Cyclamen are often associated with florist’s shops and flower beds in warm locales. Gardeners are often surprised to learn that there are hardy cyclamen species and cultivars that tolerate winters as cold as Zones 5 and even 4. The flowering of hardy cyclamen begins in August or September, signaling that summer’s end is near. Their drifts of dainty flowers that resemble Shooting Stars, usually in shades of pink and occasionally white, seem to appear overnight. Attractive marbled foliage follows the first bloom and lasts through spring.
Cyclamen neapolitanum , (synonymous with Cyclamen hederifolium), is the most widely grown hardy cyclamen in the U.S. and was named by the Royal Horticultural Society as one of the top 200 plants of the last 200 years. It is a very vigorous plant that can produce an abundance of blooms and is very long-lived once established. If you have never grown hardy cyclamen, treat them much as you would woodland wildflowers. They will grow in almost any loose, well-drained soil except for wet, soggy types and are not sensitive to soil pH. Adding compost and deep leaf mulch is beneficial. They are one of the few flowering plants that will flourish in dry shade, one of the most challenging spots in any garden.
The corm or tuber is unusual, a fleshy modified stem that stores water and energy. It usually sits just below ground level, but the C. neapolitanum cultivars can be planted slightly deeper where winters are cold. The roots grow from around the top, as do the flowers and leaves which grow from the center of the top, so the bottom of the tuber is round and smooth while the top is rough and bumpy. Each year new growth expands the size of the corm, resulting in a larger corm each year, sometimes becoming saucer-sized. During the summer the plant goes dormant and disappears, so the plants need to be marked well to avoid digging into them. Even though hardy cyclamen look dainty and small, they can have big impact placed among rocks in rock gardens, near walks and entryways, or in pots. They add a whole new layer of color to the landscape when used as underplantings for large shrubs like rhododendrons and azaleas or low-branched trees. They set seed that self-sows quite readily, resulting in their developing into large colonies over the course of the years. Growing them in pots can be quite rewarding, but they do not do well indoors and should be overwintered outdoors or in a cool greenhouse, cold frame or under artificial light in a cool room.
Cyclamen coum are also hardy species, their first blooms often greeting snow. The pale pink to purplish-magenta flowers resemble miniature florist’ cyclamen, appearing from December through April, depending on location. The shade-loving plants are wonderful cool-season companions to hellebores, pulmonaria and primroses. Culture is similar to that of Cyclamen neapolitanum.
New from Terra Nova Nurseries in 2012 are the first hardy cyclamen to be successfully cloned and produced by tissue culture. One of the advantages of tissue culture cyclamen is that, unlike seed-grown plants, they flower the very first year. The Cyclamen “Magic™” series features cloned cultivars of C. coum. Both varieties in this series are offered in our catalog – “Magic Mirror and “Something Magic”. Also, available only to our internet and email customers are 3 new clones released by Terra Nova from their “Sweetheart™” cyclamen series of neapolitanum or hederifolium types. Find details about “Sweetheart™ Flame”, “Sweetheart™ Sparkle” and “Sweetheart™ Splash” on our website.
Cyclamen have been in cultivation since Platos time, several hundred years B.C. Isn’t it time to make them an abiding fixture in your own garden?