How to Care for Cyclamen

Cyclamen abound in stores during the holiday season. I love them. They are festive, but in a more refined and delicate way than the boisterous poinsettias.

Cyclamen are Captivating

I am captivated by cyclamen. Their brightly colored flowers dance over the heart shaped leaves like little fairies, or maybe angels. The petals wing back from the hidden center of the flower, and come in many beautiful colors, and sweetest of all, a very delicate, almost violet-like scent.

Yes, the ubiquitous poinsettias come in a vast array of colors and sizes too, and are very nice plants, but for something unique, look for cyclamen.

Cyclamen is pronounced sy-kla-men or sick-la-men. Either (or either) way you pronounce it – the plants and their flowers are bewitching, captivating, and stunningly beautiful. Cyclamen make a wonderful holiday houseplant, offering a gentle note of grace to the home or office.

Some Background

Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) grow from bulbs and were brought from the Holy Land to Europe during the Crusades. They quickly became popular, even back then, as holiday plants. Plant breeders have been working with cyclamen for years, breeding for larger flowers, longer lasting flowers, and a wide variety of colors. Choose from pink, red, white, lavender, wine, scarlet, salmon, bicolors, and even ruffled forms.


In America, bigger is better, so giant brash poinsettias are all the rage. For quiet restrained elegance, some people prefer the exquisite nodding blooms of cyclamen.

How to Select Cyclamen for the Holidays


Select a plant that fills the pot well, has healthy-looking leaves, and the blooms are not gone by. Ideally, find a cyclamen with many healthy buds coming along.

More buds mean more flowers later.

Drainage is Essential – so Make a Hole

When you get home that is. Holiday plants come from the store with a foil or cellophane outer wrapper. It looks pretty, and is handy for transport purposes. BUT! This wrapper prevents the plant from draining properly. Poor drainage can drown the roots and kill the plant.

Cyclamen are very fussy about wet roots. Remember, they are from the arid hillsides of the Holy Land. If you leave the wrapper on, cut a nice drainage hole in the bottom and place the plant in a saucer to catch drips.

Wild cyclamen in Israel, blooming due to the winter rains.


It is best to use room temperature water to water cyclamen, indeed all house plants. Get a pretty watering can because it’s also good to let the water sit overnight so the chlorine evaporates.

How much water? That depends on the soil plus the amount of light or heat the plant may be getting. Touch the soil with a finger tip, and consider this:

If it feels soggy, do not water. 

If it feels dry, water. 

If you can't quite tell, look at your finger tip. If a few tiny pieces of soil adhere, the soil is just right.
Cyclamen will do fine in a florescent office space, and generally fit on a reception desk better than larger poinsettia.


Most cyclamen, like other flowering holiday plants, and even house plants, do best in filtered or indirect light. In full sunlight they can sunburn. Besides, the sun quickly fades blooms.


In general, room temperature is fine, without either hot air from the furnace or cold drafts.

You may spot some white snow-like power on the leaves. Not to worry – it is pollen falling out of the flowers. It is a heavy pollen and not considered allergenic.


The bright rays of sunlight beaming through the car windows can sunburn plants, even in winter. To transport plants in the car, best to place them in the floor well. This also reduces tipping problems. (Or if they do tip, it’s easy to clean up after.)

Long Term Cyclamen Care

Cyclamen leaves may remain green into April, then start to yellow. You did nothing wrong! The plant is just following it’s genetic programming and going dormant for the summer. At any point after cyclamen are done blooming, you can plant them out in the yard. Select a shady site with very well-drained soil. Very well drained. Maybe even pure sand.


I have tried many times to get my cyclamen bulbs to survive the summer here (I am an optimist.) It appears that our Southwest desert summers are too hot and too wet for them. Cyclamen need to remain dry and cool when they are dormant (there are pine forests in those Holy Lands).


I hope you do get some of these charming cyclamen to enjoy for the holidays. You can even try to over-summer the bulbs. But just like poinsettias, they may pass on to that great compost heap in the sky.

As with many things, you may have to simply enjoy their fleeting beauty while they are with you.  You should not let the sorrows of the future rob you of the joys of today.

Need some Garden Help?

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2 thoughts on “How to Care for Cyclamen

    1. Great question. I sometimes forget how archane and interlinked my knowledge is, and forget to explain well enough. Always feel free to ask!

      If pollen is large and relatively heavy it is carried by insects, not wind. Thus it will not blow around the house and get into your nasal passages.

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