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Cycles of Cyclamen

Anne Jaeger

Looking for something as pretty as an Easter egg to bring life to your holiday table? I’ve got just the thing. Who could top a shooting star? Okay, well, real shooting stars are little hard to get a hold of (what with that nasty space dust and all) so I’m going for the next best thing in nature this month; Cyclamen. It’s an indoor plant whose flowers come in the most vibrant Easter colors.

No doubt you’ve seen Cyclamen, but may not have put a name to it before. The plant is so beautiful, graceful and colorful; it really should be called a ‘shooting star.’ You see the flower pedals of Cyclamen are inverted so they fly back from the center. Straight up! The flowers look like a big gust of wind blew them back, leaving all five pedals caught in an eternal freeze frame. Very distinctive.

That’s one reason the indoor Cyclamen (C. persicum) caught my eye at Your New Garden Store the other day.  Few things in March can compare with tables upon tables of Cyclamen flowers lined up pot to pot in giant sweeps of color. Some experts compare the flowers to a snapshot of a butterfly caught mid-flight, but the leaves are very cool too. They’re similar to ivy leaves, but have gray outlines which capture your attention. It’s an easy plant to take care of inside if you understand a couple of its idiosyncrasies. The quirky flowers have a quirky nature, much like African Violets.

So, in my unending quest to keep my shooting stars flying high inside, I’ve picked up some pointers to pass on.

Cyclamen are like amaryllis. Meaning they bloom, the leaves die back and then the plant has to rest. Now, while it rests, we think it’s dead.  Oh, noooooo, it’s just playing possum. So let’s go through the steps of this gardening séance to prevent your cyclamen from going to the “other side” too quickly. First, try not to get water on the leaves. They don’t like it. The leaves hate it so much they turn yellow and die. So how do you water the plant without getting the leaves wet? You simply fill the sink up with a couple inches of water and put the pots in to soak up what’s needed.  Or you can try watering all around the sides of the pot, under the leaves. I find that a little trickier because then you’ve got the added responsibility of making sure the water doesn’t run out the other end too quickly and make a water mark on your table! Anyway, the important thing here is to avoid letting the plant dry out by keeping the soil damp but not sopping wet. The dirt should be moist to the touch but not spongy.

By this time, you’ve got an idea what a cool plant this is for March. But really, Cyclamen are –cool- weather plants. They’ll live outside down to 5 degrees, but we aren’t going to get much bloom at those temp’s. They do like it cool inside (about 50-60 degrees) and they want bright indirect light (place it next to a window facing east or west.)  Really, nothing to it

So, fill a tabletop arrangement with living Cyclamen this month and you’ll capture all the color and imagination that this holiday has to offer.

Anne Jaeger is a garden specialist on television, radio and in print. You can contact Anne through her website @ www.gardengal.tv.