Sickly cyclamen? It’s how you water them

Cyclamen - don't drown them.

Cyclamen - don't drown them.

Winter's finally beginning to wane now the snowdrops are out

BRIAN KIDD: Strange but true, now’s the time to plant your snowdrops

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Last winter was one of the wettest ever and this autumn seems to be just as bad so I’ve been staying in the dry and visiting our local garden centre instead. Wellies are left at home.

Of course, we intended to buy nothing.

But, as always, something caught the eye and we did need to brighten things up indoors.

Which is when we decided to buy three indoor cyclamen in pots.

They are all the same colour so they will make a good show in a large dish in the window of the lounge.

We chose specimens which had just two or three flowers in bloom so we could see what colour they were.

We also had a good look underneath the leaves to make sure there were loads of flower buds – and there were.

Remember, cyclamen hate fluctuating temperatures.

It’s far better to keep them cool and on the dry side rather than too hot and too wet.

Watering is the biggest challenge to all killers of cyclamen.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been told: ‘I can’t grow cyclamen. They always die on me.’ What utter nonsense!

Keep a beady eye on them. They are so lovely it’s a job not to.

But they will show when they need watering because they begin to wilt, the leaves spread out and the flowers bend down.

This is the point when they need some water.

Now’s the time to feel the top of the compost.

If it feels dry, apply a little water to the top or put the pot in a saucer of water for five minutes and the compost will absorb what it needs.

Remember: cyclamen do not need drowning.

Look after them and these plants will flower for a long time. Grown well a cyclamen bought now should flower right up until March or even April.

As the flowers fade they will produce a seed head at the top of the flower stem.

One or two can be kept if you like growing things from seed, but if the remaining dead flowers are left on the plant the flowering period is shortened.

So it is essential to pluck out the dead flower stems with a sharp jerk so the stem doesn’t break off because any stem left behind will rot. This can cause the plant to die from powdery mildew disease.

A second attempt to remove the stem is the best idea but if there is still a little piece left, dust the cut with sulphur dust. This will prevent the tuber rotting. All we need now is plenty of light and some cold.

This combined with careful watering will turn you into a great cyclamen fan.

TIP OF THE WEEK

Don’t forget to plant shallot bulbs as a group or as an edging plant along the front of a flower border. You’ll get five beautiful shallots for every one planted. When cooking, use two instead of a large onion. The flavour is wonderful.

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