Think you’re a natural born cyclamen killer? Think again, says Brian Kidd

Yes, you CAN grown them. Cyclamen brightening a windowsill.
Yes, you CAN grown them. Cyclamen brightening a windowsill.
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I don’t know about you but these miserable days with all the wind and rain are making me feel a bit fed up. But I always try to be a happy bunny, so, instead of looking out at all the weather we decided to go out to the garden centre and walk around to see the indoor plants.

We intended to buy nothing but as always, something caught the eye.

As we needed to brighten things up indoors 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!

Cyclamen are delightful tuberous perennial which provide colour often when little else is flowering, particularly in late winter or early spring.

Outdoors, hardy cyclamen species and cultivars are ideal for naturalising 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.

Do not plant them too deeply or they may not flower. Plants them about two inches deep and several to a large hole dug out with a spade. Alternatively, they may be planted singly.

Back indoors, cyclamen hate fluctuating temperatures. It is 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 hear it all the time, “I can’t grow cyclamen, they always die on me”. Nonsense!

Keep an eye on the plants. They are so lovely it’s a job not to watch them. They will show when they need watering because the plant begins to wilt, the leaves spread out and the flowers bend down. This is when they need water.

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. It doesn’t need drowning.

The plants will flower for a long time. Grown well and looked after, a cyclamen bought now should flower 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 of these can be kept if you like growing things from seeds but if the remaining dead flowers are left on the plant, the flowering period is shortened.

Therefore it is essential to pluck out the dead flower stems with a sharp jerk so that the stem doesn’t break off. Why?  Because any stem left behind will rot and 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 from rotting.

All we need now is plenty of light but not hot sunshine.

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

THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP

If you planted hyacinths in October and they were kept cold and in the dark, bring indoors if shoots are 4in high. You’ll also find pots of them at garden centres with buds showing colour. They’ll bloom by Christmas.