Cyclamen For Spring and Autumn

You need cyclamen in your garden, especially if you have semi-shaded spots that need brightening up in spring or autumn. My favourites are probably the autumn ones as they are often in flower at the beginning of November when everything else has given up. They become a surprising and welcome beacon of colour.

Cyclamen hederifolium at the foot of a rock in the woodland garden.
Cyclamen hederifolium at the foot of a rock in the woodland garden.

There are two common species that are easy plants and suitable for growing outside in the UK. One flowers in spring (Cyclamen coum), and the other in autumn (Cyclamen hederifolium.) There are others but let’s keep it to a couple for now.

Both have a spectrum of flower colour from pure white through pinks to a dark magenta colour.

They grow from tubers, which are generally fairly shallow beneath the soil. Their leaves are just as varied as their flowers and are attractive in their own right.

They like a well drained humous rich soil and will survive under shrubs with enough light.

Their other merit is an ability to self-seed in the right environments. If you have good healthy plants the chances are you will have seedlings before long.

You can often buy them in bulk quantities advertised like “10 mixed Cyclamen” in 9cm pots. I’ve tried buying and planting the tubers before (they are like a sphere squashed a good bit to be disk-like), but to be completely honest I found it tricky to tell what was the top, and what was the bottom, and if they are over-dry then they sometimes fail too. So losses were higher than planned. I’ve had full success with the small potted ones (though the bloody rabbits sometimes dig them up, you can re-plant.)

They don’t thrive in sites that get hot afternoon sun. A light shade is favoured. Plant them with the tubers about 2-3cm deep, or just as they come if you get growing ones in pots.

If you dot them around, in humous litter between the buttress roots of a big tree, or at the foot of a woodland boulder, or just at the edge of a path, then they surprise you with their appearance each spring or autumn. Little garden gems.

Oh, and hederifolium means “ivy-leafed”, guess why.