We are big fans of the species cyclamen and C. purpurascens is starring as a garden plant. Astoundingly, this patch in the rockery flowers almost twelve months of the year and doesn’t go dormant. Most of the species cyclamen are from Southern Europe through to North Africa and are therefore used to distinct wet and dry seasons and often poor, stony conditions. C. purpurascens has a far wider distribution into Northern Europe where it is more of a woodland plant, often found growing naturally in beach forests.
It appears that we are quite lucky that our form of this cyclamen is good, clean cerise colour as it is sometimes found more in muddy pink shades but like most species, the colour can vary across the spectrum of pinks and very occasionally turning up in white.
C. purpurascens has typical heart shaped leaves, dark green mottled with silvery white markings. It grows from a round, flat tuber as do other cyclamen. Given its wonderful performance as a garden plant over several years here, the only downside is that it sets very little seed. This will be why you don’t see it around much. The common C. hederafolium sets seed freely and naturalises readily if given the chance whereas we have to be vigilant to spot the occasional seed on C. purpurascens. If you can find it, give the tuber cool, moist growing conditions which are rich in humus. Moist does not mean permanently wet – which may rot out the tuber. We have it growing on the shady side of the rockery.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.