Hardy cyclamens produce dainty swept back flowers and ivy to round shaped, often marbled leaves. Beautifully hugging the ground, they will bring interest to the garden in late winter and early spring whilst hederifolium varieties will add a dash of colour in late autumn. They are excellent for planting in a woodland setting or under deciduous shrubs.
Cyclamens prefer to be planted in well-drained, humus-rich, moderately fertile soil in partial shade — they will not tolerate wet areas which will cause them to rot, therefore make sure to add a little grit to help with drainage. Place tubers 1 cm below the surface, allowing for around 20 to 30 tubers per square meter — if planted too deep, they will never flower and will more than likely rot. Although cyclamen do not generally like to be disturbed and will take time to settle before producing their floral spectacle, the wait will be worth it. Over the years they will find their own resting place by pulling themselves towards the surface.
After their flowers are spent, cyclamens will produce seed pods which will spiral back down to the ground, gently pushing themselves just under the soil and dispersing their seeds. Insects will then carry them around the garden and will allow them to create new colonies. The process will take a few years but you will start to notice the leaves steadily increasing in size until they reach their flowering potential. It is a good idea to provide your cyclamens with a very light layer of chipped bark mulch for the seed heads to bead in.
Always unpack on arrival and store in a cool place until ready to plant. Take care! Always wear gloves when handling cyclamens since they can cause skin irritation. All parts can be poisonous to dogs and cats and should not be eaten.
Potential problems, pests and diseases:
- Bacterial soft rot: these soil-borne bacterial diseases promoted by warm, wet soil can cause the foliage to yellow and the plant to wilt. If left untreated, the plant will eventually die.
- Botrytis/grey mould: this fungal disease usually caused by excessive moisture, warm temperatures and poor air circulation can initially be seen as brown spots/grey mould on the leaves and stems. If you spot any signs of this disease, immediately remove affected bulbs/plants and destroy. Botrytis is an airborne virus and can spread rapidly in the breeze so do not compost infected material.
- Viruses: usually transmitted by aphids, they can cause a number of problems ranging from the appearance of deformed leaves and flowers to colour patterns and streaking. Try to prevent infections with a garlic spray or insecticide and lift and destroy any badly affected plants at first sight.