Cyclamen are pretty garden friends, bringing joyful dots of jewel-like colour to the garden throughout winter.
Easy to grow, there are varieties to suit a range of situations, from baskets and containers to beds and banks for a more naturalised woodland look.
Cyclamen persicum (‘Persian cyclamen’)
Cyclamen persicum, which flowers from winter into spring, is the most popular variety. Perhaps most commonly known for the larger-flowering indoor variety, often referred to as the ‘florists flower’, there is also a small version, commonly sold as mini Cyclamen, that can be grown outdoors. Growing to around 20cm in height, the delightfully fragrant white or pink flowers sit boldly upright above its heart-shaped leaves. Despite its popularity, C. persicum is not frost tolerant so beware of planting in frost susceptible spots.
Cyclamen coum (‘Eastern cyclamen’)
Cyclamen coum is a hardy form with white to pink and crimson flowers from winter into early spring. A dwarf form, growing to just 10cm tall, it has the RHS Award of Garden Merit.
Cyclamen hederifolium (‘ivy-leaved cyclamen’)
Cyclamen hederifolium is another hardy variety with white to pink flowers with purple throats. It comes into flower in early autumn. The patterned leaves, which resemble ivy (Hedera – where the name ‘hederifolium’ comes from’) follow. Another smaller form, it grows to a little over 10cm in height.
Flowering / fruiting time: Different varieties offer differing flowering times. C. persicum and coum flower from winter into early spring. C. hederifolium flowers from late summer through autumn.
Sun Requirements: Cyclamen enjoy partially shaded spots
Soil: Cyclamen do best in moist, well-drained soils
Hardiness: While C. coum and C. hederifolium are hardy in most parts of the UK, often down to -15°C, C. persicum is not frost-tolerant.
Eventual size (height x width): Cyclamen are delightful smaller flowers, reaching 20cm or less in height.
Cyclamen is a plant that people often remark they struggle to keep.
When planting cyclamen outdoors, they need to be placed in a spot where they are protected from hot sun and severe weather. Ideal locations in the garden are under trees or high-branched shrubs. As they are short in height, they are better towards the edge of borders or are ideal in rock gardens. They are also often frequently grown in baskets.
Soil should be well-drained and a good mix of manure dug into the existing soil when planting will help. When planting, allow some corm to remain above the surface of the soil and space four to six inches apart.
Complementary Planting Ideas
For a beautiful display that will take you from winter into spring, plant soft pink Cyclamen coum together with pure white Galanthus nivalis (snowdrops) and inky-black Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’.
Another brilliant winter planting combination is Cyclamen coum together with Christmas roses, such as Helleborus ‘Wintergold’.
In centuries past, it was believed that cyclamen plants could be used to treat various medical ailments. This may, unfortunately, be because of their mild toxic properties – in particular, if ingested by cats, dogs or horses. Use in medical preparations is therefore not recommended!