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CYCLAMEN from seed


by John Beaulieu (pronounced BOWL-you)

Well, here we are heading into December, and I’m looking at a big, white flowered Cyclamen plant that was bought back in 2021, now heading into it’s third Christmas… And it has never stopped blooming! Believe it or not, in all my years of having plants, this is the first Cyclamen plant that I have had. I was just getting interested in Cyclamen and had ordered some seed. I was learning that they usually go through a dormant period and had expected this plant to do that eventually. I kept on watering it and it kept on blooming, for three years!

This is a florist Cyclamen and these are commonly sold here in Ontario in the period leading up to Christmas. Knowing that growing Cyclamen from seed is a long slow process, my wife, Brenda, bought me this plant at a garden centre near Guelph so I would at least have one blooming plant. I suspect that most of them sold at this time are considered disposable plants that probably get tossed after the holidays… Especially if they appear to be dying back as they go dormant. If they go dormant! I suppose my plant might have done so if I had stopped watering?

What really sparked my interest in Cyclamen back in 2021 was the finding of some three year old seed, probably from the Hardy Plant Society. My main interest was Hardy Geraniums and that is what I usually ordered from the various specialty club seed schemes. I learned that the Cyclamen seed required some special treatment, and that is why I had put it aside. The most important thing was that it needed soaking for a couple days. One of the reasons for this is to remove a sticky coating that can retard germination. It is this coating that attracts ants (in nature) who carry seed into their tunnels, helping spread the plants around. Trying a new kind of plant from seed seemed like a great experiment to do during the Covid lockdown days.

I used old film containers to soak the seeds. I’ll bet that not many of you have those kicking around any more! It was amazing how the old seeds plumped up when in the water for two days. In the inset you can see one seed that stayed dark and small… This would not be a viable seed. It is suggested to add a small drop of dish soap to your water to aid in the removal of the coating. I’ve never had to do anything of this sort for any of the other seeds I have been familiar with. I had plenty of time to figure out ways and means to accomplish what needed to be done, and naturally I took photos all along the way, with (lucky for you) only a small portion of them used here.

I wanted to get hold of some fresh seed too, but it was now too late to order from club seed exchanges. I found a place in England, called Stinky Ditch Nursery, and he was able to send me a good assortment of hybrid and species Cyclamen seeds. It’s a small, family run, mail order propagating nursery based in Somerset. They have a glass house on Moor Road near Banwell but I’m not sure it is open to the public. Robbie is an interesting fellow that has a lot of You-Tube videos about Cyclamen and other plants. The videos are worth a look, to see the amazing selection of Cyclamen that he has (at least for this novice). He did a great job of selecting a good assortment of seed for me and packing/labeling it. Now I had lots of seed that I had to soak, and I did not have that many film containers!

Pill containers were perfect for my soaking of seeds. Not taking any pills myself, I found them available on Amazon. I even found a Tupperware-like container that they all fit in. Keeping the identification of the seeds was easy, as I made out name stakes that fit right inside the containers. You do not need to fill the containers with water, just enough to soak your few seeds of each type.

Once they have had their two day soaking, I pour the seeds out through a small strainer. Having the right tools makes any job easier. I do one container at a time, sowing the seed right away and putting the name stake into the pot. This reduces the risk of mixing anything up.

The seeds are sown evenly spread out in pots. In my case this is three inch diameter pots, and I have used both clay and plastic with equal results. A very thin layer of potting mix is used to cover the seed. The only thing I would suggest is keeping the clay pots in separate trays from the plastic, as the evaporation of moisture and the taking up of moisture (from bottom watering) can be quite different between clay and plastic pots.

I had read that Cyclamen like dark conditions to germinate… I assumed that this is because in the wild they are down in ant hills. I did not have a good dark place to put the trays of pots, so I covered them with foil to block the light. This was not a good idea as it created work to check on moisture and germinations. I quickly learned that a layer of small gravel (I used aquarium gravel) was a much better way to go. The gravel blocked enough light and when seeds germinated you could see this with no problem.

It is an exciting time when you get your first germination. Seedlings have no trouble growing up through the gravel. Germination varies greatly from a month to many months or even years! I found this waiting to be hard… I’m so used to seeing some of my hardy geraniums and erodiums germinate in as little a four days!

The same seed batch does not always have all the seed germinate at the same time. That is nothing new to me… When sowing my geraniums indoors in the spring timing was important. If they did not all come up at the same time, the first ones were getting too large before the last frost date, waiting to go outside. Anyway, there will be NO going outside for the Cyclamen.

Once there is a germination in a Cyclamen pot, it is moved into the brighter light. When waiting for germination, the pots can sit anywhere, not needing bright light. I have a south-west facing window in my book room that I use for plants. There are also lights above these shelves. I also winter some not-so-hardy geraniums and erodiums here, as well as African-violets and Streptocarpus.

Some Cyclamen leaves are starting to show some different patterns. The first leaves do not always show the final pattern/colour that a plant might have… But this is a fun stage, never knowing what you may get. Cyclamen are so variable!

Here are a few interesting leaves from over a year ago. In my case, having sowed seed of many different species and selections, they should show a lot of variety.

It was not until June of 2023 that I had my first flower from my seedlings! It was seed from a C. hederifolium hybrid called ‘Silver Cloud’, and it had a nice light pink colour. All the seeds in the pot may be from the same source, but that does not mean that the flowers and/or leaves will be the same. Eventually as the tubers grow larger, each one will need to be given it’s own pot.

