Having seen the dainty pink flowers of Cyclamen hederifolium, few can resist trying to grow it. It is essentially a woodland plant, in the UK it does best in the shade of deciduous trees. In summer its tubers lie dormant, dry among the tree roots; as the trees lose their leaves, the tubers feel the first autumnal rains and spring to life. Each flower lasts for weeks and the display is lengthened by the succession of flowers. Even young corms produce several flowers over a few weeks; older corms, which can be the size of a dinner plate and may be up to 100 years old, can reliably produce hundreds.
The small flowers occur in a wide range of shades. Both leaf and flower colour depends on the parent plant and where it is positioned. The attractively marbled, ivy-like foliage dies away in spring and does not reappear until well after the plant has started to flower. There are few plants that offer such ornately decorative foliage. The foliage has a purple underside but it is their surface patterns and markings that make the leaves so special. No two plants are the same and a mass planting of Cyclamen hederifolium in the late autumn or winter is more fascinating than the most intricately detailed Persian carpet.
The RHS have awarded it the Award of Garden Merit (AGM)
In the wild, cyclamen inhabit rocky outcrops in semi-arid regions of Turkey, southern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. They are protected from burning sunlight by the shade from surrounding plants. The plants have adapted well to British gardens, where dry soil and heavy shade from overhanging branches are commonplace. The cyclamen's low habit and preference for shade means that they are best used as ground cover beneath deciduous plants. The flowers and attractive leaves will provide a feature until late spring when its neighbouring larger plants again come into leaf.
Sowing: Sow as soon as possible at cool temperatures. Growing from seed is quite straightforward, though you may have to wait quite some time before the first flowers appear, typically 18 months to two years. Cyclamen have been found to germinate best in total darkness at around 13-16*C (55-60'F). Stored seed can be sown from late winter to mid-spring to flower in autumn of the same year. The seed must be soaked in water for 10 hours or more and then rinsed thoroughly before sowing. Sow the seed into small pots containing a fairly light, gritty soil and lightly cover with soil. Most of the seed should germinate in 28 to 42 days but some may be considerably longer. Do not throw away the pots for at least one year.
The seedlings may be pricked out into individual 7.5cm (3in) pots as soon as they are large enough to easily handle without damaging their fleshy stems. Pot on year-old seedlings and grow for another year before planting outside permanently. Try to site the tubers where excess moisture can drain away. The tops of the corms should be level with the surrounding earth or just submerged.
Cultivation: Cyclamen generally prefer partial shade, very well drained, dry soil and cool conditions. They dislike old manure or excessive feeding. They will need mulching each year with leaf-mould. They thrive in lightly shaded rockeries, growing happily in the crevices between rocks and also adapt well to container cultivation, especially in alpine troughs. Most species have a preference for neutral to slightly alkaline conditions. Adding a few limestone chips to the soil aids the drainage and keeps the pH about right. That said, tough species like hederifolium usually adapt well to being cultivated with acid soil plants such as ericas and dwarf rhododendrons, so don't be afraid to experiment.
Propagation: Once settled, a hardy cyclamen will soon self-seed freely and can spread considerably to cover large areas. Nature is never more ingenious than in the distribution of cyclamen seeds. As the flowers fade after pollination, the stems curl up, spiralling down to ground level. The seed case expands, protected by the emerging leaves, then splits, exposing the seeds. Each has a starchy coating that changes to sugar, attracting ants and wasps, which carry the seeds away - ensuring that young plants do not compete with their parents. New plants may be raised by collecting the golden-brown seed as soon as the capsules split in summer.
Plant Uses: Shade/Woodland Gardens, Rock gardens, Containers, Underplanting
Nomenclature: C. hederifolium was formerly known as Cyclamen neapolitanum and still widely sold under that name The name Cyclamen comes from the Greek word kylos meaning circle, referring to the rounded tubers. The epithet hederifolium means ivy-leaved referring to the general shape of the leaves. They are regarded as a favourite food for swine in the South of France, Sicily and Italy.
|Packet Size||10 Seeds|
|Average Seed Count||No|
|Common Name||Ivy-leaved cyclamen, Neapolitan cyclamen.Wild Cyclamen|
|Other Common Names||other|
|Flowers||Rose pinks in autumn|
|Natural Flower Time||No|
|Foliage||Mottled silver grey. Smooth textured|
|Time to Harvest||No|
|Time to Sow||No|