Cyclamen plants offer tremendous value for money. These are terrific for outdoor or indoor gardening on a budget.
Every flower produces a seed pod and each of those can give you up to a dozen seeds, of which can grow new plants. Cyclamen propagation of mature outdoor species is even simpler as you only need to divide the bulb. A knife is all you need!
The trouble is, it takes a year for these to grow from seed; two years to flower. And if you’ve never collected the seeds for propagation before, you may not know that they’re coated in a growth inhibitor.
Without washing that off before potting the seeds up, nothing will happen. Imagine waiting a year before suspecting something wasn’t right!
Cyclamen Propagation By Seeds or Division: Which Is Best?
If your existing plant has roots and no bulb, it’s a tender cyclamen. Propagation can only be done by seed on these varieties. These are limited to growing indoors as they won’t hold up to the cold temperatures of winter nor the scorching heat of summer.
Hardy cyclamens are the varieties suited to outdoor growing and those have bulbs. The more mature the bulb, the bigger it’ll be, so the more plants you’ll get from it. You can propagate these by division or collect the seeds and use those. Division is easier.
The Best Time to Propagate Cyclamen
Cyclamen propagation is best done in the late spring, early summer, soon after it’s finished blooming. As each spent flower dies back, the flower-stalk recoils and forms a seed pod. With time, the pods swell up then bursts open when it’s ripe, dispersing the seeds.
In that respect, these are self-seeding plants. In the wild, the rain would wash the sticky coating off them, or ants would feed on it, leaving the seed on the soil without the hormone coating it. The sticky substance is similar to that of the honeydew excreted by sap-sucking pests like aphids and the like.
For that reason, the ideal time to collect the seeds is before the seed pod cracks open when insects are likely to pinch them.
Inside each seed pod will be between 6 to 12 seeds. When the seeds are ripe, the pod will feel squishy and won’t take much pressure to split it open. To open the pod, place it between your thumb and forefinger and give it a really light press.
If it feels squishy, it’s ripe. If it feels hard, leave it until the pod swells some more and softens. Harvesting the seeds before they are ripe is unlikely to successfully germinate.
How to Prepare Cyclamen Seeds So They Will Germinate
When you first open the seed pod, you’ll notice the seeds are orange. There is a sticky substance covering the seed, and it acts as germination inhibitor. As the coating is sticky, it takes a good soaking to wash it off the seeds.
Put some water in a glass or a tray, add a tiny amount of dish detergent and drop the seeds in it. Leave it there for 24 hours, then use a sieve to rinse the seeds using fresh water.
It’s important to pot these up soon after hydrating as the seeds dry out fast.
Potting Up Cyclamen Seeds
For potting up the seeds, use a 50/50 mix of loam-based compost and sand or if you’re using regular potting mix, add some sphagnum peat in with it to raise the pH slightly. Whether you use a seed starting mix vs potting soil won’t make much difference. The importance is the soil acidity and for it to have good drainage as these are super susceptible to root rot.
Cyclamen can grow in soil with a pH of 5.0, but preferably, when growing from seed, it’s better to be around 6.0.
Prepare your potting soil and fill a seed starter tray to near the top then give it a good watering. Drop your seeds onto it then lightly cover the seeds with a fine dusting of the potting mix then wet it again.
These are slow to grow from seed and will need a year before they get going. During that time, just keep the soil moist so that the seeds remain hydrated. After around a year, they’ll start putting out new leaves, which is when to plant them where you want to keep them.
To transplant cyclamen from their starter tray to a pot, use a fork to get under the roots and gently prise it out of the tray. Fill a pot about two-thirds with the potting soil, plant your cyclamen in then backfill with potting soil to fill the pot, then add water.
Once you’ve transplanted the baby plant into its new pot, keep an eye on it for the first week to two weeks looking for signs of the cyclamen wilting, which is the earliest signs of root problems.
Once transplanted, cyclamen care is straightforward. Cool temps, moderate light, and moist soil. That’s the three rules to remember.
The following year is when they’ll flower. At that point, the cycle repeats and you can use the same process to propagate your new cyclamen plants from seed all over again.
Cyclamen Propagation By Division
Only hardy types have bulbs that can be divided. For the tender types, which are the indoor variety, the base is more roots with no substance. There won’t be much to divide.
You can still grow these as potted indoor plants. Just because they’re hardy, doesn’t mean you need to put them in the garden.
For hardy cyclamens, the easiest way to get more from it is by dividing it. This is as straightforward as digging the tuber out of the ground and dividing it into pieces.
Each division of the tuber needs to have one nub or eye. These are similar to the eyes that appear on potatoes just before sprouts shoot out.
The bigger the tuber, the more divisions you’ll get. Usually, two to three plants can be propagated from a mature cyclamen plant.
To cut it, use a clean and sterilized knife to cut it into sections making sure that each bulb section has at least one eye or nub.
These develop shallow roots so they only need planted to a depth of about 5 cm. When planting, be sure to plant this the right side up.
The top of a cyclamen tuber will have a protrusion with a slightly pink eye on it. This is where new growth emerges. The bottom of it will have stringy brown roots that are also difficult to see, but you will can feel the texture. The topside is smoother.
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.