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An Iconic Winter Flower

by CountryLife Gardening | Dec 21, 2015

The two tone effect cyclamen offers great contrast and something a bit more unusual for gardeners who have grown tired of the traditional varietiesThere are a few flowers that gardeners will truly associate with winter and cyclamen have to be one of the top on the list. As soon as September comes around and summer bedding begins to fade, cyclamen become a star attraction in every garden centre around the country. In CountryLife it is no different and we stock them from early September right through the winter depending on the variety.

Cyclamen are a perennial flowering plant that are native to much of Europe and the Mediterranean. They are sometimes referred to as sowbread because they were once said to be used to feed pigs. The plants are made up of a tuber, from which the flowers and roots grow. In most species the leaves and flowers come up in autumn, grow through the winter, and fade away in spring when the plant goes dormant through the dry Mediterranean summer where they originate from. In Ireland however they have been known to break this cycle and stay in leaf longer and almost throughout the year in some parts.

Cyclamen are a very versatile plant and deserve more credit in my eyes for their uses in both the garden and inside to add seasonal colour and interest. While many people associate cyclamen with winter you can in fact get summer flowering varieties much to delight of true fans of the plant.

Of the winter flowering varieties you have ones that can stand milder cold weather and then ones which can withstand the harsh frosts of mid-winter. The most frost-hardy species are Cyclamen purpurascens, Cyclamen hederifolium, Cyclamen coum, and Cyclamen cilicium. Cyclamen hederifolium is said to be the best for very harsh winters with reports saying it can survive up to -30C (but let’s hope we don’t have to withstand that level of cold anytime soon!). 

While the iconic flowers, with feather like petals, are the main selling point of these plants the leaves can also be a key highlight of the plant for gardeners. The leaves can be highly decorated with a silver pattern over the surface of the leaf which offers great interest throughout the growing season even when the flowers are not visible.

White cyclamen are great at brightening up dull areasIn terms of flowers every gardener will have come across the white, red or pink varieties at some point or another in their gardening lives. Newer varieties however are offering gardeners something a bit different. Some newer varieties come with two tone flowers which offer gardeners pink flowers with white edges or even red flowers with white edges. The two tone effect offers great contrast and something a bit more unusual for gardeners who have grown tired of the traditional varieties. Cyclamen merengue is another unusual variety which has great fringed petals.

When it comes to caring for cyclamen you follow relevantly the same rules for both indoor and outdoor varieties to an extent. Due to their origins in countries with free draining soil they do not like to be left saturated in water. They also do not like to get their foliage overly saturated so I find it is best to water the soil around them or if in a pot from a saucer underneath them. They require a bright sunny spot to grow best. And it is a good idea to pinch out flowers that have faded to encourage repeat flowering.

With indoor varieties it is important to put them in a cool frost free position with lots of sun. I like to keep my ones in my conservatory which gets great light and the temperature tends to stay constant in during the winter. It is best to feed indoor varieties every two weeks with a good quality liquid food.

Vine weevil is the only pest to really look out for with cyclamen. This is especially true with cyclamen in pots so it is important to keep an eye out for any signs of them and treat accordingly if you do catch any.  

Written by Malachy

Here to help! - remember if you have any questions feel free to pop into one of our garden centres or you can contact us on our Facebook and Twitter pages and email us at: hello@countrylife.ie

Malachy's Bio 
I have been gardening since I was 5 years old when my mother gave me a part of our garden as my own. I have studied horticulture in the National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin and was a winner in the young horticulturist of the year competition. I have worked in Several plant nurseries and garden centers such as Mount Congreve in Co. Waterford. My special interests are plant propagation and Cacti!

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