I received my first cyclamen plant as a young teenager and fell in love with the heart-shaped, marbled leaves and bright, upswept flowers. They are a favorite gift at this time of year for friends and family of any age since they bloom in the Valentine colors: tones of red, pink and white.
On a trip to southern France early one March, I saw cyclamen used in outdoor containers and planted in the ground en masse as spring annuals. Some were springing out of rock fissures or graced the ground beneath olive trees. I loved the idea, but quickly realized that these plants wouldn’t work in our rainy spring climate! The house plant version was bred in the 1800s from Cyclamen persicum, native to Israel and Syria. It really does prefer that dry eastern Mediterranean climate where the plant naturalizes readily.
Thriving in cool (around 62 degrees) and bright conditions, the hybrid indoor cyclamens of today are a bit fussy about their water needs. Do not overwater! Keep water off the crown by watering only from below. Be sure to set the plastic pot into a larger decorative pot without holes (or cachepot) and let the roots absorb the water you add to the cachepot. When you notice that the water has evaporated in the cachepot and the soil is drying out, add more water from below. Set away from direct heat. As leaves yellow, carefully pull them off with your fingertips. A scissor cut may induce bulb rot below. Equally important is to pull off the faded blossoms instead of cutting them to the base.
Your plant will go dormant as summer begins. That means all the foliage will disappear and only the corm (bulb) will remain in the soil. What now?
One method: Stop watering after it stops blooming around April or early May. Let the last leaves stay on the plant, even though they are browned out. Keep as cool as possible and don’t let the soil dry out completely. Keep outdoors on a partially shaded porch or terrace. Repot the plant in the fall for winter blooming, using a well drained soil that is half compost or potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. The corm should stick out of the soil a bit. Water and grow on indoors with cool, bright conditions as above. The plant should rebloom by January.
You might want to try a hardy species, Cyclamen hederifolium, outdoors in your garden. This one blooms in the fall and is native to Italy and the coast east to Turkey. Its leaves resemble those of the familiar houseplant and will appear after the flowers. I have a small plant in my garden that has produced leaves but not flowers (so far).