Graham Porter’s gardening: cyclamen
Jan 2 2010 By Graham Porter
APART from hippeastrums and poinsettias, our house plant cyclamen must be one of the most popular growing seasonal presents, giving us colour and interest from its foliage as well as its flowers for up to three months in the dark days of winter and the early days of spring.
The original houseplant cyclamen that is native to the hillsides of Southern Europe and North Africa grows from a tuber that was fed to pigs as a valuable source of starch, hence the common name of sowbread.
Its scientific name, cyclamen persicum, suggest that it comes from the area known as Persia, although strangely, the word cyclamen comes from a Greek word kyklos that means cycle, hinting at the spiralling flower stalks that occur after the flowers have been pollinated. These help to push the developing seed pod into the ground.
These days there are lots of small modern hybrids that are greatly reduced in size from the hybrids of the 1950s and 60s that could reach up to 30cms (12ins) high in flower. Instead, we are encouraged to grow them outdoors in pots for winter flowers. Personally, I still prefer the larger hybrids.
To grow cyclamen successfully as a potplant you need to find the coolest, brightest windowsill in the house and keep the watering to the bare minimum so that the plant can grow and flower slowly, giving you a longer display and a lot less work.
If you can keep the plant ticking over until early summer it can be put outdoors in a sunny position to bake and toughen up the tuber before you bring it back indoors in September to start up the cycle again.
If you do this and you decide to repot it in September, only half-bury the tuber to get the best balance of flowers and foliage.