The first time I saw hardy cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium) blooming here in Central New York was in a bed of vinca (also known as myrtle or periwinkle) at the north end of Cazenovia Lake in early November a number of years ago! At the time, I didn't know what I was looking at until I got back to my office and did a bit of reading.
What I learned is that hardy cyclamen is native to mountain woodlands from southern France eastward to Turkey, including the islands of Corsica, Sardina, Crete and those in the Aegean Sea. The florist, or "Persian," cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) that we're all familiar with, at left, on the other hand, is native to the warmer regions of the eastern Mediterranean and northeastern Africa.In its native habitat, as well as here in Central New York, hardy cyclamen blooms from late August through September, and even into October. In fact, the picture at the top of this page was taken on October 3rd of 2007, after first appearing about August 24th, below right.
Besides their delicate white through dark pink flowers, hardy cyclamen produce dense clusters of small, English ivy-like leaves. They range from solid green to almost solid silvery-green, with a wide range of intermediate forms having intricate markings. The flowers and foliage never grow more than about six inches tall.
The flowers and leaves of all cyclamen arise from slightly flatten, disc-shaped tubers, below right, that can measure four to six inches in diameter after many years and bear dozens of flowers. When grown under ideal conditions, it's been reported that individual tubers can survive for decades.
Like many spring flower bulbs and woodland plants such as dogtooth violet, trillium, etc., hardy cyclamen grow best in well-drained soils that are moist, but not wet, from September through May, that then dry out completely as their foliage fades. Among the exposed roots of large shade and evergreen trees where nothing else grows could be good spots, for example.
Under good growing conditions in these spots, many of the dozens of seeds produced by each plant will germinate during the summer, about nine months after the flowers fade. The resulting seedlings will grow into flowering plants in about three years, creating increasing masses of fall blooms for years to come.
Finally, while a number of bulb suppliers offer dormant tubers, nursery-grown, potted tubers, at left, are a better option for establishing new plantings. Fortunately we have an excellent source for hardy cyclamen right here in Central New York. If you're interested, drop me a line and I'll share my source with you!