January 8, 2005

By Sandy Woods,
Master Gardener

This is
the time of year when several holiday plants make their way onto our dinner tables, are given away or received as gifts, or simply bought to brighten up our homes.  One such plant is Cyclamen, one of my favorites.  Cyclamens are traditionally sold during the Christmas season and into winter.  With blossoms of bright red, pink, lavender, or white delicately hanging over mottled green/gray foliage, Cyclamen is a beautiful and colorful option to the traditional Poinsettia.  Most will bloom from mid-November until mid-February.

As beautiful as
they are, however, one must remember that in general, when flowering holiday plants are brought into a home where light and relative humidity are low and temperatures maintained for human comfort, many do not perform well for long periods.  But do not despair.  Here are some easy tips to help keep your Cyclamen beautiful indoors for as long as possible.

First of all, Cyclamens prefer bright indirect light.  They need cool daytime temperatures (less than 70 degrees) and night temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees.  High light intensity and cool temperatures increase flower longevity.  They prefer to be kept moist and should be watered whenever
the surface of the soil is dry.  Water should be kept away from the area on the tuber where leaf and flower stems grow to help prevent rot.  High humidity during winter is also preferred.  To maintain humidity, fill a pan or tray with water and pebbles.  Set the Cyclamen on an inverted dish, just out of the water.

In late winter Cyclamens stop blooming and
their leaves turn yellow as the plants go dormant.  Cyclamens can then be set outdoors in part sun for the summer, fed and watered regularly, then brought back inside in September.  They'll usually start forming new leaves and flower buds again soon but may rarely attain the quality attained by commercial growers.

ther option after flowers start fading is to gradually withhold water.  When the foliage is withered, remove the tuber from the soil, clean off all soil and store it in a cool place, in dry peat moss or vermiculite.  Replant in good potting soil in May or June, keeping the upper half of the tuber above the surface, and place in a protected area in your garden.

Remember, it is best not to expect to keep your holiday plant indoors from year to year.  Enjoy it while it is attractive and in season, and
then plant it outdoors where often it will thrive for years to come.

University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteers can provide additional gardening information upon request.  Call the San Luis Obispo office at 781-5939 on Mondays and Thursdays from 1 to 5 PM, the Arroyo Grande office at 473-7190 on Wednesdays from 9 AM to 1 PM, or the Paso Robles office at 237-3100 on Wednesdays from 9 AM to Noon.  The San Luis Obispo Master Gardener website is at Questions can be e-mailed to