Cyclamen Plant Care: How To Grow Persian Violet (Sow Bread)

Cyclamen (SY-kla-men), is a flowering herbaceous perennial belonging to the genus Cyclamen and from the primrose family, Primulaceae.

This perennial flowering bulb is native to regions of the Mediterranean, Middle East, South Europe, and North Africa. It generally thrives in deciduous woodlands, alpine meadows, rocky areas, and scrublands. 

Blooming Potted Cyclamen Plant

Cyclamen is well-known for its swept-back curved petals and dark green heart or kidney-shaped leaves with intricate patterns.

The genus name Cyclamen was derived from the Latin word “cyclamnos” and the Greek word “kylos,” which both means wheel or circle and refers to the round or circular shape of the tubers. 

This tuberous perennial is widely cultivated as outdoor and indoor houseplants with over 20 species.

The different cyclamen varieties are the following:

  • Cyclamen Africanum
  • Cyclamen Alpinum
  • Cyclamen Balearicum
  • Cyclamen Cilicium
  • Cyclamen Coum
  • Cyclamen Creticum
  • Cyclamen Cyprium
  • Cyclamen Elegans
  • Cyclamen Graecum
  • Cyclamen Hederifolium
  • Cyclamen Intaminatum
  • Cyclamen Libanoticum
  • Cyclamen Mirabile
  • Cyclamen Parviflorum
  • Cyclamen Persicum
  • Cyclamen Pseudibericum
  • Cyclamen Purpurascens
  • Cyclamen Repandum
  • Cyclamen Rohlfsianum
  • Cyclamen Rhodium

Cyclamen persicum, Cyclamen hederifolium, and Cyclamen coum are the most popular ones among the species. 

Cyclamen also goes by several common names, including:

  • Alpine Violet
  • Persian Violet
  • Sowbread
  • Swinebread
  • Woodland Cyclamen

The common English name sowbread or swinebread refers to the plant’s tubers that are usually dug and eaten by pigs.

Quick Facts On Cyclamen

  • Family: Primulaceae
  • Light: Bright, filtered sunlight
  • Temperature: 50° to 70° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Water: Well-drained, humus-rich soil
  • Fertilizer: Balanced fertilizer 10-10-10 or Liquid fertilizer
  • Propagation: Through lifting and dividing tubers or seeds
  • Common Problems: Bacterial soft rot, leaf spot, and Botrytis blight

Cyclamen Plant Care

How Big Do Cyclamen Plants Grow?

The mini cyclamen plant grows up to 6″ to 9″ inches tall with a spread of 5″ to 8″ inches wide, while common cyclamen grows up to 6″ to 16″ inches tall.

When Does Cyclamen Flower? Are The Flowers Fragrant?

The Cyclamen plant features 4 to 5 twisted or upswept petals in whorls that form delicate butterfly-like flowers with a diameter of 1” to 3″ inches wide.

Some cyclamen varieties feature ruffled or reflexed petals, which may be in colors of pink, red, salmon, magenta, violet, white, or bicolor. 

Each delicate flower sits atop long, slender, leafless flower stalks that stand 8″ to 10″ inches tall. 

The flower stalks emerge from a cluster of foliage of alternate kidney or heart-shaped leaves, commonly dark green, with variegation and feature intricate patterns in shades of green, white, or silver. 

The flowering period of a cyclamen plant begins from fall to late spring, depending on the species.

Other species like Cyclamen hederifolium and Cyclamen purpurascens bloom in summer and fall, while Cyclamen coum and Cyclamen persicum bloom in winter. 

In addition, these perennial flowering plants bloom for 3 months with a sweet, floral scent, stay dormant in summer, and reblooms in the fall next year.

What Are The Lighting Needs And Temperature Requirements?

Cyclamen plants grow best in bright filtered or indirect sunlight light, especially during the growing season. 

They don’t like extreme heat, dry air, or drafts and are more likely to go to early dormancy in high temperatures.

The ideal temperatures for cyclamen plants range from 60° to 70º degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime and do best in temperatures between 40° to 50° degrees Fahrenheit at nighttime.

Maintaining moderate to high humidity is also recommended for cyclamen plants, especially in winter.

To increase humidity, it’s best to place your cyclamen plants in pots on a tray filled with water and pebbles for air circulation.

But make sure that the pot won’t touch the water continuously to prevent root rot.

How And When To Water And Fertilize Cyclamen?

Cyclamen plants require low to moderate watering during the growing season.

It’s best to water them thoroughly, about an inch below the surface, when the soil surface feels and looks dry. 

Ensure to avoid watering the crown or the part where the stem and roots meet, as well as the plant’s leaves, because it may cause root rot. 

A good watering method is to place the pot on a tray filled with water or in tepid water and allow the plant to soak up water and moisture. 

Generally, it’s best to fertilize cyclamen plants every 3 to 4 weeks using balanced fertilizer 10-10-10 or liquid fertilizer during their growing and blooming season.

What Is The Best Soil For Cyclamen, And When Should You Transplant?

Cyclamen plants are best planted in organically rich or fertile soil with good drainage and neutral to slightly acidic soil PH between 6.0 and 7.0.

An amended soil or a high-quality potting mix of peat moss, perlite, bark, and other organic matter with loam (silt) soil texture should do nicely.

These perennial flowering bulbs are easy to plant. When repotting your cyclamen plants, you need to do this every two years while the plant is dormant in summer.

Follow these steps:

  • Use a fresh potting mix and a well-draining pot that allows an inch of space for the tuber.
  • Fill the selected pot with the potting soil.
  • Lift the tuber from the old container and brush of the soil.
  • Try not to disturb the roots.
  • Dig a hole and place the tuber in the new container with its top poking slightly out of the potting soil (about 2″ inches). 
  • Place the pots in a shady or cool spot.  
  • Start watering the tubers around September.

Does Cyclamen Need Special Grooming Or Maintenance?

Deadhead the cyclamen plants by removing spent flowers, damaged or dead foliage or yellow leaves to encourage reblooming.

You may also remove the damaged flowers by tugging or pulling them away gently to prevent the tuber from becoming rotten.

How To Propagate Persian Violet?

You may propagate Persian violet plants through different methods, including:

  • Seeds
  • Lifting and dividing tubers

Follow these steps to ensure proper propagation process:

  • Remember that it’s best to divide the tubers during their dormant period. 
  • Remove the tuber from the pot or container during the fall.
  • Cut the tubers into several pieces using sterilized equipment to prevent rotting.
  • Root the tubers for the upcoming blooming season. 

If you’re going to propagate Persian violet plants through seeds, do the following:

  • Sow the seeds as soon as it ripens from the end of the stems, usually in late summer through fall.
  • Before sowing, soak the seeds for 10 to 12 hours to soften the seed coat. 
  • Ensure that the cyclamen seeds stay fresh.
  • After sowing, put the seeds in shallow pans or trays with compost, spacing them evenly.
  • Cover the seeds with horticultural grit, compost, or fine vermiculite for about 1 cm. 
  • Keep the temperature at 70° degrees Fahrenheit to encourage germination, usually taking up to 30 to 60 days. 
  • Leave the containers in a cool or shady place.

Sowbread Plant Pests And Disease Problems

Indoor sowbread plants are susceptible to pests, including:

  • Aphids
  • Vine weevils
  • Mealybugs
  • Thrips
  • Cyclamen mites
  • Spider mites
  • Nematodes
  • Leaf roller

Using basic organic insecticide or insecticidal soap will help eliminate these pests and prevent further infestation.

But it’s best to discard the sowbread plants infested with cyclamen mites instead as they are difficult to control. 

In addition, sowbread plants are relatively problem-free, but they may occasionally contract diseases, such as:

  • Bacterial soft rot
  • Leaf spot
  • Botrytis blight
  • Cyclamen grey
  • Tuber rot (when overwatered)
  • Fusarium wilt

To prevent these, keep an eye for the following symptoms:

  • Leaves turning yellow with brown patches
  • Dying blooms

Uses Of Sowbread Plant

Sowbread plants are widely grown used as indoor and outdoor houseplants. 

They are also popular plants marketed for indoor displays and potted plants for the holiday season, such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day, because of their delicate, beautiful blossoms and heart-shaped leaves.

In addition, the sowbread tubers are traditionally used to produce soaps from the native growing regions. 

However, sowbread plants are relatively toxic to humans and animals, such as dogs, cats, and horses, as they contain saponins in the tuber or roots, which can cause mild to severe symptoms.

If ingested or chewed, it may result in the following:

  • Drooling or salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Poisoning