As early as January the first flowers on Cyclamen hederifolium start to appear on parched soils, though they are just coming into their own now. Some of you may know C. hederifolium by its earlier name of neapolitanum. It is the easiest of the dainty species to grow with one of the longer flowering seasons. The heart-shaped leaves, usually mottled and marked with silver, appear towards the end of flowering and make an attractive ground cover through until early summer.
Hederifolium comes in a range of pinks from light to mid, as well as in pure white. It hails from southern Europe through to Turkey and grows in hard, poor conditions, tolerating both heat and cold. What it doesn’t want is wet ground. We use it in open sun to semi shaded woodland margins where drainage is good.
Cyclamen grow from tubers which can develop to large, flat discs. Over the years, some of ours have reached up to 20cm or more across.
If you can’t find C hederifolium for sale, it is easy to grow from fresh seed and gently seeds down in the garden. If you know of somebody who already has it, the seed forms later in the year as a fleshy capsule at the end of a corkscrew stem. The secret is to sow it immediately and not try and store it.
The species cyclamen have a gentle charm which I personally find lacking in the big flowered hybrids which are sold as house plants. However most of those will survive as garden plants and live on if you find a suitable spot where they won’t get outcompeted by overhanging plants.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.