CYCLAMEN (alpine violet)

7-10 deg C/45-50 deg F

This is one of the most popular pot plants, and sold from early autumn to spring, the time of flowering depending on seed strain and sowing time. There are a number of species, some hardy and others suited to rock gardens, but those used as pot plants for the home are nearly always hybrids or cultivars of C. persicum.

The beautiful butterfly-like flowers of cyclamen are well known, and some varieties also have exceptionally delightful foliage with pretty silvery banding and edging.

Some people associate the cyclamen with scent, but not all the modern cultivars have retained this desirable characteristic. However, for those houseplant enthusiasts fortunate to have facilities to raise their own plants from seed, there are some special fra-

grant strains. Modern cultivars also offer strains with extra-fine leaf patterning. miniatures, and fancy flowers which may be frilled.

The ‘Triumph’ cyclamen are very popular with florists and are beautiful, with a wide range of colours, attractive foliage and large flowers. The ‘Rex’ strain is notable for leaf patterns, and makes neat foliage plants. ‘Puppet’ is a dainty miniature. having the distinction of sweetly-scented flowers. ‘Decora’ has an unusual flower colouring and very pleasing foliage.

Cyclamen are usually bought in bud or when coming into flower. They are not easy to raise from seed in the home, but can be grown more easily from corms started into growth from mid to late summer. To do this, immerse the corms in moist peat until they are seen to be sprouting, and then place one to a 13cm (5 in.) pot, so that the top of the corm is just above the surface of the compost.

C. persicum is of Hast Mediterranean origin and does not tolerate chills. The minimum recommended temperature should be maintained, although when flowering a few degrees lower will prolong the decorative period. It is important to avoid hot. stuffy rooms. Too much cold, too much warmth. widely fluctuating temperatures, and overwatering. will result in wilting and sickly plants. Shade is also essential, and this means reasonable light but out of direct sunshine. The plants do very well under artificial light. There seems to be some difference of opinion about the best treatment of the plants after flowering. Some growers dry the corms, storing them quite dry from about June until the next starting time. However, better results may be obtained if the corms are merely rested. This is done by putting the plants in a cool, shaded place outside during summer, giving only just enough water to maintain the foliage. A few leaves may deteriorate. and if so they should be removed cleanly. New leaves will arise when growth begins again. In autumn. bring the plants into a cool but not chilly room and water them. In all cases, it is wise to avoid wetting the tops of the corms too much, since this may encourage the lower parts of the stems to rot. This is liable to occur in places where the air is stagnant and ventilation poor. Some people manage to save cyclamen for a number of years with excellent owering, although this should not be expected as the general rule. With age. the corms usually become large and covered with corky tissue and their flowering potential decreases. Cyclamen are not usually much troubled by pests, but grey mould (Botnitis cinerea) is a fungus that often attacks the lower parts of the plants if conditions are too cool and excessively damp, or the plants are overwatered and wetted too much. In such circumstances, even the flowers and buds may be affected.

Cyclamen persicum.

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