The KPRC Radio Gardenline Tip By Randy Lemmon For 12-11-03 Printer-Friendly Version
CYCLAMEN: Our One Hope for ďColdĒ Season Color, in Shade.
Confession timeÖ For those of you who have my book The Golferís Guide to Gardening, in the Annuals section, I noted that there really are no annuals that do well in total shade here in the Houston area during the winter. I was wrong!
Now that Iíve gotten that off my chest, the annual that can thrive in total shade during our coldest months is the one-and-only Cyclamen. (We normally pronounce it SIGH-Cluh-men, whereas the British pronounce it SICK-lah-men)
I didnít know much about the Cyclamen 10 years ago, because most of the varieties were considered an indoor or gift plant. But thanks to advances in propagation techniques, they can easily find those that can withstand the rigors of being grown outdoor much better. Interestingly enough, it is the only true shade-loving annual for our winters. We can get minor success in filtered light areas with things like Dianthus and Pentas during the winter, but nothing does as well in total shade as the Cyclamen. Plus, it always makes a great gift plant during the holiday months as well. (See Gift Plants Article in this edition, as well)
So, if youíre looking for a plant that can give you beautiful color in the deepest parts of your shady landscape, and that will last during the coolest months of the year, here are some additional care tips on the wonderful Cyclamen.
Cyclamen flowers may be single, double, fringed, bicolor, or even candy-striped. Colors range from exquisitely pure white through all shades of pink, lavender, purple, and red to dark wine. Some of the miniature strains are even delightfully scented. In addition, today's hybrids can be maintained over a wide temperature range after purchase of from just above freezing. That means that freezing temps will hurt them, but usually they bounce back unless covered with ice or dealt a freeze below 20 degrees for an extended period. In many countries like Great Britain and Japan, since they donít have the hot, humid summers that we do, Cyclamen are grown for a much longer period. Just donít try it in Texas. Itís an effort in futility. Enjoy them simply for the stopgap flower that they are.
Cyclamen require regular moisture, but overly soggy soil will suffocate the roots and cause the leaves to yellow. The soil mixture must drain well, but hold enough moisture so that the plant will not dry out. A general rule is thoroughly saturating your potted cyclamen once a week. Maybe less than once a week in a well built raised landscape bed.
If the plant is allowed to dry out, it will wilt quickly with leaves and flowers bending over the sides of the pot. If this happens DON'T despair! Try this remedy but don't wait too long or the plant will die back and be forced to grow new leaves, giving up flowering until the next cyclamen season.
Using newspaper, much in the same way the florist wraps a bouquet of flowers, surround the pot and carefully prop the stems into an upright position. Tape the newspaper to secure it in place. Put pot in a kitchen sink and allow a very slow stream of water to thoroughly saturate the entire plant. Before long, the stems will absorb enough water to hold them up, and the newspaper can be removed.
Feed a mature plant every two weeks with a good Flower Food at 1/2 strength. A newly planted tuber SHOULD NOT be fertilized until at least 3 to 4 inches of new growth appears. Then begin feeding every two weeks. If youíre like me, a once-a-season feeding with a slow-release blooming plant food will suffice.
Hereís one big warning: Cyclamen are considered poisonous. So, if you have small children and pets, either keep them totally away from these plants, or donít use them at all.
One final sidebar Ė like the Azalea and Plumeria Societies that are so popular here, there are Cyclamen Societies in Great Britain. Thatís how popular it is overseas; because itís so damp and so cool for so long, which the Cyclamen thrives in.
Until next issue, here's to
Great Gardening from the GardenLine, heard
exclusively weekend mornings from 8 to noon
on Talkradio 950 KPRC.