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Outdoor Cyclamen - Hardy Little Gems!
Member Name: Verbena
Advantages: Beautiful flowers for Autumn and Winter colour
Disadvantages: Very few; occasionally difficult to establish in some gardens.
Many of us are familiar with cyclamen, usually sold either as winter time house plants or as plants sold chiefly for outdoor autumn displays. The first kind, beautiful as they are and often evoking fond memories of childhood, may prove difficult to care for in modern centrally heated homes, as they thrive in cool conditions. The outdoor kind can tolerate a degree of cold, but usually succumb to hard frost.
Less well known are the hardy cyclamens that can be grown and left in the garden all year round, and I am reviewing these today. I have grown these in my own garden for many years now. I've been able to allow them to naturalise in some locations - more of which later. I believe there are at least 20 types of cyclamen in total, not all of them hardy. It is said that in each calendar month there will be at least one kind of cyclamen flowering. My review can realistically only serve as an introduction and I hope it will encourage you to try growing these interesting plants if they appeal to you as much as they do to me. It's a pity that I can't show you photographs as the one supplied by Dooyoo is of the indoor types as far as I can tell.
The two main kinds of hardy cyclamen that you are likely to find available in garden centres, online shops etc are cyclamen hederifolium and cyclamen coum. Hederifolium means 'ivy-type leaves' and the heart-shaped leaves of this plant do look a bit like ivy. These begin to flower as early as the middle of August, often with the flower coming straight out of the corm before the foliage emerges. When I find the first flower I always feel a little excitement, because it's such a pretty little flower, tinged with a bit of regret because it means it won't be long before the summer is over. It continues flowering into November in my garden. Cyclamen coum, however, flowers later. Occasionally I see flowers by Christmas but January to March are more usual. They make a beautiful little carpet of flowers beneath my hazel tree, and really brighten up the winter days. They seem to complement the snowdrops so perfectly. If only I could persuade aconites to grow in my garden, too! Colours range from white to various shades of pink, almost through to magenta. The leaves, too, vary in colour, some having more white on than others.
All cyclamen grow from bulb-like structures, known as corms or tubers. Seedlings start like a small ball but the tuber eventually becomes saucer shaped and some grow to be saucer-sized! In height they vary from about 8 cm for cyclamen coum to 20 cm for cyclamen hederifolium. They can survive low temperatures, down to at least -20˚C, but if waterlogged when they freeze they may rot. I haven't lost any in the last two winters. They may not survive excessively high temperatures, but U.K. temperatures are unlikely to be high enough for this!
Best Growing Conditions
Hardy cyclamen seem to like leaf mould and they are good at growing where other plants won't e.g. at the base of conifers and other trees, in dry shade. They don't mind competition for root space, and planting under trees may help remove excess water. Don't plant them deeply - the top of the tuber should be at soil level. Drainage is important as they may rot if left in waterlogged conditions. To help with this it's a good idea to incorporate some grit into the soil before planting and maybe even set them on a layer of grit. My soil is heavy with a tendency to be clay-like, but I have them growing where there is a slight slope and beneath trees, both of which aid drainage. You can also grow them in rock garden or alpine garden situations. In the summer the foliage dies back completely, and your only problem is remembering where they are if you are digging in that area.
Hardy cyclamen are perennial plants, i.e. they will grow again each year. You can start with either dry tubers/corms or container grown plants. I've done both. Dry corms should grow satisfactorily once you've got them going, but if you want a quicker or more certain result you may prefer to buy as potted specimens 'in the green.' This is likely to be more expensive initially. You can buy packs of corms in garden centres - in my experience, usually about 3 in a pack; as an example, Dobies of Devon offer an assorted pack of 6 for £11.95. Some garden centres may sell them loose. De Jager sell individual potted specimens of cyclamen coum for £3.80 [April 2012 prices]. Once cyclamen are established they can be left to naturalise, and I find young plants growing in unusual places, presumably ant-transported.
Hardy cyclamen grown outdoors are not seriously affected by pests which affect those grown indoors. I sometimes spot slug/snail or vine weevil damage on leaves but this does not affect the lifespan of the plant.
They seed freely. In our gravelled front garden I am about to rescue lots of tiny plantlets before we have our driveway reconfigured - these are all self seeded. I could almost start a small business by selling them. If they settle in your garden it won't be many years before you can supply young plants to family and friends, in the good old tradition of gardening!
www.hederifolium.co.uk/ for starters!
You won't be surprised that I'm giving these gorgeous little plants 5 stars because I love them! I hope I have persuaded you to try them.
Thank you for reading my review. It may also appear on other sites.
Summary: Hardy plants with pretty flowers that grow and spread readily once established.