Plant of the month: Cyclamen (October)

Cyclamen are beautiful tuberous perennials providing colour often when little else is flowering, particularly from autumn through to early spring.

Cyclamen make great bedding plants for the autumn season and can be grown in pots and containers – a combination of cyclamen, carex, ivy and skimmia makes for a fantastic pot display – and also make nice winter house plants. Hardy cyclamen species can be naturalised under trees, on banks or in a shady border and planted in association with other early-flowering woodland plants such as snowdrops, winter aconites and primroses.

Care

  • Plant tubers 3-5cm (1¼-2in) deep and several to a large hole dug out with a spade. Alternatively, they may be planted singly
  • Do not plant too deeply or they may not flower
  • To establish quickly, plant tubers when they are in root growth. This will also help to distinguish between the top and bottom of the tuber
  • Grow in part shade in any moderately fertile, humus-rich, well-drained soil, avoiding excessive summer moisture
  • Mulch annually with leafmould as leaves die down and in frost-prone areas provide a deep loose mulch such as bark chips
  • Grow borderline hardy species in a cool greenhouse in bright filtered light with a little humidity

Propagation

  • Collect seed of most cyclamen species when the flower-stalk coils, drawing the seed capsule closer to the soil surface to release the ripe seed. Best sown fresh, seeds should be sown immediately after soaking overnight, in a mix of equal parts seed compost and sharp grit. Cover seeds carefully with a thin layer of sieved compost as light can inhibit germination.
  • Cover the container in a clear plastic bag and keep at a minimum temperature of 16°C (60°F) in light shade until large enough to transplant.