Growing Hardy Cyclamen Outdoors: Hardy Cyclamen Care In The Garden

Growing Hardy Cyclamen Outdoors: Hardy Cyclamen Care In The Garden

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

By Mary Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Cyclamen need not only be enjoyed in the home. Hardy cyclamen lights up the garden with showy mounds of silvery-white foliage and heart-shaped leaves that appear in autumn and last until the plant goes dormant in late spring. Deep rose-pink blooms appear in late winter and early spring. Fall-blooming varieties are also available.

Although this woodland plant looks delicate, hardy cyclamen is vigorous and easy to grow. The plant pairs well with other small woodland plants such as hellebores, ajuga, or trillium. Hardy cyclamen tops out at 3 to 6 inches (7.5-15 cm.).

Planting Hardy Cyclamen Bulbs Outdoors

Growing hardy cyclamen outdoors is simple as long as you follow a few general guidelines. Hardy cyclamen is difficult to propagate from seed, but you can plant bulbs, or tubers, in late summer or early autumn. Plant the tubers with the top of the tuber just below the surface of the soil. Allow 6 to 10 inches (15-25.5 cm.) between each tuber.

Unlike florist’s cyclamen that grows outdoors only in warm climates, hardy cyclamen tolerates cold climates and freezing winters. However, this cool climate plant doesn’t survive where summers are hot and dry.

Hardy cyclamen grows in nearly any type of loose, well-drained soil. Dig a few inches of mulch, compost, or other organic matter into the soil before planting, especially if your soil is clay-based or sandy.

Hardy Cyclamen Care

Care of hardy cyclamen is simple and the plants require minimal maintenance to look their best. Water the plant regularly during spring and summer but don’t overwater because the tubers may rot in waterlogged soil.

Brush excessive leaves and debris from the plant in autumn. Although a light layer of mulch or leaves protects the roots from the winter cold, too much cover prevents the plants from getting light.

Divide tubers in late summer, but don’t disturb old, well-established tubers, which can grow to the size of a plate and produce hundreds of blooms every year. One tuber can sometimes live for several generations.

This article was last updated on

How to grow indoor cyclamen

All you need to know about caring for an indoor cyclamen, in our detailed Grow Guide.

Published: Friday, 19 February, 2021 at 1:58 pm

Plant size

Florist’s cyclamen, or indoor cyclamen, are popular house plants grown for their large, showy winter flowers, in shades of white, pink and red. The flowers may be frilly or scented, and are set off by marbled, heart-shaped leaves. They are widely available in garden centres and at the florist’s in autumn and winter and are often given as gifts. Given the right care, they should flower for at least six weeks. If you’re choosing a cyclamen to buy, look for one plenty of buds – it will mean that the plant will flower for longer.

Florist’s cyclamen are cultivars of the wild Cyclamen persicum, native to Turkey. The smaller-flowered cultivars, also known as ‘mini cyclamen’ are sold as outdoor bedding plants in autumn. These are great for adding colour to pots and window boxes in autumn and early winter. However they are not frost hardy.

Florist’s cyclamen die back naturally in spring, in preparation for a period of dormancy in summer. At this point many people discard their plant. You can encourage the plant to flower again the following winter, however, if you allow the plant to follow its natural growth cycle, reduce watering in summer while it rests.

Cyclamen Varieties

It is believed that there are 23 species of cyclamen. The Allotment Garden recommends the following varieties for your garden:

  • Cilicium- This is a species that flowers in the fall. It has either purple or pink flowers and a sweet scent.
  • Alpinium- A sweetly scented purple flower that flowers in the early spring.
  • Hederifolium- One of the hardiest species, this variety of cyclamen flowers from late summer to Autumn.
  • Coum- Another hardy variety, coum has heart-shaped leaves that are pink, white, or purple. It flowers from January to March.
  • Mirabile- This variety has broad-shaped leaves and fragrant flowers that are shades between white and deep pink. It can survive mild frosts.
  • Purpurascens- A hardy variety that flowers in the summer. It has variegated leaves and deep pink flowers.
  • Intaminatum- This is an alpine variety that flowers in the fall and has pale pink or white flowers.

How to Grow and Care for Cyclamen

Cyclamen are fans of cooler temperatures, so indoors near a window where the plant will get a bit of a draft & some bright sun is the perfect spot.

Outdoors is an option too, especially if you live in a moderate climate or can protect the plant from freezing on a porch.

The ideal conditions for a Cyclamen is around 60 degrees F in direct light or bright indirect light.

Right now I have several inside near windows and two in metal urns on the steps to my porch. All seem very happy!

Cyclamen are actually a type of bulb called a corm (a short, thickened vertical stem).

They derive from the Mediterranean and Southern Europe.

