Cyclamen (Sow bread)

Cyclamen hederifolium

Cyclamen are tuberous-rooted plants that grow naturally in shady woodland areas, so are best planted under the partial shade of trees and shrubs. The striking blooms are usually born on short stems with swept-back petals. The prostrate dark green leaves are either round, ivy or heart shaped, and can either be plain, marbled or zonal, depending on variety.

Often Cyclamen is sold in the UK as a pot plant but many varieties will grow just as well in the garden. Flowering time depends on the species and variety. Winter, spring, summer and autumn flowering species are available.

Family: Primulaceae

Conditions: Most varieties require partial shade and protection from winds.

Soil: well-drained, humus-rich soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam).

Average Height: 3-6 in (7-15 cm).

Hardiness: Fully hardy to half-hardy (depending on variety).

Planting and Growing Cyclamen

Best grown in partial shade and in a position where they won't dry out in summer. All varieties require shade from intense sun and need shelter from strong winds.

Requires a well-drained, humus-rich soil. Plant dormant tubers between July and September. Soak well in water before planting. Do not plant too deep or they may not flower.

Ideal for pots and containers, rock gardens, shaded borders and naturalizing in grass or gravel.

Borderline hardy species can be grown in a cool greenhouse with low humidity.

Taking Care of Cyclamen

Mulch with ericaceous compost or leaf-mould annually.

For pot grown varieties, decrease water supply after flowering, dry-off, and keep the roots cool and almost dry until it's time to pot them up again.

Pests and Diseases

Roots and tubers are susceptible to Vine weevils. Aphids can be a problem in spring and summer. Protect tubers from mice and squirrels.

Propagating Cyclamen

Sow seeds under glass in summer. Collect seeds immediately from pods that have burst and sow thinly in a ericaceous seed compost.

Note: Cyclamen tubers do not produce offsets.

Popular Varieties of Cyclamen

The following varieties of Cyclamen are generally available in UK garden centres:

Cyclamen cyprium fragrant white flowers in late autumn.

Cyclamen coum red, pink or white flowers from December to March. Green leaves. Hardy, but flowers need some protection.

Cyclamen hederifolium (syn. C. neapolitanum) mauve, red, pink or white flowers from August to November. Ivy-shaped marbled leaves. Thrives in most areas.

Cyclamen purpurascens (syn. C. europaeum) fragrant red flowers from July to September. Silver-zoned leaves. Very hardy. Can be planted in a more open aspect.

Cyclamen persicum fragrant pink, carmine or white flowers from early winter to early spring. Marbled leaves. Modern cultivars of persicum have larger showy flowers, that are sometimes double or ruffled, and are often unfortunately scentless.

Cyclamen repandum fragrant red, pink or white flowers in April. Marbled leaves. Requires peaty woodland with some shade.