Potted Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen Pot Culture
Cyclamen readily adapt to pot culture and this is a popular way to grow many of the more tender species. In cold winter areas growing cyclamen in pots may be the only way to enjoy this wonderful plant. Pot culture is mobile, the ability to move pots is a great way to display the plants when in bloom. Move them so they can be seen up close in the entry, patio, deck, veranda or terrace. Cyclamen collectors grow many of the harder to obtain species in pots.
Ideally pots are grown in a greenhouse but a cold frame will also work very well. Most greenhouses tend to be situated where they receive full sun throughout the year. Shading will be needed during the Summer either by using shade cloth or placing cyclamen pots below the bench. In Winter the greenhouse need only be heated enough to keep temperatures above freezing. Do not let pots freeze! your cyclamen tuber will turn to mush. Heating can be accomplished with a small electric heater. On very cold winter nights I use a small camping heater fueled by the propane bottle from the summer BBQ grill.
It is important to provide lots of fresh air and vents need closing only when freezing temperature is expected. An air circulating fan can be very helpful in preventing any Botrytis mold from forming on the leaves or blossoms. A fan during summer will help even out the warm temperatures. I over-winter my potted cyclamen in the greenhouse then move them outside when the weather warms up. Without access to a cold frame or greenhouse some growers over-winter pots under artificial light in a cool room like a basement or garage.
Plastic or clay pots both work well. Clay pots breathe thus drying out faster than plastic and it will affect how often they need watering. Pot size of 3 to 6 inches across for single tubers or plant multiple tubers in a larger pot. Cyclamen bloom better if the pot is not overly large allowing just an inch from the side of the pot to the tuber. Species like hederifolium spread out their stems before arising from the soil so a bit larger pot and more space around the tuber is better. A deeper pot is preferred by purpurascens and repandum.
Much has been written and discussed about the best potting soil for cyclamen and there are many favorite recipes. See the Cyclamen Society web site if you want to know more on this. I have had problems using commercial mixes that contain added fertilizer. The fertilizer will burn cyclamen roots. A basic recipe can be made using one part peat moss or decomposed bark, one part vermiculite and one part perlite. Cyclamen are not heavy feeders. The most important thing is that the soil drains well. Test drainage by filling a pot with wet soil mix then compress it a bit, add water until the pot is full and time how long it takes to drain. You want it to drain in one minute or less. There are some commercial mixes that stay very wet for a long time, especially in plastic pots. These are usually made with added soil or worm castings. Adding some grit or coarse sand would help these from becoming too soggy.
Potting Cyclamen Tubers
Potting cyclamen can be done every year or every two years. Repotting is a good time to examine the tuber to make sure they are healthy. The best time to repot is when they are dormant. When planting place the tuber so it is one half inch below the soil surface. Species purpurascens and repandum like to be planted much deeper about halfway down the pot. Cyclamen persicum tubers should be placed with it's top and shoulder above the surface. One method that many growers use is to place the top of the tuber just at the surface and then cover them one half inch deep with grit, coarse sand, or perlite.
Cyclamen need ample water whenever in growth. How often to water depends on the climate and time of year. In winter if the temperatures are very cool with high humidity the pots may stay damp for three or four weeks at a time. In very low humidity they may need to be watered twice a week. Water in the morning especially when low temperatures are expected at night. Potted cyclamen seem to like a thorough watering after letting the pot become dry at the top rather than small frequent watering. Watering can be done from above or below, or if in clay the pot may be set in a pan with water up to the rim of the pot until soaked. Avoid letting the pot remain sitting in water or roots will rot.
When plant leaves start to yellow starting in late Spring it is time for the plant to enter dormancy and watering should become less frequent. Cyclamen roots are active all year and some moisture is needed throughout the dormant period. Apply some small amount of water to keep the roots moist. Only a few species like persicum need to be fully dry for a month or two when dormant. Best practice is to try to mimic their natural environment. Start watering the potted tubers in late August or September with a thorough soaking then allow the soil surface to just come to dryness before thoroughly watering again. Whenever signs of new growth are visible resume regular watering. Once a month feedings of a liquid fertilizer at less than half strength can be made if the plant hasn't been repotted with fresh soil.