Cyclamen, some notes on raising hardy species from seed.

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Cyclamen hederifolium, growing under a fastigiate Yew tree, some direct sun but very dry soil.

At the beginning of August I collected seed from the pods of Cyclamen hederifolium and coum in my garden and Cyclamen repandum in another garden. The pods were ripening and beginning to split open and I collected both open pods and those just about to open.
I space sowed two full sized seed trays with C. hederifolium, placing the seeds around half an inch (12.5mm) apart, then covering them with a thin layer of compost. I used Sylvagrow peat free compost. I sowed, rather more thickly, two one litre pots of C. hederifolium, two of C. repandum and one of C. coum. The first C. hederifolium seedlings emerged after about five weeks and they are still emerging after two months. C. coum were nearly all up after six weeks. C. repandum have only just started to show after two months.

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Cyclamen hederifolium, white flowered, sown 1/8/19, photo 11/10/19

I plan to keep the spaced seedlings in the trays for two growing seasons before moving them but will probably move the seedlings in the pots into trays next summer unless they are still extremely small. After two seasons growth I hope they will be big enough to plant in the garden, which I will do towards the end of the dormant period following two seasons of growth, July/August 2021.

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Cyclamen coum, sown 27/7/19, photo 11/10/19. A caterpillar did some damage before I noticed and removed it.

I probably should have covered the seeds with a good layer of grit. A tray that I sowed in 2017 has become covered with moss and it is likely that this will be an impediment to the cyclamen pushing up their leaves. I have sprayed the moss with Jeyes fluid, diluted at 30mls/litre and this has given me a good kill but it remains to be seen whether it adversely affects the cyclamen and whether the dead moss decays to let the cyclamen leaves through. They have a tendency to run their leaf stalks sideways before turning upwards. I should have treated it at least a month earlier, while the corms were still fully dormant. I have since rolled up the moss layer and top dressed the tray with compost, which is probably what I should have done to begin with.

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One of the things I have subsequently realised is that when I was getting excited about all the ripening seed I was finding, I wasn’t thinking about how good the plants had been nearly a year earlier when they had been flowering. Most of my cyclamen have been bought as miscellaneous seed raised forms, usually when in flower, which is when they appear, briefly, in garden centres, so I’ve been selecting good coloured flowers and interesting leaves to the degree that the choice available allowed. However, I have occasionally seen and bought named forms, undoubtedly still seed raised, but selected for having particularly good flower colour or outstanding silvery foliage. Those are the plants I should have labelled carefully and focussed on for seed collection. There’s always next year and I must check the labelling while they’re still flowering.

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A nice silver leaved and white flowered form of Cyclamen hederifolium.

If you go into a garden centre in September or October, there will likely be bench upon bench of cyclamen on offer. They are beautiful, often fragrant, with amazing coloured flowers and every conceivable variation on leaf markings. Sometimes they are labelled as hardy. IMHO they are well and good, they have their place, I have bought them myself, BUT they are not hardy cyclamen species, not hederifolium or coum. They lack the simple charm of the species. They will not settle down in poor growing conditions and live for a hundred years, seeding about like Cyclamen hederifolium can do. They won’t be pushing their flowers up through snow cover in January and February as Cyclamen coum can. They won’t make huge drifts of graceful swaying flowers as Cyclamen repandum sometimes does.

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Cyclamen repandum, the first seedling to emerge from sowing on 1/8/19, photo 11/10/19.

You will probably find the cyclamen species in the alpines section and then only for a few weeks when they are in season. Be warned though, succumb to their allures and you risk being hooked for life.

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Cyclamen hederifolium, self sown several meters away from the nearest plant and fighting it out with Hellebores, Polygonatum and Lathyrus, not to mention weeds. The finished flower stems are already rolling up to draw the developing seed pods down to soil level where they will ripen by July or August next year, potentially to be spread far and wide by ants.

17 thoughts on “Cyclamen, some notes on raising hardy species from seed.

    1. I use clean seed trays or pots and good seed compost, (Sylvagrow), then put them in a glasshouse where very few weed seeds blow in. The clue is usually in the weeds you get, if they are things that have wind blown seeds, they’ve blown in, if it’s bittercress you’ve let one go to seed within a few feet of the seed tray. I do get some weeds, I pull them out before I take pictures.

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      1. Both willowherb and willow are windblown and hard to keep out if they’re growing anywhere near; the grass will have seeded in from closer by. Annual meadow grass gets to flowering size so quickly it catches you out.

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  1. A very interesting post. I completely agree with your comments on garden centre cyclamen. I have been looking out for some interesting varieties but the labels are not giving much away so I have resisted. I must get myself to a good alpine supplier.

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  2. The more I see these two species, the more I like them. (I do not know Cyclamen repandum.) When I was a kid, I grew the common florist types as perennials, and really liked them. They are grown as annuals here. They are very expensive, and last only for a short while. I would like to collect some that we discard from work and plants them where they can grow as perennial if they want to. I think they would look silly if mixed (red and white), but I would like them anyway. However, I sort of think that Cyclamen hederifolium and Cyclamen coum would suit the forested landscape better. I sort of want to see what Cyclaen repandum is. When I looked it up, it seemed to have more flowers on taller stems. So far, I think that Cyclamen hederifolium ‘Album’ is my favorite, although the white might be a bit too contrasting in forested situation. A paler color might be better.

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    1. C. repandum is a woodland plant that doesn’t like hot sun and is less cold hardy than hederifolium or coum. It can form carpets and because the flowers are very uniform and the corms quite deep, they don’t look like separate plants in the way that hederifolium always does. Hederifolium and coum are easy from fresh seed but it needs to be collected and sown as soon as the pods split, so too late for this year. Late July/early august next year I can send you seed if you want some.

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      1. Thank you SO much for offering! However, I am not yet settled with a new garden, and might be just settling in next summer. (I know that is a long time from now, but I have been taking things ‘very’ slowly.) Maybe I will as later. I know that, where sheltered from debris, those sorts of cyclamen would be splendid among the redwoods.

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      2. Yes it does! I don’t know why. They don’t live here naturally. There are just certain plants that happen to look good with redwoods. Supposedly, they do not mind the herbicidal effect of the litter. (Redwoods tend to retard the growth of annuals and many herbaceous perennials, and prevent the seed of most plants from germinating.)

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      3. They seem to do well beneath conifers but I can find no reference to them growing with conifers in the wild. I’ve got them growing under a yew, where nothing much else survives and a friend has them under Chamaecyparis and cannot get anything else to grow there. So much tougher than they look.

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      4. The florist cyclamen was supposedly developed from species that grew in exposed rocky scree of mountainous chaparral regions. They did not need to coexist with much forest flora. However, they seem to do reasonably well with it. Cyclamen that do well with Chamaecyparis should do as well with redwood.

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      5. Not necessarily. They may like boulders and concrete. Even if they are happy in rich soil, I would not expect them to be so tolerant of the herbicidal foliar litter of redwoods and other conifers. Many of the native of the Mojave Desert, particularly the desert fan palm, prefer the harsh environments that they came from, and are unhappy with seemingly luxurious urban gardens closer to the coast.

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