For many years, I’ve favored cyclamen over poinsettias when choosing a flowering plant to brighten up the indoor landscape at this time of year. To my mind, cyclamen is so much more interactive than poinsettia. From the day you bring it home, a poinsettia begins a slow decline toward the compost heap. Its colorful bracts are already formed and no new ones will appear. Before long, it will begin dropping its bottom leaves and start to appear thin and frail. A cyclamen, on the other hand, will entertain you for many weeks with active growth.
Here’s what I mean by that: When you bring home a cyclamen, already in flower, there’s likely to be a myriad of tiny, nodding buds nestled beneath that handsome foliage. As the flower stalks gradually lengthen, these buds will slowly emerge from hiding and produce flowers to keep the show going. It’s a bit like watching forced paperwhite bulbs grow and bloom.
I find it deeply satisfying, watching the cyclamen’s daily progress (and I love the fact that I even get to deadhead it!) For me, it’s a lot like watching the natural evolution of outdoor plants, which tend to be more dynamic than, say, a florist’s azalea that was forced into bloom out of season so it can sit sullenly on winter windowsills.
Cyclamen also combines well with other winter flowers, like amaryllis, as seen in this holiday vignette from Fotolia.com.
I always use the same oblong ceramic planter for my cyclamen – it has a crackled glaze finish and lovely curves, like a Victorian bathtub. And usually I buy a basket of needlepoint ivy to use as a companion plant. Its dark green, finely dissected foliage has a beautiful texture that makes a stunning contrast with the mottled, heart-shaped leaves of the cyclamen. I just slip the ivy out of the basket and use a bread knife to cut it in half; then I plant the ivy on each side of the centered cyclamen so that it flows dramatically over the sides of the planter.
Cyclamen comes in many colors: pure white, delicate pinks, bright pinks, bicolors, deep red, and shades from magenta to purple.
The flowers are often compared to a host of butterflies hovering above the mottled, heart-shaped foliage.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons