Cyclamen (Cymbidium) are small evergreen shrubs or trees with fragrant white flowers. They grow from 1-3 feet tall and have thin, wiry stems. Their leaves are opposite, oval shaped and smooth except for a few teeth at the tip. They turn yellowish green when they mature. The petals of their flowers are pink, 5-petaled and 4 inches long; each one bears a single seed pod containing up to 20 seeds. The seeds are round, black and about 2/3rd inch across. The pods split open to reveal tiny white seeds inside.
The name “cyclamen” comes from the Greek word kyma meaning seed and meninon meaning male. In ancient times, these plants were used as aphrodisiacs and fertility symbols because of their colorful flowers.
Cyclamen are native to Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa. They are now found throughout much of the world including North America, South America, Australia and New Zealand. Some species occur only in temperate regions while others thrive in arid climates.
All cyclamen have two main types: those growing in dry areas and those growing along streams or other bodies of water. They prefer to grow in rock crevices, under shrubs or among grasses.
The following are some of the many species of cyclamen:
-Cyclamen africanum (ivory white flowers with pinkish purple markings)
-C. hederifolium (ivory white flowers with pinkish purple markings on the petals and leaf veins)
-C. coum (pale pink flowers spotted white on the petals and white veins on the leaf)
-C. integrifolium (light pink flowers spotted with deeper pink markings on the petals and white veins on the leaf)
-C. somalense (white flowers with purple markings and veins on the petals and leaf veins)
-C. trochopteranthum (white flowers with pink markings and veins on the petals and leaf veins)
Cultivars with double or semi-double flowers do exist.
The cyclamen bloom from fall through early spring. They must be grown in rich, well-drained soil that contains some sand or loam. They do not like their roots to be water-logged but they do need moisture.
If the soil is too dry, the leaves will begin to wilt. If it is too rich or water-logged, the roots will rot. Most kinds of cyclamen are very frost sensitive and should not be exposed to temperatures much below 50 degrees F. (10 C.). They do best in partial shade with some protection from direct sun.
You can divide a healthy plant by digging it up in early spring. Carefully remove the soil away from the plant and gently tease it free of the roots. Cut the root ball into pieces with a sharp knife.
Each piece should have several eyes (the fleshy bumps on the roots where new shoots are likely to sprout). If there are not enough eyes on any one piece, join two or more pieces together before planting them in new soil. Replant each piece about 1 foot apart. Water well after planting.
Cultivars can be grown from seed. The seeds must be fresh because they do not age well. Plant them in spring or fall in a warm location.
Cover lightly with soil and water gently. Keep the soil moist but not water-logged because it can cause root rot. Seeds should begin to sprout within 2 months.
Light: Most species require full sun to partial shade.
Water: Water when the soil begins to dry out. If the soil stays wet, it can cause root rot.
Fertilizer: You can fertilize in early spring just before new growth starts. Use a diluted liquid fertilizer.
Soil: A sandy loam soil is best. amended with compost will increase fertility and improve drainage.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 – 9.
Propagation: Division or seed. May be slow to establish.
Common issues: The leaves tend to droop and rot if the soil is overly wet. If you see black spots on the leaves, the plant is getting too much water.
Uses: Container gardens, rock gardens or in beds and borders. Makes a dramatic statement when used in large containers placed in a row along a walkway. Makes a good ground cover when growing along a fence or wall.
History: Cyclamen is a genus of 12 species of flowering plants in the family Primulaceae. The genus is native to the Mediterranean region, with one species just barely extending into Syria. They are grown for their colorful flowers which come in shades of pink, red, white and purple.
Their foliage varies from a light green to blue-green. Most are somewhat tuberous. They do best in shady locations in cool climates but can also tolerate some sun. The blooms last from fall to spring.
The plants can grow from 1 foot (.3 m) to as large as 3 feet (1 m) high. The blooms usually sit right above the leaves.
Leaves are usually heart-shaped and 1-2 inches long (3-5 cm). They start out early in the year as a rosette of dark green, glossy leaves that surround the stem. They later open up and expose the flowers to the light.
Cyclamen species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Grey Chi and several blues.
The majority of species in this genus are from the area around the Mediterranean. The most common species, C. hederifolium, is a classic houseplant and groundcover throughout the world.
Only one plant is included in this section and it’s called Ozone Buttercup. The reason I’m including it here is because it doesn’t really fit anywhere else.
OZONE BUTTERCUP (Ficaria verna)
Other Common Names: meadow buttercup, creeping yellow cress
Characteristics: The Ozone Buttercup is an annual plant that grows in a rosette pattern. It has narrow, grass-like leaves and spreads quickly underground to pop up in your yard and flower. The yellow flowers have 5 petals.
The plant blooms from April to July.
Size: 6 – 12 inches (15 – 30 cm) in height
Spacing: Plant 12 inches (30 cm) apart. When in a lawn, plant the buttercups among the lawn grass because it can’t compete with the grass for nutrients, water and sunlight. It will simply fade away in a shady or lightly shaded spot in the lawn where grass won’t grow.
Growing: The Ozone Buttercup grows best in full sun and requires well-drained soil. It can be invasive because it spreads rapidly via its seeds, so keep this in mind if you’re thinking about planting it. Buttercups are generally considered a weed in lawns.
It is very attractive when allowed to bloom in a wildflower meadow or field because the yellow flowers stand out from a distance. It is a good border for garden beds and is also used in wildflower gardens.
How to Garden on the Edge: Buttercups are the first flowers of spring, so they make a great addition to the annual garden bed that you create every year. You can plant other annuals among them (such as lettuce, or another favorite vegetable) because they will bloom at a different time and add visual interest at a different time during the year.
POACEAE (GRAMINAE: GRAMINOID GROUP)
The grass family is huge, containing over 10,000 species of plants in more than 400 genera. Of the types of grasses, some are edible and some are ornamental. There are also those that are good for weaving and those that make good thatch.
You can use grasses to weave mats, baskets, or even roofs. Thatching a roof is one of the oldest known methods of roofing and uses delicate straws to accomplish the task. Mats can be used on the floor or walls and are popular in warmer locations, especially on porches.
Baskets are used to carry things and are extremely durable due to their woven construction.
Most agrestidas are from the New World and are used by local natives for various things. Some of these plants are also called esparto grass, which is a name more commonly referred to several types of European grasses that were heavily exploited during the Industrial Revolution for their fiber. The European exploitation of these New World plants could have contributed to their disappearance in the wild over time.
Characteristics: This plant is known for being very soft and pliable. It can be woven into very fine mats and is sometimes compared to silk in terms of quality.
Growing: Although agrestis prefers full sun, it can also grow in partial sun or even full shade (if you live in an area that gets deep shade). It also prefers sandy or gravelly soil but will grow in loam. It is drought-tolerant once it is established.
It spreads rapidly by runners.
Harvesting: Cut the plant when it is dormant (in the fall) and dry it for later use. The leaves will turn brown but do not worry, this is normal.
Characteristics: A gray-green leafed grass with yellow flowers and a light brown seed head.
Growing: Agrostis flowers in the spring and can sometimes grow fairly tall (up to six feet). It prefers wet soil but will grow in average soil. It is a low-growing grass so it’s perfect for a meadow area that floods.
Harvesting: Wait until the leaves turn brown and the seed heads turn brown and dry before harvesting.
Characteristics: There are many different species of bromes and some can be invasive. They prefer dry soil but some, like broom corn, need more moisture. The inflorescence (flowers) are soft and feathery.
Growing: Broom corn needs a lot of room to spread out so it is not a good plant for the garden. It is better used as a boundary marker or even for lining a walkway.
Harvesting: Once the seeds turn brown, you can harvest the seed heads for drying.
Characteristics: Its botanical name is actually E. glaucus but it is popularly known as slippery elm. It gets this name from the inner bark, which can be stripped off and made into a gelatinous substance that is said to be very soothing to the throat.
It also contains a mucilaginous compound.
Growing: It prefers moist soil and can even handle being water-logged. It is a slow growing plant but it can spread rapidly, which makes it a good ground cover if you have a wet area that you need to block. It also grows well on rocky hillsides.
Harvesting: You can dry the inner bark and seed heads and then powder them for later use.
Characteristics: This species is low-growing with small, hair-like leaves and pinkish flowers.
Growing: It grows in partial sun or full shade and dry soil. It is a good grass for under shrubs or other plants that need more light. It can also be used in the garden to slow erosion on hillsides.
Harvesting: The seed heads can be harvested and dried to make into flour.
Characteristics: There are many different kinds of barley and they are all fairly similar. They grow as bushy plants with small, white flowers.
Growing: Barley prefers average soil and is sensitive to drought. It can also become weedy if not kept in check. It is important to keep the plant short to prevent this problem.
Harvesting: Cut the seed heads when they turn brown and then dry them.
Characteristics: Also known as perennial ryegrasses, these plants have fluffy, light brown seed heads with long, green leaves.
Growing: It can be invasive and prefers moist soil but will grow in average soil. Like barley, it is also sensitive to drought. Keep it mowed to prevent it from becoming weedy.
Sources & references used in this article:
Biological Control of Cyclamen Soilborne Diseases by Serratia marcescens Strain B2 by N Someya, N Kataoka, T Komagata, K Hirayae… – Plant …, 2000 – Am Phytopath Society
Biological Control of Botrytis cinerea in Cyclamen with Ulocladium atrum and Gliocladium roseum Under Commercial Growing Conditions by J Köhl, M Gerlagh, BH De Haas, MC Krijger – Phytopathology, 1998 – Am Phytopath Society
… between the predatory mite Neoseiulus cucumeris (Acari: Phytoseiidae) and western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis (Thysanoptera: Thripidae), on cyclamen by MEDC Williams – Biocontrol Science and Technology, 2001 – Taylor & Francis
Efficacy of integrating biologicals with fungicides for the suppression of Fusarium wilt of cyclamen by WH Elmer, RJ McGovern – Crop Protection, 2004 – Elsevier
Biocontrol of Botrytis cinerea by Ulocladium atrum in Different Production Systems of Cyclamen by J Köhl, M Gerlagh, G Grit – Plant disease, 2000 – Am Phytopath Society
The reproductive biology of the Mediterranean endemic Cyclamen balearicum Willk. (Primulaceae) by L Affre, JD Thompson… – Botanical Journal of the …, 1995 – academic.oup.com