This undated photo shows the dainty flowers of hardy cyclamens growing in a pot in New Paltz, New York. (AP Photo/Lee Reich)

This undated photo shows the dainty flowers of hardy cyclamens growing in a pot in New Paltz, New York. (AP Photo/Lee Reich)

Cyclamen kin are dainty but hardy

For the past few weeks, dainty pink or white butterflies have been hovering above the bare soil in some of my clay flowerpots. They’re not really butterflies, actually: They are cyclamen blossoms held aloft on thin flower stalks.

These are not the cyclamens you typically find offered in florist shops, those plants with bold flowers and lush foliage. My cyclamens are among the few species of so-called “hardy” cyclamens (Cyclamen hederifolium, for example). They differ from florists’ cyclamens not only in their diminutive leaves and flowers but also in their ability to live outdoors year round, even in cold climates.

My cyclamen plants are still leafless, the flowers being their first sign of life as they awaken from their summer dormancy. These blossoms will hover in place for weeks to come.

Even after the blossoms finally fade and drop, the show will not be over. Soon to begin is the leafy show. The leaves are heart-shaped, but rounded rather than pointed at the end, with silvery mottling painted over the dark green background. The silvery design differs from one plant to the next.

The leaves last for weeks, perhaps all winter if temperatures are not too frigid. So there’s really no time of year when the plant is unattractive. It’s just that in summer, when the plants go dormant, the plant has nothing at all to show — no leaves or flowers.

Hardy cyclamens are as easy to grow as florists’ cyclamens and need pretty much the same conditions: perfectly drained soil and shallow planting. Tubers should sit with their tops just slightly below soil level. My plants have flowered indoors at east windows and outdoors on the shaded, north side of the house.

Hardy cyclamens are generally available from specialist nurseries (such as Sunfarms, www.sunfarm.com), but once you have some plants, new ones are easy enough to propagate. Sometime after bloom, surely while the plants are dormant, you’ll note seed capsules, each about the size of a small marble, lying on the soil surface. These seed capsules, like the flowers, are still tethered to the soil, this time by stalks now coiled like springs.

The seeds would likely self-sow, but to multiply your holdings more deliberately, pop the seeds out of the dry capsules. Books and seed catalogs offer elaborate instructions for germinating cyclamen seeds, detailing planting depth as well as sequential requirements for both warm and cool temperatures. I’ve followed such directives and gotten the seeds to germinate. Then again, I’ve also just sowed the seeds shallowly in pots, kept the soil moist and waited — eventually they seem to germinate no matter what you do.

What is important is to keep the young seedlings growing continuously through their first year. They’re not old enough for their summer dormancy until their second year, at which time they generally start to flower.

You may wonder why, if I’m growing hardy cyclamens, they are in flowerpots rather than in the ground with other hardy plants. The reason is that I have not yet decided just where to plant out these delicate looking beauties.

More in Life

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Downtime

Now here we are, two-thirds of the way through the longest month of the year

Robert “Bob” Huttle, posing here next to Cliff House, spent the night in this cabin in April 1934 and mused about a possible murder there. (Photo courtesy of the Huttle Collection)
Twists and turns in the history of Cliff House — Part 2

How much of the doctor’s actions Bob Huttle knew when he stayed in Cliff House 10 years later is difficult to know.

Achieving the crispy, flaky layers of golden goodness of a croissant require precision and skill. (Photo by Tresa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Reaching the pinnacle of patisserie

Croissants take precision and skill, but the results can be delightful

This 1940s-era image is one of few early photographs of Cliff House, which once stood near the head of Tustumena Lake. (Photo courtesy of the Secora Collection)
Twists and turns in the history of Cliff House — Part 1

Here, then, is the story of Cliff House, as least as I know it now.

File
Minister’s Message: What’s in a name?

The Scriptures advise, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”

Visitors put on personal protective equipment before an artist talk by Dr. Sami Ali' at the Jan. 7, 2022, First Friday opening of her exhibit, "The Mind of a Healthcare Worker During the COVID-19 Pandemic," at the Homer Council on the Arts in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
ER doctor’s paintings follow passage of pandemic

Dr. Sami Ali made 2019 resolution to paint every day — and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Almond flour adds a nuttiness to this carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: A ‘perfect day’ cake

Carrot cake and cream cheese frosting make for a truly delicious day off

File
Minister’s Message: A prayer pulled from the ashes

“In that beleaguered and beautiful land, the prayer endures.”

A copy of “The Year of Magical Thinking” by author Joan Didion is displayed on an e-reader. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Didion’s “Year of Magical Thinking” is a timely study on grief

‘The last week of 2021 felt like a good time to pick up one of her books.’

Megan Pacer / Homer News
Artist Asia Freeman, third from left, speaks to visitors on Nov. 1, 2019, at a First Friday art exhibit opening at Kachemak Bay Campus in Homer.
Freeman wins Governor’s Arts Humanities Award

Bunnell Street Arts Center artistic director is one of nine honored.

Zirrus VanDevere’s pieces are displayed at the Kenai Art Center on Jan. 4, 2022. (Courtesy Alex Rydlinski)
A journey of healing

VanDevere mixes shape, color and dimension in emotional show