Caring for a cyclamen can be tricky if you don’t understand its lifecycle. One month it’s cheerful and colorful; the next it’s losing its flowers, leaves, and all of its charm.
New cyclamen owners may think something is wrong with their plant if it stops blooming and starts to wither away after a few months. The good news, however, is that this is completely normal!
When a house cyclamen is going dormant, its flowers start to shrivel, followed by the leaves yellowing and eventually falling off. Having said that, dormancy can look different in each potted cyclamen.
Read on to learn more about cyclamen dormancy.
There are 23 species of cyclamen, with Cyclamen persicum (Persian cyclamen) being the most common variety to be grown as potted house plants. Both indoor and outdoor cyclamens usually go dormant due to the change in their environment.
However, there’s an exception: some potted cyclamen are artificially modified and can retain their leaves most of the year. This is rare since most cyclamen have dormancy periods.
Dormancy in cyclamen is a period for the plant to rest. This is also a survival mechanism for them to rebloom in the next winter. To understand this phenomenon better, we can study the climate where cyclamen comes from.
Cyclamen is native to the Mediterranean region from Europe to Iran and some parts of North Africa. The climate in that region is seasonal with mild winters and dry summers. During the summer, the temperatures are too high and there isn’t enough water for cyclamen to thrive.
So, to keep their bulbs alive, cyclamen lower their need for water by shedding their leaves. They can survive while lying dormant for several months until conditions are favorable for regrowth. Once temperatures are low again and there’s enough water, new leaves grow from the corm.
Generally, cyclamen blooms in the winter and goes dormant in the summer. Most species start their dormancy phase in April or later.
The specific month when cyclamen go dormant depends on two main factors:
- The species of your potted plant
- The surrounding temperature of the flowerpot
For the exact months when cyclamen goes dormant, you can check out this table detailing the dormancy and flowering periods for each cyclamen species.
To identify which species your potted plant belongs to, you can observe the appearance of your cyclamen’s petal size, shape, and color, as well as the patterns on its leaves. Then, compare your findings against pictures online.
When the temperature of your windowsill is above 70°F, your cyclamen starts going into its resting phase. This will happen mid to late spring, depending on the climate in your region.
Typically, cyclamen will stay dormant for 2-3 months. During this period, they shed their flowers and leaves and eliminate their need for water. Only the root part of the plant remains, which is a plump tuber and some hairy roots.
In mid-fall, cyclamen starts to come out of dormancy, marked by the growth of new leaves. This can happen anytime after August.
Dormancy in cyclamen typically looks like the plant is dying. The leaves would first turn yellow then brown and finally fall off completely. Sadly, many people toss their houseplant out at this point, even though it’s healthy.
To find out whether your cyclamen is dead or dormant, you first have to check your calendar. If it’s around spring to summer, your cyclamen will likely be dormant.
However, if your plant seems unhealthy in the colder months like January, it might be unhealthy. The reason is that cyclamen is supposed to bloom in the winter season.
Note that yellowing leaves could indicate rotting of the plant due to over-watering if this is happening outside of the usual dormancy months. If that’s the case, you should check out how to save it.
Next, take a look at the cyclamen bulb under the soil. You can do so by digging it out or brushing some of the soil off the surface. If the corm is plump and firm, then it’s hibernating. However, if it’s soft, mushy, or slimy, it means that it’s rotting (i.e., dead).
In addition to rotting, dead cyclamen can look completely dehydrated and raisiny. You can rehydrate a dried-out cyclamen bulb by moistening the soil surface around the plant. You should be careful not to add too much water though.
Caring for plants is like parenting your child; you support them in whatever makes them happy. For cyclamen, you need to observe how they behave when the weather gets warmer around spring.
If the leaves on your plant start yellowing, you should encourage it into dormancy by avoiding watering it and placing it in a warm and dark place. This will help your cyclamen to bloom better in the next winter.
Since dormancy depends on several environmental factors, your plant can retain its green leaves throughout spring and into the summer. If this is the case, there’s no need to force it into dormancy. You can continue watering it as usual and keep it happy wherever it is.
Once your cyclamen stops blooming, and even if its leaves haven’t started falling off, you should reduce the watering quantity gradually.
You can do this by reducing the duration of the bottom-up watering. Your plant will absorb less water during this time and the excess could cause it to rot.
In addition, you should remove the dead flowers and leaves from the flowerpot to guarantee the best health for your cyclamen.
Once your cyclamen is dormant, you should stop watering your plant completely. Watering your plant at this stage can spoil it.
If you haven’t already, move your sleeping cyclamen tuber to a darker place in your house. Your cyclamen resting location should be cool and dry as well. This is because too much humidity can result in grey mildew growing on the bulb.
If the dormant cyclamen still has leaves, you can put it in a place with no direct sunlight, and warmer than 50°F.
You can leave your cyclamen in its pot during dormancy but I would advise that you brush off some of the soil on the surface so you can check on its health occasionally.
Some florists suggest removing the tuber from the soil and storing it bare root while dormant.
Cyclamen plants come out of dormancy in the fall months. If your dormant cyclamen has made it this far, congratulations Mr/Ms Green Fingers!
When the outside temperatures drop in September, you can re-pot your cyclamen in fresh soil and watch it re-grow. You can also return to watering it regularly.
Growing and blooming cyclamen prefer to be placed in a well-lit area away from direct sunlight.
Similar to their natural habitat, potted cyclamen plants go dormant in the spring and summer. This period allows them to rest so they can re-bloom better in the next winter.
If you’re wondering whether your cyclamen is dead or dormant, here’s a table to quickly evaluate the condition of your cyclamen:
|It’s spring or summer
|It’s fall or winter
|The bulb is firm and plump
|The bulb is soft and slimy
During dormancy, you should stop watering your cyclamen tuber and store it in a cool, dark, and dry place. Once the weather is cold again, you can re-pot your cyclamen and water it using the bottom-up method.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.