Saturday, April 28, 2012

How do I care for Cyclamen?

Hi Peter, as much as you are promoting cyclamen, i always manage to kill them. Someone gave me one the other day and i didn't over water it, but the leaves just went yellow, how do you suggest to care for them, plant them out? 

Over the summer, after we had shriveled a batch of Cycs on a 40 degree day I marveled at their resilience.  Those poor plants were cleaned up and rallied pretty quickly.  Not great business practice mind you, all that labour to clean up and a delay of at least two weeks in having the plants ready for sale. The symptom was however exactly that described above... yellow leaves. Yellowing leaves can be caused by any number of stresses that prevent water and nutrient getting from the roots to the foliage: disease, drought and flood. More often than not the issue is related to water availability not pests or disease.

So why is a plant that I think is so hardy the cause of so much heartache? I think the primary problem is the perception that Cyclamen is an indoor plant. "Persian cyclamen, is a perennial growing from a tuber, native to rocky hillsidesshrubland, andwoodland up to 1,200 m (3,900 ft) above sea level from south-central Turkey to Israel and Jordan. It also grows in Algeria andTunisia and on the Greek islands of RhodesKarpathos, and Crete, where it may have been introduced by monks." (thank you Wikipedia) This is NOT a plant that likes shade, just a plant that doesn't like excessive sun. To get the best from Cyclamen growers maximize the sunlight available but protect the plants from extremes, like 40 degree days were we might fail to water thoroughly. Cyclamen is treated as a flowering house plant because the foliage and flowers last remarkably well in dark conditions, a Pansy or a Petunia barely last a day with any flower in places a Cyc will cope for 2 weeks & more but the Cyclamen doesn't grow or thrive in that environment.

So how are Cyclamen best treated to prevent yellowing and collapse? When they are on show in a shady or indoor situation they need only enough water to prevent them from wilting.  The plant is under stress and not growing so it is likely to use very little water, let the soil dry right out before reapplying. Try to limit display times indoors to 2 weeks, that's better than a bunch of cut flowers and allows the plant time to recuperate. Remove dead and dying flowers and foliage to prevent these rotting and transferring Botrytis fungus to the corm. This is very simple just pull the flower or leaf stem off as close to the corm as possible. with practice a neat twist will remove the whole stem. When you put your Cyclamen out doors it will grow happily in a sunny spot except in high summer when it needs protection from very strong sun, ie. under a tree or an eve where they can get some morning sun. Where possible, repot the plant into a slightly larger pot every 12 months with fresh Premium Quality potting mix.  

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