Q: I’ve had a potted cyclamen for eight years now. It is now starting to send up shoots, as is usual this time of year. However, the plant growth is very long and leggy. Is there something I can do to make my cyclamen more compact looking again?
A: First of all, congratulations on having your cyclamen for eight years. That’s great! And you are correct, fall, winter and early spring are the active seasons for a cyclamen. Late spring into summer they go into dormancy until the next growing season. This pattern replicates their normal growing season in Mediterranean areas. The potted florist cyclamen is Cyclamen persicum, a variety of the wild one. The wild cyclamens are considered to be long-lived perennials.
When most houseplants become leggy or have weak stems, the most common factor is insufficient light. Cyclamens do enjoy a bright location, so it may need more light. Indirect light is best, as direct sunlight may cause some burning and excessive dryness.
Cyclamens also like it rather cool, even down to 50 degrees during the night. We should avoid placing them where there would be too much warmth, like a radiator cover or refrigerator top.
And they do better with some humidity. Our winter homes are often very dry. You can create your own humidity tray by placing the pot on top of a saucer with pebbles and water. Some sources say to water from the bottom. Do water regularly during its growing season. Do not over water, as this is the most frequent cause of demise. And never let it sit in water for more than a few minutes. When you notice in spring your cyclamen starting its dormancy period, cut back on watering and let it be dry over the summer.
Now during its growing time would be the time to fertilize your cyclamen. A liquid plant food would be appropriate, at half the strength recommended on the bottle. You may also want to repot your cyclamen, since eight years have gone by. The ideal time is during its summer dormant period. A great resource on cyclamens is The Cyclamen Society at cyclamen.org/plants .
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