The Q&A Archives: Cyclamen

Question: I inherited a cyclamen persicum that was purchased around Valentine's day. The plant was kept in too warm an environment and, perhaps, was kept too dry. I'm told that it already bloomed; I assume then that if it is to survive, that it will now (or soon) enter into a dormant period and, if I'm lucky and can maintain the correct environment, it might bloom again sometime.

Well, a couple (2 of 10) leaves have started to turn yellow and brown on the edges. Is this to be expected? Should I cut the stems on which the leaves appear close to the soil line? Is this the start of the plant's demise? How, if at all, should I fertilize?

Answer: Florists' cyclamens such as yours are very difficult to keep over time, mainly because they need much cooler temperatures (say 45 degrees at night and 55 degrees in the day) than most homes offer, along with far more humidity than is commonly found. Ideally the blooms can last for several months -- but they rarely do at home!
Normally the plants do go dormant after blooming. If your plant is entering dormancy (and not simply complaining your house is too hot and too dry) you should stop watering and allow it to dry, then remove any dried stems and foliage, and set it somewhere cool but not freezing to rest (such as a cool basement) until the end of summer or so. When the time comes, repot it into a very rich and humusy soil and start watering it again. Use a dilute water soluble fertilizer and take care to keep the crown dry. At home, an east window is probably best. With any luck, starting it under "cool greenhouse" conditions in October should give blooms around Christmas. Good luck with your cyclamen!

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