I am partial to white, but Cyclamen come in pink, red, magenta/purple as well.

Properly cared for an indoor Cyclamen can last about 8 weeks in continuous bloom.

I think their buds are so elegant - unfurling into beautiful blossoms.

While in bloom, keep the root ball moist and feed the plant every two weeks.

The watering method is very important to a healthy Cyclamen. I have found watering from the bottom up makes for the healthiest plant with long lasting blooms.

To best hydrate your Cyclamen this is what I suggest: keep the Cyclamen in the plastic container it came in if that pot has drainage holes. You can then simply slip that pot into a more decorative container.

When it is time to water, about once a week, take the plant out of the decorative pot, put it, still in its plastic pot, on a pie plate or tray filled with an inch or so of water.

Let the Cyclamen sit in the water for an hour. All the while the plant will be soaking it up the water it needs. You might be surprised how quickly & how much it soaks up!

The white variety is such a pure white, it appears to almost glow in the fading light of dusk.

Watering from above can lead to rotting of the corm. If the corm rots the party is over.

The heart shaped variegated leaves are so pretty

perfect as it blooms right thru Valentine's Day!

Remove any yellow leaves and spent flowers by clipping or pinching the stem deep inside the cluster of leaves.

When Cyclamen are done blooming I give thanks for the pretty flowers & toss the plant. Cyclamen are so inexpensive and the chance of the cool loving corm surviving in the summer heat at my house is slim.

That being said, you can save the corm. After the foliage dies back, leave the plant to dry out. Dig out the corm put it in a paper bag in a dark cool spot. If you remember where you put it, repot in midsummer and place in a warm place so it can establish roots before returning it to a cool 55 - 60˚ F to encourage flowering.

That is kind of a lot of work for a $4.99 plant, but might be fun to see if it would work where you live.

For me I will live in the moment with my Cyclamen

enjoying the cooler months with their ruffly petals & stunning foliage.

If you found my tips on how to grow and care for Cyclamen useful, you may also enjoy my tips on Decorating with House Plants .

Cyclamen Species for the Garden

The hardiest species of Cyclamen are hederifolium, coum and purpurascens. C.hederifolium and purpurascens have been known to withstand prolonged freezing at -22 F°. C.cilicium, and pseudibericum are less hardy in some situations. Frost-tolerant but not able to withstand prolonged freezing is repandum. All garden situations are different so some of these may grow well in cold winter areas or not. In terms of ease of cultivation hederifolium and coum top the list and anyone wishing to grow cyclamen should start with these species. Later on give cilicium and the hardier forms of repandum a try. With these four species bloom can be attained almost year around.

It is always helpful to keep in mind that cyclamen are in growth during the winter months when choosing a planting location. Of these species the seed of hederifolium and coum are the quickest to germinate and flower. The others take more time to reach a blooming state. Flowering times begin with coum (Feb-March), pseudibericum (March-April), repandum (April-May), purpurascens (July-Sept), hederifolium (Aug-Oct), and cilicium (Sep-Nov). There are a number of other hardy species, parviflorum, alpinum, colchicum, elegans, intaminatum, and mirabile. These species are either not widely cultivated, difficult to obtain, or not suited to the open garden.

Cyclamen hederifolium is native to woodland, scrub, and rocky areas in the Mediterranean region. The most widespread Cyclamen species it is found from southern France to western Turkey and Mediterranean islands. Growing from sea level to 4200 ft. in woodlands, scrub and rocky areas. It is the hardiest, most robust and easiest to grow. Hederifolium self seeds freely and if left undisturbed will naturalize. Tolerant of all average garden soils it can also grow in areas with more sun.

Deep to light pink blossoms on stems 4 to 6 inches in height appear in late August through October. In cultivation white blossoms develop on some plants. Large foliage lasts until late Spring and in a colony creates an almost evergreen ground cover. The foliage shape can vary widely from ivy-like, heart shaped, to spear like. Foliage color may be green with a symmetrical darker green or silver fractal pattern. Tubers of hederifolium increase in size and it is not uncommon to find older tubers the size of a small dinner plate. These larger and older tubers produce an amazing profusion of blooms. They are very long lived.

Cyclamen coum a hardy species that blooms in winter-photo by Gert-Jan van Ansem

Cyclamen coum is native to two areas, the mountains and coastal areas that border the southern and eastern Black Sea coasts, and southern Turkey south to Israel. It is found amongst rocks and roots in deciduous and coniferous woodlands and scrub, similar to hederifolium in ease of cultivation and conditions required to flourish. Coum produces many seeds, self sows and will colonize an area. Coum should not be planted in the same bed as hederifolium as it will be overtaken by the more robust species.

