My first houseplant was a cyclamen. The flowers with their reflexed petals that stand tall above their attractive foliage, made this charming plant so irresistible. Lovingly placed where it could be enjoyed the most, it began to wither. It was placed then in a bright sunny spot to perk it up. It withered more, so it was watered more. Eventually, it died.
The lesson learned was not all plants like nice warm, sunny locations or lots of water. In fact, houseplant or florist cyclamens refer cooler temperatures, moist not wet soil, and light but not direct sun. No wonder my charming cyclamen died.
Available at garden centers and groceries, tuberous cyclamen perisicum is an indoor plant only. They bloom longer if grown in a cool 50-65 degrees location with no drafts, and given half strength fertilizer every two weeks.
Even though it is difficult to bring back into bloom, it is worth continuing to grow it as a foliage plant. When foliage starts to die back, begin reducing water, stop watering in the summer, and renew in late summer. The heart-shaped foliage may be silvery, slotched silver on green or solid green.
Some cyclamens, such as C. hederifolium, may be grown successfully outdoors producing blooms in the spring and fall depending on the variety. They are perfect for the dappled dry shade of rock gardens or raised beds and under trees. Plant in the front of the garden and near walkways where the white to deep magenta blooms on six to eight inch stems can be appreciated.
They do not need fertilizing, but bonemeal and a light mulch will add nutrients and keep tubers cool in the summer while the tubers are dormant. Water in late summer to break dormancy. C hederifolium and C. coum are the hardiest and easiest to grow varieties.
Sources: McClure & Zimmerman, wwwmzbulb.com, 1-800-883-6998;
Brent and Becky's Bulbs, www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com, 1-804-693-3966.
Things to do
15 Minute Gardening â “ Make a list of what is needed to restock your hand tool basket or tote. Include disposable nitrile gloves for when working around plants that irritate the skin such as rue.
Birds â “ Bluebirds are already in the area scouting out nesting. Take down and clean out bluebird boxes to re-install Feb. 1. In the meantime, put out freeze-dried mealy worms for them.
Garden â “ Remove weeds. Lightly cover spring bulb foliage. Trim back vines. Side dress pansies with 10-10-10 according to directions and water in thoroughly. Check seed packets for when to start seeding indoors. Begonia, browallia, larkspur and periwindle may be seeded now.
House plants â “ Divide and repot geraniums. Any branches that break off may be used to start new plants. Remove lower foliage, dip the stem in water, then rooting hormone, and pot up in sterile potting medium. When working with rooting hormone always wear disposable gloves to protect your hands.
Trees and Shrubs â “ Summer blooming trees and shrubs may be pruned. Prune to shape and open up the interior of shrubs to improve circulation. Split branches should be cut a couple of inches back into healthy wood. Fertilize azaleas, rhododendrons and other acid loving woody's that were not fertilized last fall. Order bare-root stock plants.
Vegetables â “ To check the percentage of saved seed viability, place ten seed on a damp paper towel that has been folded in half. Place 10 seed on the paper, roll it up, place in a plastic bag on the top of the refrigerator or other warm location. Check on the seed according to the time listed on the seed packet as to germination time. The number of seeds that have sprouted is the germination percentage. Anything less than 75 percent, discard. Soak parsley seed in slightly warm water overnight before planting. Water and mist plants with tepid water, as cold water from the faucet can shock seedlings.
Jan. 31-Feb. 2 - Reelfoot Lake Eagle Festival tours. Reservations required 731-253-9652 or 731-538- 2481, firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.reelfoottourism.com.
Contact Carolyn Roof, the Sun's gardening columnist, at email@example.com.