Planting Cyclamen Seeds and Tubers

Cyclamen seeds and tubers are easy and simple to plant. The cyclamen tuber grows very near or even at the soil surface. The only tool needed may be just a garden trowel. Planting tubers may require some soil preparation especially if your soil is dense clay or drains poorly. In the wild hardy species of cyclamen are either woodland type plants or those found in very rocky shade. Most will grow in average garden soils. Check the notes on Hardy Species for the type of cyclamen that are to be planted and growing Hardy Cyclamen Outdoors for where to plant.

Top view of Cyclamen hederifolium tuber.

Top view of Cyclamen hederifolium tuber

How to Plant Hardy Cyclamen Tubers

Tubers are most easily planted while in their dormant state. They can be transplanted while in growth but the mass of roots and tangle of stems make it more difficult. With the soil prepared place the tuber deep enough so that there is at least one half inch of soil covering it. Tubers of hederifolium, purpurascens and repandum can be planted as deep as six inches if covered with loose compost or leafy mulch. Planting a little deeper may be wise in colder climates.

It is important to plant the dormant tubers right side up. Some tubers may be difficult to distinguish top from bottom. The top side of the tuber usually is rough, bumpy or has nodules, and this is where flower and leaf stems will sprout from. The bottom is round and very smooth. An examination of these features will help determine which end is up. The proper distance to place them depends on the size of the tuber and how long they will remain in place. If they will be undisturbed, space C. hederifolium at least one foot apart, the smaller tubers of C. coum can be placed six inches apart. Newly planted tubers should be watered and will benefit from a slightly moist soil during the first summer to encourage roots and keep the soil loose. Water should always be available during the seasons of growth.

Bottom view of Cyclamen hederifolium tuber.

Bottom of Cyclamen hederifolium tuber

How to Start Cyclamen from Seed

Patience is the greatest requirement to get blooming tubers from seed. Most species will sprout in four to ten weeks with a few like purpurascens taking over a year. I recommend starting them indoors as conditions are more easily controlled. Outdoor sowing in a dedicated seed bed can also be effective. Results can be disappointing if the seed is scattered outdoors in an area of their desired placement. They will not germinate well and will easily be overun by weeds and fall leaves.

Fresh seed ripens and become available in summer and remain viable for several years. The seed should be prepared by soaking them 24 hours in a cup of warm water, with a couple drops of liquid dish soap added to it. When planting seeds be sure to cover them with a layer of soil or grit as they need darkness to germinate. Under average conditions, most tubers will bloom in their third year of growth.

Seeds of Cyclamen.

Seeds of Cyclamen.

Starting Seed Outdoors

Outdoors, where the winter is mild they can be sown in late summer or early fall. Where winters are more severe, sow them in spring. Select a location in partial shade with good drainage. Prepare a seed bed with compost or peat moss. Sow the seeds at least 3 inches apart lightly covering them with some peat moss or a layer of grit. Keep them moist before and after germination. Fall sown seed germinates slowly and usually grow one leaf before winter. Sowing seeds in a cold frame is a good alternative to the open ground and an excellent way to get them started outdoors. After a couple years of growth they can be moved to their final location. Some Cyclamen growers have cold frames dedicated to growing colonies of some of the more tender species.

Starting Seed Indoors

This is the preferred method and has a higher rate of success to reach blooming size in less time. The planted seed should be kept moist, and cool, maintaining temperatures at 50 to 65°. Germination under these conditions takes place in 6 to 10 weeks for hederifolium and coum.

Technique of seed planting that I have found will grow larger more vigorous sprouts.

  1. Soak seed overnight in cup of water, add a drop of dish soap..
  2. Use a flat, tray, or pot with drainage holes at least 2 inches deep.
  3. Mix in a little bone meal with a commercial seed starting mix. Fill the container.
  4. Thoroughly moisten the soil mix.
  5. Lightly press the seed on the surface of soil at least 1 inch apart.
  6. Cover the seed in a layer 1/4 inch deep with clean sand,perlite or fine to medium grit.
  7. Water lightly whenever the sand/grit becomes dry.

The newly formed tubers prefer developing in the layer of sand/grit/perlite and leaves will be much larger the first year. A source for grit can found at a feed store as 'poultry grit'. Poultry grit is usually classed as chick, grower, layer and turkey. Use the chick or grower size. In summer, if the tray is kept moist, cool, and shaded, new seedlings will continue to grow without going dormant. If some or most leaves die down and dormancy occurs that is okay. Water the dormant seedlings less but never let them become bone dry. At the beginning of September thoroughly water them whenever the surface becomes dry. New growth will start shortly.

Newly grown cyclamen can be planted out sooner than two years but the tuber size is so small they are difficult to handle. Overwinter in a cool greenhouse, in a cold frame, or indoors under artificial light. By doing this a much higher percentage will have grown to reach blooming size in half the time than those sown outdoors. Plant out in their flowering positions in May through late summer or keep them in pots if you like. I plant mine out in summer when the tuber is larger than the size of a nickel. They are much easier to handle and have a well defined top at this size.