Foliage usually appears first in Autumn. Round small leaves may be all green or have some fractal like pattern. Blooms are pink to carmine or white, 4 inches in height and have rounded petals. Blooming occurs in winter, usually January through March. Coum is a smaller plant than hederifolium and it's tuber reaches a size of 2 1/2 inches across.

Potted Cyclamen purpurascens blooms in late spring.

Cyclamen purpurascens is native to southern and eastern Europe as far north as Poland. I is found amongst shaded roots and rocks, in deciduous and mixed woodlands over limestone, at elevations of 800 to 4250 ft. It is a woodland plant most commonly found in beech forests growing in leaf litter that can be a foot deep. This Cyclamen species is unusual in that it is almost always in leaf and doesn't enter a dormant period like others do. Watering should be continuous throughout the year. It is very hardy having been successfully grown in quite cold areas such as Alberta Canada.

Blooming occurs summer through fall. Blooms are light pink to deep magenta with petals slightly twisted and have a sweet fragrance. Leaves are heart shaped wider than they are long. Foliage color is green and can have symmetrical silver markings or be all a light silver wash. C. purpurascens can be reticent to set seed and when pollination occurs the seed pod may take up to a year to mature. Germination of seed is also slow taking up to a year to sprout. A very atractive plant it does best in a moist deep leaf compost, but is very slow to naturalize.

Cyclamen cilicium grow in the Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey, a part of the ancient kingdom of Cilicia, at elevations of 2300 to 6500 feet. It is found growing in coniferous forest among rocks and scree in shade or partial shade. C.cilicium is not as robust as hederifolium or coum and takes longer to establish in the open garden being not quite as hardy in severe winters. It readily self sows and a small colony can develop over time. It prefers growing in partial sun and needs some water during the summer months. Blooming in Autumn the wild form has light pink blossoms. Blossom petals are twisted with a narrow nose on delicate stalks. The cultivated form C.cilicium album has white blossoms and is more vigorous. The foliage of cilicium is deep green with a narrow cream hastate marking.

Cyclamen pseudibericum is found in a very small area of the Nur and Anti-Taurus mountains of southern Turkey at elevations of 1600-5000 ft. In the wild it grows in pine forest, oak and beech scrub, among rocks and roots in deep leaf litter. It has been found growing along with C.cilicium at one site in the mountains of Turkey but more often along with C.coum. It has been brought into cultivation after being rediscovered in 1957, and considered to be one of the most attractive plants in the genus. It can withstand a reasonable amount of frost but is usually grown in the greenhouse. Where it can grow outside it blooms with vigor. Blossoms are large and fragrant in colors of magenta to deep pink. Foliage is deep glossy green with a hastate pattern and appears in Autumn. Leaves are longer than wide up to 3 inches. Blooming in March to May they need ample moisture while in growth.

Cyclamen repandum There are four subspecies of C.repandum with complex varying characteristics found throughout the Mediterranean of which several may be named separate species. Classification, or taxonomy, of these plants is in an evolving state. The areas where they are found to grow in the wild are usually in very moist oceanic climates. They grow primarily in the dappled shade of deciduous or pine woodland and olive groves in deep, damp leaf litter. Though sometimes found in rocky crevices and in moss at the base of trees, dampness is needed at the roots all year. This cyclamen doesn't do well in hot dry sunnier areas. They bloom in April and May. The petals are long and twisted, while the tubers are round with a depression and reach a little over 2 inches across. The tubers are deep chestnut brown, and in age the surface becomes corky, rooting from the bottom.

C.repandum ssp.repandum is native to southern France, Italy and Albania and is the hardier repandum. Blooms are sweetly fragrant and appear with the leaves in colors deep pink to deep carmine magenta. Foliage is deep green with a grey green hastate pattern. In cultivation they do best in the open garden and are difficult to grow in pots. Tubers should be planted deep, up to 4 inches below the soil surface or in deep moist leaf litter. The other sub-species of repandum, though less hardy, may be of great interest to growers of cyclamen as all are very fragrant and will colonize over time creating colorful springtime drifts of elegant blossoms.

C.epandum ssp.peloponnesiacum and ssp.vividum are both native to the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece and found in separate areas. Ssp.peloponnesiacum is the easiest repandum to grow in the open garden or in pots. Plants descended from seed collected at higher elevations tend to be more hardy. Repandum ssp.vividum has very intense coloring and unlike the other repandum subspecies grows in sunnier places like dry open pine woodland, in rocky gullies, and under shrubs in hotter sunnier scrub.

C.repandum ssp.rhodense is widespread on the island of Rhodes growing on hillsides under pine. These subspecies may become classified as separate species from repandum. Grown near each other they can sometimes cross pollinate creating new plants with combined characteristics.

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