Cyclamen are one of the most popular winter flowering potted plants in the world.
They are a genus of plants containing 20 species, which are part of the family Primulaceae, the Primrose family. In the wild, their distribution is centred on the Mediterranean, being natives of parts of Europe, western Asia and parts of North Africa. They have evolved to meet some pretty dramatic climatic conditions. Freezing Winters, hot dry Summers and everything in between in some places they actually germinate under the snow melt and emerge to flower in the cool early Spring. This provides some clues on how to look after them at home.
Cyclamen do not like warmth. If kept indoors they should be kept in a well lit room, free from heating. Alternatively, they can be kept outside on a well-lit balcony or veranda protected from the sun. There is a saying that Cyclamen should be put outside with the cat on winters evenings if you do keep them inside. This is actually a great idea as the cool nights will prolong their flowering. I have had one inside now for a little more than six weeks in a cool but bright bathroom and it still looks great. Cyclamen do like to be kept evenly moist but try to avoid having their roots sitting in moisture. The corm needs to be kept on the dry side; water carefully around the sides of the pot and try to avoid watering over the corm or the leaves. Do not water with tepid water in Winter (as indoor plants need), because they love their water to have that real Winter chill. Fertilise with a liquid fertiliser every 3 or 4 weeks and use Osmocote slow release fertiliser in the beginning of the growing season.
Cyclamen are dormant in Summer
When flowering finishes and the leaves have dried off, keep the corms dry – do not water during the Summer dormancy. I think the best option for Cyclamen when Summer comes and the plants have pretty much run their race is to plant them outside in a shady spot. As they are a cool season corm they have every chance of growing quite well next Winter. Some books and magazines recommend keeping them going in pots for years but the reality is that the majority will do far better planted out in your garden. For the small price you pay for a Cyclamen I reckon they are hard to beat for Winter colour.