They’re hardy perennials, making them popular choices for British gardeners, and, depending on the varieties you choose, they can bring colour to your garden year-round.
This plant is so popular in some places that its populations have been depleted by illegal collection, making them endangered. By growing cyclamen in your garden you could be contributing toward the preservation of at-risk species, which is an exciting prospect. Cyclamen from UK garden centres – whether you buy the plant or the seed – is propagated responsibly, so you don’t need to worry about contributing to the threat wild cyclamen faces.
This guide contains all the information you need to care for a cyclamen plant in your garden.
What is Cyclamen?
Cyclamen is a genus of plant that contains 23 species, all of which are perennial. The family is native to Europe, with some species as far-reaching as Iran and eastern Africa.
While all species share the same broad colour palette, there are aesthetic differences between them. Depending on the look you’re going for, different species will appeal more than others.
When choosing cyclamen for your garden, be sure to know what it will look like throughout its lifespan. These plants are perennial, meaning they’ll come back year after year. Rushing the decision, or buying seeds without researching the adult plant, could be a mistake that sticks with you for a long time.
What types of Cyclamen plant are there?
The cyclamen genus is smaller than some other garden plants, with just 23 varieties. We’ve pulled together a few favourites to get you started. Usually in our growing guides, we spotlight varieties that have received the RHS Award of Garden Merit – none of the cyclamen species have the award, meaning none are highlighted as being noteworthy choices for British gardens.
Cyclamen Laser Rose
Despite the futuristic name, this soft-pink cyclamen brings a calming energy to outdoor spaces. It thrives in partial shade, with a south, east, or west-facing aspect. It’s not fussy when it comes to soil: You can grow it in sand, clay, chalk, or loam, at acid, alkaline, and neutral pH levels. After planting it’ll take 2-5 years to reach its maximum height of about half a metre.
This variety will burst forth with pink flowers in winter.
Cyclamen Sierra Scarlet
These flowers have a lovely blend of crimson and vintage pink, providing an engaging splash of colour in the winter months. The variety grows quicker than the Laser Rose, taking one year to reach its full height and spread of about half a metre each.
Cyclamen rhodium (Peloponnesian cyclamen)
This variety sports lantern-shaped flowers with light pink tops and rich, deep pink bottoms. They’re smaller than previous cyclamens, reaching a height and spread of about 10cm over one to two years.
You’ll enjoy a pink explosion in springtime if you go for this variety.
Introducing Cyclamen into your garden
This guide details growing cyclamen from bulbs, or by transplanting plants. Growing from seed is a whole different ball game, and we’ve not covered that here.
You can buy young cyclamen plants from traditional garden centres, online from Amazon, and everywhere in between. You can also buy young plants that to be transplanted, a process which is quite easy.
How hardy are they?
Amongst the varieties above, the hardiness rating varies between H1C and H4. You can grow plants with the former rating outdoors in summer, with a preferred minimum temperature range of 5-10 degrees. Plants rated H4 are suited to the UK climate year-round, excepting very extreme conditions.
Depending on your location and needs, your ideal hardiness rating will vary. We always recommend researching the properties of the specific varieties you’re interested in, and choosing the most suitable.
What soil does Cyclamen need?
All the varieties featured above are happy in loamy, sandy, clayey, or chalky soil. Cyclamens prefer well-drained soil but are not fussy when it comes to pH levels.
Where to plant your Cyclamen
Although different varieties flower at different times, try to avoid mixing varieties in the same area. Intuitively, this seems like a way to alternate flowering seasons and guarantee colour year-round, but what actually happens is that one variety will dominate – and eventually kill off – the other.
With this in mind, you’ll want to leave about a metre between varieties.
Because cyclamen is quite a low-profile plant, many gardeners use it as ground cover for roses or other taller plants.
Most varieties will thrive in partial shade, with west, south, or east-facing aspects, and a bit of shelter. Again, double-check the preferences of the varieties you’re considering incorporating into your garden.
When to plant
To give your cyclamens the best shot, you’ll want to plant them in autumn, winter (if the ground allows), or early spring. These plants shouldn’t present too much of a challenge, as long as you choose a spot that’s not too sunny.
Planting out your Cyclamen
As we’re dealing with bulbs or young plants in this article, your first step when planting cyclamen is to dig a hole.
Then, whack in a bit of gravel and sand at the bottom to provide drainage. Cyclamen bulbs are prone to rotting if they’re overwatered, so this is important.
Next, plop the bulb at the bottom of the hole, or push down the young plant until it’s securely in the ground, then gather soil around the top and water thoroughly.
It’s recommended that you wait until your bulb (or tuber) is showing roots. This helps you to distinguish the top from the bottom and improves the chance of successful growth.
This plant thrives with even watering and cool temperatures.
It will die back out of season: The leaves will die away, and it may look like hope is lost for another year of colour. But be patient. The bulbs will flower again, and the plant will return to its former glory.
Mulching in winter with leaf-mould will nourish the soil around your cyclamens and help them to grow back big and strong next year.
When watering, you can reduce the chance of leaves dying by pulling them back gently and watering the roots.
Remove all dead plant matter during the down season. This allows the underground tuber section of the plant to recuperate for next time, without wasting any energy on sustaining dying parts above-ground.
Protecting your Cyclamen from pests and diseases
Cyclamen is fairly resistant to pests, compared to some of the other plants we’ve covered. There are a couple of things to look out for, though. Here they are:
Rodents (mice and squirrels)
These pesky fellows will show no hesitation in eating plants and bulbs. If they start to show an interest in your cyclamens, either after planting or when in full bloom, you can lay down netting to deter them.
Squirrels are especially interested in plant bulbs as a winter snack, so consider laying netting over the ground if you’ve got freshly-planted bulbs underneath.
These pests damage plants and lay their grubs around the roots. The grubs then go on to eat the plant when they’re feeding.
There are a couple of methods of controlling vine weevils, ranging from picking them off manually under torchlight at night, to traps filled with predatory nematodes, to various pesticides. We’ll leave it up to you to research the most suitable method.
Not a lot of plants have their own special type of mite. These guys are one of the worst pests cyclamens can get, and they cause damage to every part of the plant.
Prevention includes using a fertiliser that’s not too high in nitrogen or potassium: This creates an environment conducive to the mites.
Regular inspection of your plants is another way to nip problems in the bud. You can remove mites manually and destroy them.
If you find yourself with a full infestation, it’s time to investigate predatory mites (which don’t damage the plant) or pesticide sprays. Again, this warrants further research in the case of an infestation.
You’ll be likin’ them cyclamen
The cyclamen family is bursting with attractive and relatively easy to grow plants that will bring colour and excitement to your garden. Careful selection of varieties will ensure visual interest year-round, and with a little bit of care, you should be on track for healthy and rewarding plants.
We hope this cyclamen growing guide has been a useful starting point. Enjoy your gardening!