Shades of winter

Cyclamen are a favourite flower both indoors and out.

Cyclamen are a favourite flower both indoors and out.

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You can tell when it’s autumn. There is no need to look out of the window, check the thermometer or admire the changing hues of the leaves. Just pop into your local garden centre and experience the explosion of colour as the cyclamen takes centre stage.

Whether small or large, single-toned or a vibrant array of colours, solo, in groups or arranged with other plants, every flowering plant has its own special style.

Which is where cyclamen come in, and right now they are being sold in their hundreds of thousands by garden centres and retail outlets.

These flowers are cold-weather classics and are related to primroses; thanks to modern achievements in growing, they also come in mini, midi and maxi sizes and an array of colours from magenta and red, to pink, white and violet.

The choice is enhanced by two-toned species and variants with fringed petals; some are even scented.

Cyclamen with leaves are heart-shaped and deep green with beautiful silvery marbled patterns, come from the mountain regions of the Mediterranean but now they’re quite at home in British homes. They like light, bright, airy areas; not too sunny or hot.

Cyclamen can tolerate cooler temperatures on patios, balconies and window boxes, their colours becoming even more intense, but you’ll need to bring them in during colder spells.

They flower from early September to the end of February (although it is possible to keep them blooming for most of the year). The unmistakable flowers are slightly bent back in a gentle curve like an upended skirt, and sit on top of long, slim stalks.

To prolong the flowering period, remove wilted cyclamen flowers and leaves from their pot with a firm ‘pull and twist’ movement.

In this way you can make room for new leaves and flowers and prevent the dying stems rotting the rest of the plant.

With watering and feeding, less is more. If the soil is too wet, the flat bulb-like tuber will start to rot. Don’t pour the water directly onto the compost; pour it into a dish or saucer, and half-an-hour later, pour away any water which is still left in the dish.

Cyclamen should only be watered when the compost in the pot no longer feels damp. Feed them every week while they are in bloom and cyclamen should repay you with lots of flowers.

And to make sure they are really happy, repot them annually.

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