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Why Is My Cyclamen Dying? (Dormancy or Disease)

Why Is My Cyclamen Dying? (Dormancy or Disease)

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The first time I got someone an indoor cyclamen as a winter gift, things didn’t go as well as I had planned.

At first, they were impressed with the petite flowers, the sweet scent, and the heart-shaped leaves. But a few months later, they rang me and asked for help; they thought the plant was dying.

I had to explain that while cyclamens aren’t unkillable, odds are, there was nothing to worry about since they’re perennials that go dormant naturally.

Still, they wanted me to come over to double-check that the plant wasn’t dying and show them how to get it to rebloom.

Perhaps your cyclamen is also in bad shape, and you’re wondering if you’ve killed it.

In this post, I’ll share with you insights about the plant’s life cycle so you can identify normal dormancy from serious diseases!

Cyclamen Life Cycle: When Does It Go Dormant?

Before you jump to the conclusion that your cyclamen is dying, let’s cover some basics about the plant’s dormancy patterns.

Do Cyclamen Plants Die Back in the Winter?

Nope! Cyclamens actually bloom in the winter.

In fact, if you ask commercial growers, they’ll likely tell you that they start planting cyclamens in the summer so they can sell them as winter blossoms the next year, almost 18 months later.

Here’s a breakdown of the timeline:

  1. Seeds are planted in the summer.
  2. Plants come into growth and sprout leaves in the fall.
  3. Flowers pop up around winter or early spring in the next year.
  4. Cyclamen wither before the summer as seed pods ripen and open up.
  5. New bloom season can start again, provided you care for the plant properly over the dormancy period (I’ll cover what you need to do later on).

Pro Tip: Pruning the dead leaves, flowers, and seed heads clean from the base can help extend the third phase and keep the cyclamen blooming longer!

Why Do Cyclamen Plants Die Back in the Summer?

Cyclamens don’t exactly “die” in the summer. It would be more accurate to say that they go dormant or enter a start of estivation—that’s Latin for “summer sleep.”

After all, cyclamens are tuber perennials that favor temperatures around 40–68°F.

When summer rolls around, and the air gets too hot and dry for the plants’ liking, they take a rest period.

That said, the dormancy date for indoor cyclamens can vary slightly from one house to another.

If it’s warm and toasty inside, the perennial withers away faster. Meanwhile, those of you who like leaving the AC on most of the time might notice that their plants take longer to go dormant.

What to Do With Your Cyclamen When It Dies off in the Summer?

Now you know it’s perfectly normal for cyclamen plants to go dormant as the weather gets hotter and drier. But what can you do about it?

Here are your options:

Approach #1: Wait Out the Dormancy

One common approach is to let the dormancy run its course.

You’ll wait for all the leaves to fade and drop off while cutting back on the water and fertilizer usage.

When your cyclamen plant is bare, you can move the pot outdoors. Look for somewhere cool, dry, and shady.

All you need to do at this point is keep the soil mostly dry.

Some folks in areas with heavy summer rainfall lay the pot on its side. This way, it won’t get all soaked up if it rains.

Anyway, the key here is to move it back indoors (next to a window) before the first frost. I’d recommend taking it back inside and starting watering again in the early fall.

If you do that, you should enjoy more blooming seasons. Just note that the plant might need repotting first.

Approach #2: Store the Tuber

It’s also possible to remove the tuber itself and store it for later.

Once the flowers are done blooming, you’ll start withholding water. After a while, the leaves should wither down, and you can dig the tuber out of the soil.

It should look a bit like a potato. Even though the foliage died, the tuber should be firm and plump.

Just take that tuber, transfer it into vermiculite, and then store it for 6–12 weeks at 50°F.

When the summer dormancy is over, prepare a pot of well-draining soil mixture. Then, transplant the tuber, positioning it so that half of it (the upper half, obviously) is above the surface.

Jump back to your normal watering schedule as soon as you notice new growth to get the plant to rebloom. A bit of low-nitrogen fertilizer won’t hurt!

Approach #3: Give Up on the Plant

If you’re not all that keen on keeping the plant for another year, you can throw it away or give it to a friend with green thumbs.

I know this sounds harsh, but for some people, this is the most convenient option.

It’s not entirely uncommon for gardeners in warm regions to grow cyclamens as winter annuals rather than perennials.

Worst-Case Scenario: Is Your Cyclamen Actually Dying?

While dormancy is normal, it’s not the only possible explanation behind fading leaves on a cyclamen.

Cyclamens aren’t super sensitive. Yet, some diseases could ruin them for good.

Here are a few common concerns:

  • Soft rot and fusarium infections can kill the plant before you can do anything about them.
  • Botrytis blight, leaf spot, and root rot can all compromise the plant.
  • Overwatering can turn the leaves yellow.
  • Splashing water on the stems and leaves can cause infections.
  • Cyclamens don’t tolerate frost.
  • Direct sunlight can burn the foliage.

All in all, I’d worry most about overwatering and rot-related diseases.

Now, you might be asking: But how will I ever be able to tell dormancy from actual disease?

Well, many pests can be identified by examining the leaves. However, the tuber itself is also a great indicator.

As I’ve mentioned, cyclamen corms remain plump and hard, even as they go into dormancy. So, if it’s all soft, slimy, or shriveled, your plant is suffering.

Plus, it’s easy to eliminate dormancy as the cause just by looking at the calendar.

Is it nearly summer? If not, then you’ll want to see what culprit is withering the leaves and tackle it head-on.

How to Revive Your Cyclamen (That’s Not Simply Dormant)

Have you eliminated dormancy as the cause behind the yellow, fading leaves? Then, your plant might be dying.

You could save it, though.

Sure, some infections, like fusarium and root rot, are hard to treat, and you’ll likely have to discard the plant. However, other problems have simple fixes.

Here are three tips to help you revive your cyclamen:

1 – Remove Excess Water

Overwatering is the most common culprit. Thankfully, it’s easy enough to tackle.

Start by dumping out any water in the plant saucer and the outer pot (if there’s one). Now, move the main pot to a sink and press down on the soil to “squeeze” the excess water out.

Next, pop the pot near direct sunlight for a while to dry up the moisture.

2 – Prune the Problematic Areas

If you notice a Botrytis cinerea infection (gray mold), your best bet is to remove the infected parts with one sharp tug. There isn’t a go-to chemical treatment, but the condition could be managed if you catch it early on.

It’s also safer to isolate the plant until it gets better.

Once the cyclamen is back in shape, take precautionary measures to prevent the mold from hitting the plant again. I’d recommend providing decent air circulation and avoiding splashing the leaves with water.

Note that these precautionary tips are also good for leaf spot infections.

If you suspect an aphid infestation, consider using insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils rather than removing the leaves altogether. For mealybugs, you could use cotton swabs with 70% rubbing alcohol.

3 – Relocate the Plant

Intense sunlight can both burn the leaves and stimulate a premature dormancy-like response.

Ideally, you want the cyclamen to get bright but indirect sunlight. Don’t forget to protect the cyclamen from heaters and vents, too!

If the plant still looks droopy, I’d take it out of the pot, give the tuber a good rinse, and repot it with fresh soil.

Final Thoughts

Long story short, I learned from my mistake.

Nowadays, whenever I give someone a pot of florists’ cyclamen, I make sure to tell them about the dormancy and how to handle it.

Fingers crossed, your cyclamen, too, isn’t dying but rather preparing for a summer nap!

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