By MELINDA MYERS
Add some unique beauty to your indoor décor or give the gift of low maintenance splendor with the easy-care cyclamen. You’ll enjoy the colorful plain or ruffled white, pink, rose or lavender flowers that look like shooting stars hovering over heart shaped leaves with silvery highlights.
Best of all, there’s a size for every home and occasion. Use miniatures as a place card holder at your next gathering, for added color in a terrarium or to brighten any small space. Dress up the dinner table, mantle or side table with one of the larger varieties. Large or small, they make wonderful party favors and hostess gifts. Place the plants in a decorative container, basket or colorful tin for an even more impressive display.
Grow your cyclamen in a cool bright location. These Mediterranean plants thrive in cooler temperatures and should be kept out of drafts of hot and cold air. Consider moving your plant to an even cooler room at night to extend the bloom time.
Use your finger to monitor soil moisture. Water thoroughly when the potting mix that’s just below the soil surface is starting to dry. Pour off any excess water that collects in the saucer, decorative basket or foil wrap. Allowing plants to sit in water leads to soggy soil and the decline of the plant’s health and beauty.
Or set the plant on a saucer of pebbles. The excess water will collect in the saucer while the pebbles elevate the pot above the water. You’ll reduce the risk of root rot and save time by eliminating the need to pour off this excess water.
Remove any yellow leaves to keep your plant looking its best. Adjust watering frequency and growing conditions if this is a frequent problem. Overwatering or allowing the soil to dry to the point of wilting can cause the leaves to yellow. Low light and drafts of hot and cold air can do the same.
Remove flowers as they fade. Gently twist and pull off or cut spent flower stems back at their base in the foliage. Regular deadheading will increase the number of flowers and length of bloom. With proper care, you will be enjoying flowers for four weeks or more.
Don’t be alarmed when the leaves yellow and dry soon after the plant stops flowering. It is entering a natural dormant period. If you like a challenge, try forcing it into bloom a second time.
Simply cut back on watering when you notice the leaves begin to yellow. Then stop watering once all the leaves have dried. Move the plant to a cool dark location for several months. After the rest period, bring your plant out of dormancy and encourage it to bloom. Begin watering, fertilize once new growth appears and place it in a sunny window. Then wait for a beautiful floral display.
(Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses How to Grow Anything DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio segments. Myers’ website, www.MelindaMyers.com, features gardening videos, podcasts, audio tips and monthly gardening checklists.)