Cyclamen: hardy

A delightful tuberous perennial providing colour often when little else is flowering, particularly in late winter or early spring. Hardy cyclamen species and cultivars are ideal for naturalising under trees, on banks or in a shady border and planted in association with other early-flowering woodland plants such as snowdrops, winter aconites and primroses.

Cyclamen: hardy

Quick facts

Common name Sow bread
Botanical name Cyclamen
Group Tuberous perennial
Flowering time Mostly autumn and winter
Planting time Autumn, winter (when ground is not frozen) and early spring
Height and spread 5-13cm (2-5in) by 8-15cm (3-6in)
Aspect Partial shade
Hardiness Fully to frost hardy
Difficulty Moderate

Cultivation notes

Cyclamen are not difficult to grow in the garden, provided the site is not overly dry or sunny.

  • Plant tubers 3-5cm (1¼-2in) deep and several to a large hole dug out with a spade. Alternatively, they may be planted singly
  • Do not plant too deeply or they may not flower
  • To establish quickly, plant tubers when they are in root growth. This will also help to distinguish between the top and bottom of the tuber
  • Grow in part shade in any moderately fertile, humus-rich, well-drained soil, avoiding excessive summer moisture
  • Mulch annually with leafmould as leaves die down and in frost-prone areas provide a deep loose mulch such as bark chips
  • Grow borderline hardy species in a cool greenhouse in bright filtered light with a little humidity

Propagation

Collect seed of most cyclamen species when the flower-stalk coils, drawing the seed capsule closer to the soil surface to release the ripe seed. Best sown fresh, seeds should be sown immediately after soaking overnight, in a mix of equal parts seed compost and sharp grit. Cover seeds carefully with a thin layer of seived compost as light can inhibit germination.

Cover the container in a clear plastic bag and keep at a minimum temperature of 16°C (60°F) in light shade until large enough to transplant.

Cultivar Selection

Cyclamen coum AGM: This species and its many excellent cultivars have pink or magenta flowers during the depths of winter from January to March, surviving in the severest weather. Kidney-shaped, dark-green leaves that are often marked silver and white.

Cyclamen hederifolium AGM: This excellent garden plant will provide ground cover from winter to spring. Large flowers in shades of pink appear before the leaves in early autumn. Marbled foliage bears a resemblance to that of ivy. This species self-seeds freely.

Cyclamen purpurascens AGM: Very fragrant pink flowers borne with the heart-shaped, shiny, dark green and silvery mottled leaves, flowers from mid-late summer.

For other ideas on choosing hardy cyclamen, see;

RHS Plant selector
RHS Plant finder
RHS Trials and AGM cyclamen

Problems

Hardy cyclamen may get a number of problems;

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