August 5, 2013

Repotting Cyclamen Species

Cyclamen coum, generally an outdoor species in milder gardens, must be grown under glass here in New England.
It may survive our winters, but it blooms while it is snowing outside, and heavy, wet snowcover is a condition it hates.

I repot my species Cyclamen collected every two or three years. A task, which must be undertaken while the tubers are dormant, which often means during those hottest mid-summer days near the end of July or the first week of August, when the pots are at their most dormant state, hot and dry, under the protection of the glass in the greenhouse. A dirty and dusty job, it is one which must be handled with care as even while these Mediterranean bulbous plants are at their most dormant period, many are already beginning new growth, as some nights have begun to turn cold ( 48º F last night!), and these tubers cannot seem to wait for Mother Nature to begin their autumn rains and cold nights to start their growing season. This week I had to rush home to repot the entire collection before some species started growing even more ( one was already in bloom with a single flower!). This year, I am discovering some dead tubers, some missing tubers and some tubers so large that....well, see for yourself! Click more below for Cyclamen awesomness!

Each species, of the 12 species of Cyclamen that I grow, has a distinctive shape or characteristic. Some are
completely covered with roots, others, have roots which emerge only from the bottom.

Remember, these are not the common florist cyclamen that we see sold in supermarkets in the winter, those are Cyclamen persicum ( I do grow the wild species of C. persicum, but the hybrid large fancy flowered forms and the dwarf forms are something I tend to not grow, except as disposable pot plants for the Holidays. These are long-lived species forms, which are quite different. Most need to be grown from seed, or obtained from collector nurseries and growers. For more information, you should consider joining the Cyclamen Society, a great source for seed.  Plants can be found at Hansen Nursery, or  Plant Delights Nursery. Excellent growing information as well as a super resource for images and ID is my friend John Lonsdale's excellent site Edgewood Gardens. I will admit that although not difficult to cultivate well, these tender cold-growing cyclamen are best grown in a frost free greenhouse or frost free cold frame. Some growers have had luck with C. rholfsianum as a windowsill plant, however.

A Cyclamen hederifolium already starting into growth. With this one, identifying what was up and down, was not
that difficult. It will need to be carefully repotted so that I do not damage new growth.

I have many seedling Cyclamen species, and this year, as an experiment, I am planting most of them outdoors, focusing on the hardier species like C. hederifolium. The few that I had planted outdoors a few years ago are doing so well, that I have been encouraged to grow more. I plant them a little deeper outdoors, under trees where the soil will go drier during the hot summer months, or on the shady side of the house, where other growers near me have found to provide near excellent conditions.

In just a few weeks, many of these bulbs will look like this.

Cyclamen like a light, porous soil mixture. This year I am using a simple mix of 1/3 composted bark much, 1/3 perlite, and 1/3 peat-based potting mix. Some species such as the Cyclamen graecum had sharp sand added to the mixture.

C. graecum, a young tuber at 3 years old, shows how this species continues root growth during their summer
dormant period. Experienced growers know that this species prefers a little moisture near its feet during the summer.

Each species seems to have a unique trait once unearthed. This C. hederifolium has a bottom which is almost smooth.
All of my tubers are planted in pots which are nearly the same size, as under-potting benefits cyclamen species.

Once repotted, many of these tubers, which are sometimes potted near the surface of their pots, are covered with a layer of gravel or chips to help retain soil moisture. This year I potted some bulbs deeper than normal, as
some collectors find that a 2 inch depth provides better conditions while in pots.

Here are some images of last years pots as they started to grow. It always surprises me at how fast
these plants come into bloom once they are watered, which for me, will be around Labor Day, or when the
first autumnal cold fronts from Canada signify colder autumnal nights.


  1. What magnificent cyclamens you have! I also have coum and grow it outside but, as you point out, it blooms when there is still a fair bit of snow and do not look as good as they could. Some time you have to dig them out to see the blooms! The one that does best for me is Cyclamen purpurascens which blooms in summer and likes our limestone.
    For a cyclamens fancier, Victoria B.C. is the place. They volunteer in lawns and, I have seen abandoned gardens where they had taken over! Such a contrast to the East where we have to cosset them.
    Thank you for the information about the mix you use. I think I should lighten up the soil where I have them. I should add some composted bark mulch to the leaf compost I mostly use.

  2. Could you clarify, "pea based potting mix"?Thanks

    This year I am using a simple mix of 1/3 composted bark much, 1/3 perlite, and 1/3 peat-based potting mix.


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