The Persian cyclamen is a stunning plant belonging to the Primulaceae family’s Cyclamen genus. Its unique and beautiful flowers, in a wide range of colors, make it a highly popular indoor plant.
It does need certain growing conditions and specific care to flourish, but all your efforts will be well worth it, as the cyclamen will undoubtedly thank you with its enchanting bloom.
Features Persian Cyclamen Plant
This perennial herbaceous plant forms a compact bush that can grow up to around 1 foot (0.3 meters) tall. It’s a tuberous plant. The plant’s name, “cyclamen,” comes from its round tubers.
The size of the tuber can reach about 6 inches (15 centimeters). Throughout the growing season, leather-like leaves grow from the tuber, which can be around 5.5 inches (14 centimeters) long.
These leaves are long-petioled and heart-shaped, exhibiting various shades of green. Moreover, they sport a silver pattern on their surface.
During the blooming period, flower stalks that are 6-8 inches (15-20 centimeters) tall (depending on the variety) appear on the bush.
The flowers can display an array of colors from shades of burgundy, red, purple, pink, and white. The petals have a unique curve, making the flowers somewhat resemble butterflies.
Providing the cyclamen with optimal growing conditions will reward you with blooms for about three and a half months, from mid-October to the end of March.
Unlike many other indoor plants, the Persian cyclamen stands out because it blooms in winter. However, during the summer, the bush rests: its leaves fall off, and it loses its attractiveness.
Some novice flower growers might assume that the plant has died. But that’s not the case. During the hot summer days, it enters a period of rest, rejuvenating for a new, lush bloom.
This plant is sometimes called “sowbread” or “Alpine violet.” The term “sowbread” comes from the fact that pigs are known to eat their tubers with great appetites.
Distinguishing European Cyclamen from Persian Cyclamen
Persian and European cyclamens are popular houseplants but have some key differences. Here’s how to tell them apart:
- Leaf color: The underside of European cyclamen leaves are purple, while Persian cyclamen leaves are green.
- Size: European cyclamen plants are typically smaller than Persian cyclamen plants, with rosettes that reach a maximum height of about 12 inches (30 centimeters). Persian cyclamen plants can have larger rosettes, with some varieties reaching up to 18 inches (45 centimeters) tall.
- Tuber placement: In Persian cyclamen plants, one-third of the tuber rises above the soil surface. In European cyclamen plants, the tuber is entirely in the soil.
Caring for Persian Cyclamen at Home
Persian cyclamen plants have an unusual life cycle directly related to their natural habitat. These plants are native to Iran, Asia Minor, the Mediterranean, and Central Europe.
Persian cyclamen plants go dormant to survive the harsh summer heat in their natural habitat. During dormancy, the above-ground part of the plant dies back, and the tuber remains underground.
The tuber stores nutrients during the growing season to survive dormancy. When fall arrives, and the weather cools down, the Persian cyclamen plant wakes up and begins to grow again.
To ensure that your Persian cyclamen plant blooms in the winter, you must provide it with proper care during both the growing and dormancy periods.
With proper care, your Persian cyclamen plant can live for many years and provide you with beautiful blooms for many winters to come.
Persian cyclamens need a lot of bright, indirect light. East- or west-facing windows are ideal. If you place your cyclamen in a south-facing window, it may get too hot, so you’ll need to provide some shade.
On a north-facing windowsill, your cyclamen will need additional lighting from LED lamps.
Persian cyclamens are sensitive to smoky and polluted air. If you keep your cyclamen in the kitchen, make sure to install a good range hood and regularly air out the room. Your cyclamen will also need to be protected from drafts.
It’s important to pay close attention to temperature when growing Persian cyclamens. During the summer dormancy period, your cyclamen can handle warm temperatures.
However, once fall arrives, the room where your cyclamen is located should be kept cool at around 59 °F (15 °C). This is the temperature that will allow the tuber to wake up and begin to grow leaves and flowers.
If the room is too warm (68 °F/ 20 °C), your cyclamen may produce sparse, short-lived flowers. If the room is too warm, even during the winter, your cyclamen may return to dormancy after it wakes up.
Persian cyclamens need regular watering during their growth and blooming periods (fall and winter). Ensure the soil doesn’t dry out completely but don’t overwater the plant, as this can lead to root rot.
Bottom watering is the best method for watering Persian cyclamens. To do this, simply submerge the pot in a water basin for 15-20 minutes.
Once the water has been absorbed, remove the pot and allow any excess water to drain out. If you water the plant from the top, be careful not to get water on the crown or tuber, as this can also lead to rot.
