Cyclamen x persicum: Sow Bread

Like clivias, cyclamen is also one of the ‘classic’ house plants better suited to cool conditions. It does not do well in modern centrally-heated homes and thus is grown only as a temporary house plant which is discarded after it has finished flowering. This is a pity, for the flowers are comparable to the loveliest of nature’s creations as regards shape and colour and a nice tabletop arrangement rivals that of orchids in beauty.

Cyclamen persicum, despite its name, is not a native of Persia, but of central Palestine and the area extending from Sicily to Cyprus, the south-east Aegean islands, Crete and Rhodes. It also occurs in one isolated site in Tunisia, but there is justified reason to suspect that it was planted out there intentionally as an ornamental. It grows generally on limestone rocks in the undergrowth of low, open woodlands where the fallen leaves of the trees pro-vide a nourishing layer of humus. Rising from the tuber are long-stalked, obcordate leaves; the flowers of the type species are white or pink and usually very fragrant.

Cyclamen was introduced into cultivation as early as the 17th century and growers soon began raising hybrids. Nowadays there are countless lovely cult-ivars in single colours as well as mixed colours, with waved or variously twisted petals, and there is no point in recommending any special one. The best thing is to visit the florist and take your pick from his selection.

Growers often have a cool place where they can store the tubers for the winter after watering has been stopped and the plants have died back in autumn. In spring these should be re-potted in a mixture of peat, leaf mould and loam and watered carefully.

If conditions are congenial the grower can brighten his assortment with other species of cyclamen, such as C. africanum from Algeria, which is very similar to C. neapolitanum grown in gardens. The tuber of this species is up to 20 cm (8 in) in diameter, the flowers relatively large and coloured pink.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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