Dream Gardens: Room for an old favourite

Dream Gardens: Room for an old favourite


They often get neglected or simply dumped as soon as they look down-at-heel.

The problem is that indoor cyclamen are very nearly hardy plants.

The reason they did so well for our grandparents is that old houses didn’t have central heating and draughty doors and windows let in lots of good fresh air.

Modern homes just don’t suit cyclamen.

The combination of radiators, double glazing and loft and cavity wall insulation creates so much warmth and humidity that the plants grow soft, weak and spindly and the same muggy conditions encourage grey mould and assorted plant rots to strike.

Today it can be quite difficult to find somewhere cyclamen will succeed but do try. Choose the coolest place available. A spare bedroom where the radiators are turned down low is fine, so is a utility room, hallway, conservatory or enclosed porch but make sure there’s enough light. If there’s enough to read comfortably by it’s about right.

A downstairs loo would be fine as long as you remove the plants when you use bleach and cleaning products. Traces of those in the air don’t do any pot plants much good, especially in enclosed spaces.

If you use organic cleaning products a “smallest room” where you leave a window ajar most of the time could be ideal.

Having found the best possible spot, go cyclamen shopping. You’ll be amazed at the range of colours and types on offer.

The traditional florists’ cyclamen is the big, glamorous plant with huge – often frilly – flowers and large kidney-shaped leaves that are maroon-backed and deep green on top. For even greater impact, look for ones with silvery leaf markings, some have elaborate scrolls as complicated as Paisley patterns.

Don’t overlook the miniature cyclamen. When they first appeared on sale, market traders wrote them off as second-quality plants when in fact they are special strains selected for the small size, compact growth and understated charm of wild outdoor cyclamen.

Three or five of these delicate beauties look a treat grouped in a bowl or basket with moss or dry autumn leaves to hide the pots.

Given the right conditions cyclamen are easy to grow. Watering is their big downfall. It’s not essential to water from underneath but if you water from the top, try to keep the leaf stalks and the top of the corm dry. Water lightly and aim to damp the compost around the edges.

If you prefer to water from below that’s great but never leave a cyclamen sitting in a bowl of water.

LIFT it out and let it drain after a few minutes or it’ll drown. Whichever way you choose, add a few drops of liquid houseplant feed to the water every week or two during the growing season.

When the leaves start yellowing in late spring, reduce the watering over three to four weeks so the corm dries out slowly. It wants to be dormant through the summer so stand the pot on its side outdoors. That rest is vital for next year’s growth and flowering.

Like all of us, cyclamen need their summer holiday if they are to work well through the winter.



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