You can reduce watering frequency when the plant begins dormant in late spring. Water the plant every 7 days or less, depending on the conditions.
Moving the plant to a shady spot during this time is also a good idea. Once the plant wakes up in the fall, you can gradually increase watering frequency to the previous levels.
Persian cyclamens prefer moderate to high humidity levels. You can increase humidity around the plant by placing it on a tray filled with moist pebbles or expanded clay. Avoid misting the plant directly, as this can damage the leaves.
Fertilize your Persian cyclamen every 2-4 weeks with a weak solution of liquid fertilizer for flowering plants.
Start fertilizing about 30 days after repotting or planting. Fertilize until the plant has finished blooming.
Repotting Persian Cyclamen
When buying Persian cyclamen from a nursery, look for a plant that has just formed buds. These plants will adapt to new conditions more easily and quickly.
If your Persian cyclamen is healthy, you can wait to repot it until it has bloomed or the resting period ends.
However, if the plant needs to be repotted urgently, gently remove it with the soil clump and carefully place it in a new pot.
When repotting, use a pot slightly larger than the old one. An excessively large pot will not be good for the plant.
About 1.2 inches (30 mm) should be between the pot’s walls and the tuber. Place a drainage layer at the bottom and fill any gaps with fresh potting mix.
For growing this plant, use a fertile and light substrate. An optimal mix includes peat, leaf soil, compost, and sand.
You should remove the plant from the old pot and place it in the new one so that a third of the tuber protrudes above the soil mix.
This plant has no branch, so the bush does not require shaping. However, before the cyclamen goes dormant, you should carefully remove the old flower stems, gently twisting them off by hand.
Try not to damage the buds located on the tuber during this process. The leaves will fall off independently, so it’s best not to disturb them.
Methods of Propagation
Growing from Seeds
If you want to grow Persian cyclamen from seeds, remember that a young bush will bloom no earlier than about 12 months after sowing. Before sowing, soak the seeds in warm water for 12 hours.
Take a container, create a drainage layer at the bottom, then add a layer of the substrate about 3 inches (80 mm) thick.
Moisten the surface of the soil mix and distribute the seeds so there are at least 1.5 inches (40 mm) between them. Cover them with a ½ inch (10 mm) layer of substrate.
Cover the container with glass or plastic wrap. Before seedlings appear, provide regular ventilation and timely watering. The first sprouts should appear about 30 days later.
When the seedlings emerge, remove the cover and move the container to a place with optimal lighting.
After 2 or 3 true leaves form on the seedlings, it’s recommended to transplant them into individual pots. About 20-30 days after transplanting, you can give the seedlings their first feeding.
Dividing the Tuber
A much simpler and quicker way to propagate cyclamen is by dividing its tuber. There are two methods: separating the offspring tubers from the mother tuber or dividing a larger specimen into parts.
You can only divide a tuber from a mature plant, which has already formed inflorescences several times. Make sure to do this only after the plant has fully bloomed.
Carefully remove the tuber from the soil mix and divide it into several parts, ensuring each piece has growth points and roots. Sprinkle the cut areas with wood ash or charcoal powder.
Wait for them to dry out, then plant the cuttings into small pots filled with new soil mix. A third of each cutting should be above the soil surface. Make sure to water the planted cuttings.
If the mature tuber has formed offspring tubers, you can carefully separate them if necessary and plant them into individual pots.
Pests and Diseases
If the leaves of the Persian cyclamen turn yellow while the flowers remain healthy, the plant could suffer from excessively bright light, high room temperature, improper watering, or dry air.
These conditions can make the plant bloom faster than usual. Try to correct all these conditions.
The most common diseases for this plant are grey mold. Initially, the grey mold affects the root system and then spreads throughout the plant, leading to its wilting.
At the first signs, spray the plant with a fungicide. This will also help with grey rot due to improper watering and care violations.
If you notice pests like aphids, mealybugs, or spider mites on the plant, move it away from other houseplants as soon as possible. Find the pest and treat the plant with a suitable insecticide.
Cyclamens were grown in gardens as far back as ancient Rome, where the flower was considered a talisman.
However, the first mention of cyclamen in a gardening dictionary dates back to the mid-18th century, when 6 out of 20 species were described by the researcher F. Miller.
Plant breeders were interested in this plant at the beginning of the 19th century. Thanks to their efforts, many hybrids have been introduced that boast more lush blooming.
There’s also a great variety of varieties with larger, uniquely colored flowers. These plants are less demanding in terms of growing conditions than species cyclamens.