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Cold comfort: plant cyclamen tubers ready for winter

by Rhiannon James

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It might feel strange to start thinking about winter when it’s still sunny outside, but with just a little bit of preparation now, there’ll be plenty in the garden to cheer you through the dark days to come. If you plant Cyclamen coum tubers this month, their jaunty little flowers will provide a much-needed splash of colour, no matter what the weather, from December until March. And you’ll have their pretty, heart-shaped leaves to enjoy well before they bloom.

If you’re feeling really organised, planting a few different species of Cyclamen will mean you have blooms throughout the year. There’s Cyclamen repandum for the spring, Cyclamen purpurascens for the summer and Cyclamen hederifolium or Cyclamen cilicium for late summer and autumn.

Things you’ll need

1. Cyclamen coum tubers. Buy tubers from a reputable supplier of cultivated stock so you can be sure they haven’t been collected from the wild.

2. A container

3. Clean pieces of broken pot

4. Horticultural grit

5. Compost – John Innes Number 2 or 3

6. Well-rotted leaf mould or compost

Step by step

1. Make sure your container has drainage holes in the bottom. If it doesn’t, you will need to drill some yourself. This is important for Cyclamen tubers because if they sit in saturated soil, they will rot.

2. Cover the drainage holes with pieces of broken pot, turning each piece so the curve faces downwards. This will stop compost and gravel falling out through the holes, but will allow excess water to drain out of the container.

3. Then put a thin layer of gravel over the pieces of broken pot to aid drainage.

4. Mix together the John Innes and the well-rotted leaf mould or compost. Add a good amount of horticultural grit because Cyclamen like a lighter, well-drained soil.

5. Fill your container with the mixture, firming it in as you go, until you reach a level about 5cm from the top.

6. You can then plant your Cyclamen coum tubers about 10cm apart. It can be quite tricky to tell which way up they should go but in general, the bottom is rounder than the top. If you can see them, last year’s roots or leaf bases are a helpful guide.

7. Cover the corms with compost so they are planted about 3cm deep. Do not plant them any deeper or they may not flower.

8. Gently cover the compost surface with a layer of gravel about 2cm deep. This will give your container a neater, more attractive finish and deter weeds while you’re waiting for your cyclamen to appear.

9. While Cyclamen coum can withstand severe cold, they don’t like harsh winds and will do best in a sheltered spot in partial shade. You’ll also want to find a spot for your pot that can be seen from indoors so you can enjoy the display, whatever the weather. Maintenance is very simple – just pull out any weeds, water the compost very lightly during the dry summer months and protect the container in very severe winters.

Your cyclamen will probably flower in the first year but if they don’t, don’t worry – they’ll put on a good show the following year. They don’t like to be disturbed, so if you can, leave them in the same container for a number of years.

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2 Responses to “Cold comfort: plant cyclamen tubers ready for winter”

  1. Mary McNaughton

    Thanks for the detailed information. I really like cyclamen and have bought many plants over the years but they have never survived more than a few weeks. I have always put them in pots with good drainage holes but have never mixed compost with grit. I have 5 new corms to plant this year and will follow your instructions. If this doesn’t work I will just give up. Thanks again for the information

  2. Irene

    Thank you, this was very helpful:)

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