HARDY CYCLAMEN - Bill Bischoff shares his passion

Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:20 -- Vancouver

(An excerpt from a Vancouver Chapter General Meeting lecture, January 2011)

Bill Bischoff is a passionate plants person who with his wife Carla has created a garden of visual delight with their enviable collection of hardy Cyclamen in Surrey B.C.   Bill and Carla have won many awards; their plant expertise furthers their hobby.

Bill explained that Cyclamen, several of which bloom from mid to the end of January, do not matt down in winter like other plants.  Related to Primulaceae, there are at least 16 hardy species in the lower mainland, all are dormant in summer except C. purpurcens. Cyclamen have been cultivated since ancient times and many are named with geographical locations such as africanum, creticum (Crete) and libanaticum (Lebanon).

Three seasons of bloom are possible with the different species.  Bill noted he had found Cyclamen tolerate the acidity under Rhododendrons by top dressing with a small amount of crushed oyster shell, which contains magnesium, about 1 tbsp per plant every 2-3 years.  Seeds are distributed by ants and wasps, which love the sticky sugar like coating protecting the seed.  Seeds can take up to 3 years to germinate and seeds ordered from a seed house need to be put in the fridge before planting.  Bill advised grocery store Cyclamen can be planted out in summer shade but are not hardy and are very attractive to munching insects.

  • C. coum bloom mid January to late March and can withstand temperatures to -40 f. Some plants have 30-40 flowers per head.  Coum are self fertile and just 4-5 years can give you a mass planting.  They are a very good rockery plant and also look stunning with Galanthus!
  • C. alpinum bloom from March to June, not as much pattern in the leaf as coum, the petals look a bit like a boat propeller.
  • C. repandum bloom from March to June then lay dormant for 6 months.  This species likes shade and is very elegant with long petals.  Growing from seed is a good choice
  • C. purpurascens have leaves all season and blooms all year, it likes a bit of shade and is not self fertile but scented to call insects.
  • C. hederifolium (ivy leaved) blooms September to November and often has flowers without leaves.

Bill commented that generally you cannot tell by a leaf what color flower you will get. He uses timed-release fertilizer in pots only: Orchid fertilizer is a good, but “not in nature” as he believes Cyclamen prefer a lean soil.  Cyclamen like to grow near bigger plants but they do not like to be disturbed so do not cultivate.

  • C. cilicium, named after a type of rock, bloom up to Christmas and have a roundish leaf with flowers which stand well above. Good as potted plants in a deep pot
  • C. parviflorum, a small plant, has no leaf pattern and is suitable in a rockery or a pot.
  • C. mirabile, also a good potted plant has bigger feathered petals and nice patterned leaves
  • C. elegans, related to C. coum, blooms in the fall
  • C. pseudibericum has a lovely flower

Bill reminded the group all parts of the Cyclamen are slightly poisonous. In earlier times the plant was used in medicine as an aphrodisiac but it was found to be bad for the kidneys and Bill jokingly advised: “..so you have to  make your choice!”

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