It’s Valentine’s Day, one of the busiest days of the year for your friendly neighborhood florist. My husband knows I like receiving flowers on this most romantic of holidays. He also knows that I appreciate getting a plant that is still alive and growing, as opposed to cut flowers that will soon wilt and be composted.
One popular Valentine plant is the Florist’s Cyclamen. These cyclamen are decidedly beautiful—delicate and romantic—but are difficult plants to keep indoors.
While some species of cyclamen are quite hardy (surviving outside in Colorado, for instance), the one we buy for indoor growing is C. persicum, which hails from the Mediterranean and is frost-tender. In its native range, it grows and blooms in the cool, wet winters, and goes dormant during the summer. Our challenge is to provide those winter conditions at home.
Blooms last longest when the plant is kept below 68° during the day, as temperatures over 70° cause the plant to lose its flowers and leaves and go dormant. In these days of high heating bills, most of us keep our homes at 68° or cooler. The problem comes at night, when plants should be kept between 40° and 50°! My solution is to carry the pot out to the garage every evening, and then remember to bring it back inside come morning.
Other than the temperature difficulty, care is pretty simple. Place the cyclamen in bright, indirect light. Use houseplant fertilizer at half-strength once a month. Soak the soil thoroughly when watering, then let it mostly dry out between soakings.
When the plant decides to go dormant, cut back on water as the leaves yellow and fall off. When the leaves are gone, let the soil dry out. Then store the pot for the summer. If the plant needs repotting, this is the time to do that chore. Just remember not to water it at this time, as you could induce premature growth. In fall, start watering again, keeping the soil just moist until the first leaves emerge. Then move the plant back into a bright spot and resume regular care.
The next year’s blooms may not be as impressive as when you first got your cyclamen. For this reason, many people simply discard the plant when it finishes blooming.