That’s because cyclamen plants can develop a bulb-like structure under the surface of the soil called a tuber. These tubers can resprout every spring for decades if you give them the right care.
Do cyclamen like sun or shade?
Outdoors, cyclamen plants prefer partial shade and do not tolerate direct sunlight for extended periods of time. They are sensitive to strong, direct sunlight, which can cause their leaves to yellow and their flowers to fade.
That said, some species, such as cyclamen persicum, are better suited to lower light conditions and can tolerate shadier locations, making them well-suited for indoor cultivation. Cyclamen hederifolium and cyclamen coum may be able to tolerate more sunlight and may do well in partially sunny locations outdoors.
To err on the side of caution, I’d recommend providing cyclamen plants with dappled or filtered sunlight. You can also plant them in a shady spot outdoors. I’ll be moving mine outside to a shady side of the new house and giving it a go there!
Indoors, I recommend giving your plant anything from medium to bright, indirect light levels. It’s unlikely that the winter sun where I live will ever burn a houseplant, no matter how bright the window. So you have a bit more flexibility there.
How often should I water cyclamen persicum indoors?
I recommend watering the cyclamen persicum regularly during its growing season. You’ll want to keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. Too much moisture can lead to root rot.
In general, I recommend checking the soil moisture regularly until you fall into a bit of a routine. Water the plant whenever the top few inches of soil feels dry.
During the dormant period (when the plant is not producing flowers or leaves) water the plant much less. You can even let the soil dry out between watering sessions. The goal is to keep the plant alive until the spring.
What soil should I use for proper cyclamen care?
Cyclamen plants prefer well-draining, slightly acidic soil. When grown in pots, use a well-draining soil mix so that all of the excess water will flow from the pot’s drainage holes. This helps prevent root rot.
If you’re growing your variety of cyclamen outdoors, you can grow it in pots with well-draining soil as well. Or you can amend the ground soil with some leaf compost to help encourage drainage and air flow.
I generally pick up a bag of leaf compost (or several bags!) from a local nursery at the start of the growing season. Then I keep it on hand and grab a handful or two to help amend the soil for anything I plant. Our soil sucks.
Cyclamen care & fertilizer needs
Fertilizing plants…some love it, some don’t need it but it won’t hurt. Cyclamen is a somewhat heavy feeder that will benefit from regular fertilization with a balanced fertilizer. I recommended fertilizing cyclamen every few weeks during the growing season. Use something with a balanced ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Indoors, I generally don’t fertilize my plants and use plant food like concentrated Liqui-Dirt to replenish nutrients. Outdoors, I usually use a Miracle-Gro-type fertilizer that I add to a watering can to give to all of my pots and in-ground plants roughly monthly.
How much humidity does a cyclamen persicum like?
Cyclamen persicum prefers moderate to high humidity levels and may benefit from additional humidity if it’s super dry. Remember, they are native to the eastern Mediterranean region. The air there is typically more humid than in many other parts of the world.
I recommend monitoring the humidity levels in the room you have the plant in and increasing the humidity if necessary. You can mist the plant regularly, use a humidifier, or by placing a humidity tray near the plant.
If your plant is going dormant after flowering, you don’t need to worry much about humidity. It will not be actively growing, so it will need less light, water, and everything else it usually needs to thrive.
What month do cyclamen go dormant?
Speaking of going dormant, cyclamen persicum plants may go dormant during the summer when the temperature and light levels in the home become too high. Or, in the winter when the temperature or light levels are too low.
This is normal for plants, and you’ll just want to monitor things and adjust your care routine accordingly. The plant will begin growing when you give it more optimal care conditions (light, temperature, etc.).
I’ll be putting my cyclamen in a basement window where it will get some light, but it’s cooler down there. I know the plant will likely go dormant through the remainder of the winter. But my plan is to just get it to spring so I can put it in the ground.
How long do cyclamen stay in bloom?
It depends on the growing conditions and the type. However, cyclamen plants generally produce flowers that last for several weeks to a few months.
Cyclamen persicum—the one you’re most likely to find in stores around the holidays—produces flowers that can last for several weeks to a few months. These plants typically produce fragrant flowers in shades of white, pink, or purple.
How do I care for cyclamen after flowering?
After a cyclamen plant has finished flowering, you can continue caring for it in the same way as you did before it flowered. I recommend deadheading the dead flowers to keep the plants looking neat and tidy.
Deadheading flowers also helps prevent the spread of any diseases or pests on spent flowers. And it can help to encourage the plant to produce new flowers since it will no longer be expending energy on maintaining spent flowers.
If you are growing your cyclamen as a houseplant and it has finished flowering, you may want to consider moving it to a cooler location to help stimulate new growth. Too cool of a location can cause it to go dormant. But like I mentioned before, that’s currently my plan anyways.
Cyclamen care & pest issues
Cyclamen plants are generally resistant to pests, but aphids, thrips, mealybugs, or whiteflies can occasionally move in and feed on the plant.
Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that feed on the sap of plants. They can cause distorted or stunted growth and may produce a sticky substance called honeydew. This can attract ants or encourage the growth of sooty mold.
Thrips are nasty to get rid of, and you’ll want to catch them early in their lifecycle. That’s because their lifecycle is several weeks, and they reproduce in both the soil and on the foliage. Read more about thrips here.
Mealybugs are small, white insects that feed on plant sap and secrete a waxy substance as they feed. They can weaken cyclamen plants and cause distorted growth. (See my mealybug overview post for more.)
Whiteflies are small, white insects that feed on the sap of plants. They can cause yellowing or wilting of the leaves. They can also produce honeydew, which can attract ants or encourage sooty mold growth.
If you notice any of these pests on your cyclamen plant, I recommend treating it with an appropriate insecticide. Just buy something from your local nursery and spray it down—make sure to get the tops and bottoms of all of the leaves, too!
Are cyclamen toxic?
You might be wondering if cyclamen play well with pets and kids. Is it toxic? Well, some species of cyclamen contain toxins that can be harmful if ingested.
Cyclamen plants contain a number of toxic compounds, including saponins, alkaloids, and glycosides. Saponins are a type of chemical compound that can cause irritation and inflammation in the digestive system when ingested.
Alkaloids are a class of chemical compounds that can have toxic effects on the body. Glycosides are chemical compounds that can cause problems in the digestive system and can also affect the heart and circulation.
The most toxic part of the cyclamen plant is the tubers (the underground parts). These tubers contain the highest concentration of toxic compounds and can cause serious symptoms if ingested.
Symptoms of cyclamen poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and tremors, and in severe cases, may require medical attention. However, remember that the level of toxins can vary from species to species.
Remember that the effects of toxins depends on their dose. Some species of cyclamen, such as cyclamen persicum, are generally considered to be more toxic than others.
As a result, I recommend keeping cyclamen plants out of reach of children and pets. It’s always better to be safe than sorry! Read more from the ASPCA.
And that’s a wrap on cyclamen care!
Here’s a quick overview of most of what I’ve shared in this post—I hope it helps you take care of your lovely cyclamen!
- Light: Bright, indirect or dappled sunlight; can do shade outdoors; avoid direct sunlight.
- Water: Keeping the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged; allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.
- Soil: Well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter; amend ground soil with leaf compost.
- Fertilizer: Balanced fertilizer every 2-4 weeks during the growing season.
- Temperature: Ideally between 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit; above or below will likely put the plant into dormancy.
- Pests: Generally resistant; look out for aphids, thrips, mealybugs, or whiteflies.
- Deadheading: Remove dead flowers or yellowing, dying leaves.
- Toxicity: Generally considered toxic; keep out of reach from pets and kids.