This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol2", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
This is much better known in gardens as C. persicum, or the Persian Cyclamen. It has been in cultivation for nearly two hundred years, and in that time vast improvements have been made by selection and cross-fertilization. The Persian Cyclamen, as we will still call it, is universally popular, and great displays of it are made every winter and spring at exhibitions by firms who make a speciality of producing seed of the finest strains.
As a market plant large numbers are grown every year, as the prices ranging from 9s. to 18s. per dozen for well-grown plants still make it a fairly remunerative crop. These prices, however, are somewhat lower than used to be realized some years ago. Although a perennial plant, and capable of flowering annually for many years in succession, market growers prefer to raise their plants from seed every year. Indeed there is no other course open to them, as they are anxious to dispose of all they grow each year.
The seeds are generally sown in July and August, and, as they germinate somewhat irregularly, it is possible to have plants flowering in succession the following year from one and the same sowing. Some growers sow the seed in October and early November, and make another sowing in January or February, in this way making quite sure of a successional crop.
Pots or shallow pans are used, and care is taken to drain them well with plenty of clean broken crocks at the bottom. The compost used is a mixture of rich turfy loam and well-rotted leaf mould in about equal proportions, to which a liberal supply of coarse silver sand is added to secure porosity and ventilation. The pots or pans are filled up to within ¾ in. of the top, the soil being pressed down firmly and made level. The hard grain-like seeds are then placed about 1 in. apart, and afterwards covered with the fine sifted gritty compost, about ¼ in. deep. Some growers make up the seed pots first, and afterwards dibble the seeds in. In any case, after sowing, the soil should be gently watered with a fine-rosed can, and covered with a sheet of paper, piece of glass, or a little coconut fibre to keep the surface cool and moist.
1. Sutton's Superb Fringed. 2. Sutton's Giant Rose Pink. 3. Crimson White. 4. Salmon Pink. 5. Vulcan. 6. Sutton's Giant Crimson. 7. Giant White. 8. Giant Purple.
When the seeds are sown in October and November the minimum night temperature should not sink below 45° F., and the seed pots may be placed in a cold frame for two or three weeks, after which they may be transferred to a greenhouse having a night temperature of 55° F. The sowings in January and February may be made in a temperature of 60° F.
As germination takes place, and one young leaf after another makes its appearance, the seed pots should be placed on shelves as near the light as possible, and the coverings of glass or paper should be removed. Good sturdy growth will thus be encouraged, and with careful and judicious watering and sprinkling overhead the young plants will be fit for pricking out in a few weeks.
When the plants are large enough to handle easily, and the young tubers begin to swell, that is the best time to transfer from the seed pots, and give the seedlings more air, space, and light. Each little plant may be placed by itself in a small pot 1 to 2 in. in diameter; or ten or twelve may be pricked out into a 5-in. (48) pot. The compost should be rich, turfy loam and leaf mould in equal proportions, with a fair sprinkling of coarse silver sand, the whole being passed through a sieve with a ¼-in. mesh.
Care must be taken not to bury the seedlings too deeply in the soil in case the young growths are crippled. It will be sufficient if the base of the leaf stalks is flush with the surface of the soil. In a temperature of 65° to 70° F. the young plants grow freely, and make plenty of roots. When first disturbed they must be shaded from strong sunshine, and care must be given to watering and sprinkling overhead.
As soon as the little pots are full of roots, or the plants are getting too close together, they must be repotted. Each one is then placed in a 3-in. or 3½-in. pot, using a similar compost as described. In due course, with proper attention to shading, watering, sprinkling, and ventilation, these pots become full of roots, and the plants will then be ready for the final potting. Most of them will be fit for 5-in. pots (or 48's), but some of the larger and more sturdy specimens may be placed in 6-in. pots (32's).
This final potting will take place from June to August and September, according to the development of the plants, and as they are desired to bloom in succession. The soil to be used should be the same as before, namely, rich, turfy loam and well-decayed leaf mould in equal proportions, with somewhat less silver sand. A little well-rotted cow manure may also be added on this occasion, and if the heap of compost has some basic slag sprinkled over it and well mixed in, it will produce excellent results, as it contains lime and phosphates, both valuable and slow-acting Cyclamen foods.
As on previous occasions, the plants after the final potting must be shaded from strong sunshine until they have recovered from the disturbance. Afterwards plenty of air and diffused light may be given. The watering must always be carefully attended to, as too much or too little has an injurious effect on the plants. Gentle sprinklings of the foliage in the mornings and late afternoons are also beneficial. As strong sunlight produces a yellowish tint on the leaves it should be avoided, and the plants during the summer months should be placed in frames, or houses facing any point between the north-east and north-west. They should be as near the glass as possible, and the pots should be stood on beds or stages covered with moist pebbles or finely broken coke or clinkers. By September plants grown outside in frames should be brought into the greenhouse and placed as near the glass as possible, by standing them on inverted pots or on shelves or stages fixed up for the purpose.
About six or eight weeks before bloom is expected the plants may be "fed" with a little weak liquid manure two or three times weekly. Half a bushel of soot, ½ bus. of cow manure, and 2 or 3 lb. guano put into a bag and sunk in a tub of water will make a good liquid manure, \ pint of which to 1 gal. of clear water will be sufficient. Once the plants are in blossom the temperature should not be kept too high; from 45° F. at night to 55° F. by day will suit them perfectly. Very little water is required at this period, and great care must be taken to keep the atmosphere in a dryish state, although a humid atmosphere is essential during rapid growth. Grown in the way indicated it is possible to have the Persian Cyclamen in bloom within twelve months of the date of sowing the seed, and the tubers will be from 2 to 3 in. in diameter, and carry from 40 to 60 flowers, and even more in special cases.
As to insect pests, the worst of these are Red Spider, thrips, and greenfly. The first named generally appears when the atmosphere is too dry; consequently the best antidote to it is to keep the air in a cool and fairly moist condition. The other pests may be kept in check by syringing the young plants with any of the recognized quassia, soft-soap, and nicotine washes. Where the glass is in good condition, however, and the houses and frames can be kept close, it will be found best to vaporize as soon as the pests first appear.
The cost of growing Cyclamen is perhaps greater than with other classes of pot plants. Taking 1000 as a unit, the cost for pots, soil, and labour may be put down at £20, but where several thousands are grown the cost would be much less - although pots and soil are always expensive items. Then a certain amount must be allowed for market expenses, freight charges, coal and coke, insecticides, rent, etc, so that a gross return of 12s. to 18s. per dozen is by no means excessive. [J. M].