Can you tell me what this plant is?
Thank you for sending your question to “Ask A Horticulturist”. My name is April M. and I’m a member of the Illinois Dunesland Garden Club and retired Horticulturist from the Chicago Botanic Garden. As soon as I saw the mottled, heart-shaped leaf I knew what the plant was – a Cyclamen.
I have worked with this plant at the Chicago Botanic Garden in the greenhouse area, Christmas displays and planted them in the summer garden areas, as well as my own home garden. This plant was originally grown for their blooms and leaves in greenhouses, containers and used as florist plants. A few years ago, many greenhouse plants were planted outside in the summer and cyclamen were planted in many gardens with varied success.
Cyclamen are usually Zone 7 hardy (don’t like it below 50 degrees) and are about 8 inches tall. Cyclamen also prefer bright, non-direct sunlight with organic, well-drained soil and don’t like drafts. Big problem with cyclamen can be root rot because their roots cannot tolerate being in water. Therefore, wherever you plant cyclamen (either in containers or gardens) you need to be aware of and follow their preferences, so you do not lose the plants. Be aware that after cyclamen blooms fade you will need to allow the plant to go dormant and allow it to dry out for 2-3 months (which won’t be possible if you put them in your garden- see below on bringing them indoors). Once it passes its dormant stage (usually September) the plant should start to grow again, then water sparingly (root rot problems) and add fertilizing (low-nitrogen fertilizer every 2 wks.). There are also many new varieties for sale with different bloom colors and bloom times. There are even some that are supposed to be able to tolerate Zone 5 weather, but my Zone 5 has not had any such success-Zone 6 may have better results.
There are some great websites that will give you step-by-step instructions on how to plant and maintain your cyclamen (gardeninknowhow.com is good, as well as doityourself.com seem to be good web sites). I have planted them outside in summer in garden beds at the Chicago Botanic Garden, as well as my own garden with good results. Placement is essential to success either in the garden or in a container indoors. You can lift the tubers out of the garden beds in the fall and planted in potting soil in containers to be overwintered inside following the above directions. Just remember if you have containers inside put the pot on a tray with pebbles so the pot will not sit in water and place them in bright, indirect sun and not in any draft.
Hopefully you will enjoy your Cyclamen for many years to come. Just give the Cyclamen its essential needs and you should have success.
Good Gardening to you,
April – Horticulturist