June 05, 2006

Cyclamens can't read

Cyclamen persicum flowerWhen my kids were small, they steadfastly refused to behave the way the child-rearing books said they should. They couldn't read, and didn't know what typical behaviour was supposed to be. Much the same thing can be said about plants. They will often go along with what the experts say, but at other times will quite happily forget to conform. My cyclamen was a case in point.

First of all, it refused to be entirely happy inside in the kind of light described as ideal. You can see how the leaves are not laid out all flat and beautiful. Nonetheless it would flower unceasingly for me through the entire winter, on through spring, with only the briefest pause in summer. I got at least eleven months of bloom out of it. I would put it out in the summer in a mostly shady spot to expose it to brighter light and help the leaves to perk up. But dormancy was not on its agenda. It didn't care what the books said, it was bound and determined to go all year.

I began to think it might profit from a little persuading. Surely this year-round marathon couldn't be good for it. So I put it in a dark spot and stopped watering. In the meanwhile, I took the seeds I had recently harvested and sowed them, with excellent germination. Soon afterwards I read that growing cyclamen from seed was very tricky. Oh. Well. Fancy that. I had put my tiny pot in the butter compartment for a couple of weeks to provide a wee bit of stratification and when I brought it back to room temperature, the seedlings just popped out of the soil.

Florist's cyclamen seedlingsGood thing they did too. My cyclamen rotted in storage. Meanwhile the little seedlings grew on slowly, with the ones in the northeast windows doing the best. The one that grew the best of all was the one that sat in water most of the time, another no-no.

So now I have put them all outside, half of them directly in the flower bed, and the other half in pots. The leaves are looking much better with shorter stems and better colouring and hopefully, some of them will produce blooms for me this fall.

And I will never, ever try to force them into summer dormancy.

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