Look at the difference in size of the ‘Silver Cloud’ seedling flower to that of my big white florist Cyclamen, which was still blooming non stop! These C. persicum hybrids are nothing like the wild species plant, and are hybridized to be huge!

I have always been impressed with the size of those huge white flowers! When Brenda first bought the plant, I had to take a photo with her hand for size reference.

Not only did I have continual bloom, I also have found seed pods on the big florist Cyclamen. These are left on the plant until the stem turns brown and the pod opens up. You can really see how sticky they are when the seeds are so fresh! I should try a few to see what variety I might get… But so far I am holding off on that, due to lack of space for such large plants. Of course, being Cyclamen, that could take years!

Eventually I had another seedling send up flowers… Also from a ‘Silver Cloud’ but a white selection, and the seedling flower is whiter than the other one.

As mentioned, the tubers are getting larger and many have had to be separated and potted on their own. Yes, I’ll soon be running out of room in my tiny indoor growing area!

I continue to have new and interesting leaves, but so far only the two flowers. It takes a lot of patience to grow Cyclamen from seed!

As a cartoonist, I could not resist this subject… So many people that buy a Cyclamen think that their plant is dying when bloom stops and leaves die back. They do not realize that their plant is simply going into a dormant period. They may not even know that there is a tuber in the pot. I bet a lot of them get tossed at this point! Then there is my plant, that just keeps going and going like the Energizer Bunny! I’m not sure if UK folks are familiar with the battery commercials with the drum holding toy rabbit that keeps going and going?

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Fascinating and very informative - thanks Bowl- you.

1 Dec, 2023


Lovely blog John. One of my favourite genera too. Lots of luck with self sown ones too.
I wrote about one of mine and its offspring way back 2010.

The original plant I bought for my mum's birthday, 17th Dec 1991 and then I had it from 96 until it was eaten out by vine weevil in 2016, I still have several of the offspring. I rarely let mine go dormant.

It became a typical gardening habit in larger 'posh' houses to lay the pot on its side so the gardener's boy knew not to water it. Saving time, money and feed. Come September watering and then feeding would come to the fore so the plant had flowers for the lady of the house over December and into January.

I have many of the smaller ones offered as winter bedding/basket plants in the cool conservatory. They were bought in the November of 2010 as the first plants to go in the newly built conservatory. So they have been with me 13 yrs, I reckon they will be getting on for 15 yrs old. Just coming into flower and I selected scented ones.

1 Dec, 2023


Wow, Seaburngirl, you have quite a history with cyclamen. They are so much more popular over in the UK... Most people know nothing about them here, other than being seasonal plants at this time of year. I've been enjoying them, and the growing from seed, but I do not think I will likely not develop a strong interest. I'll just enjoy the ones I have coming along now. When I get into something new, I like to learn as much as I can, so I ordered a couple good books and joined the Cyclamen Society. They put out a really quality journal, but at renewal time, I passed on it. They all started looking the same in the photos to me, a sure sign that the plants had not grabbed me as much as others have. Just as well, I have no room for more. I think there is only one species hardy in my zone (purpurascens), and a greenhouse is out of the question. Actually. I have not found a C. purpuracens yet... It would be fun to try it in the garden.

2 Dec, 2023


Thanks for posting, John, I've also enjoyed reading about your hardy Geraniums as well as these Cyclamen.

I garden on a balcony, (hence my avatar name!), & this year I bought about a dozen Cyclamen plants to put on the balcony railings. I wasn't sure if they were the hardy type as they didn't come with a botanical name. But they have survived 3 nights of frost in a week so obviously they are the hardy type, probably C.hederifolium going by the foliage (which does remind one of Ivy leaves!).

I have removed all the seed pods from my plants as I wasn't very interested in growing them from seed yet I still left a few that were the most advanced, I may sow the seeds as I like to grow many plants from seeds. In fact just last week a 'Bird of Paradise' plant flowered for the very first time - 5 years after sowing the seeds!

I've grown lots of Amaryllis from my own seeds as well. Even creating my own hybrids!

Looking forward to read some more of your blogs in the future.

12 Dec, 2023


Wow Balcony, 5 years to flower... The Bird of Paradise' is even slower than the average Cyclamen!

I don't know what to blog about next... I try to keep these blogs for subjects that I have a lot of photos or story to tell... My day-to-day thoughts and photos tend to go on Facebook. If I filled these blogs with that kind of stuff, I feel that my more educational style postings would be lost in the daily clutter. I link people to these blogs when I get asked questions on the subjects I've covered.

27 Dec, 2023


I knew it would take a few years to flower - if ever when I sowed the seeds. I wasn't sure if I'd ever see a flower! I thought of it as a foliage plant, like a Rubber Plant, for example. That way I wouldn't be worried about how long it might take to flower. So when I saw a strange looking "leaf" I hardly dared to hope it might be a flower! When I finally realized it was a flower scape that I was seeing instead of a leaf I thought it wouldn't flower till well into January! But it grew much faster than I expected & so I got an early "Christmas present"! The flower is now over but it lasted 3 weeks & I got photos of it almost daily!

Though I'm not expecting any more flowers till next year I still keep a look out for a future scape!

30 Dec, 2023


Too bad we can't put photos in our comments. :(

31 Dec, 2023


It is a shame but if you look at our photo pages you will find some flowers there.

3 Jan, 2024

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