Of all the winter-bloomnig greenhouse plants as well as a plant for a customer a well grown cyclamen takes the first rank. It is second to none. It is so pretty in leaf and beautiful in flower that few of our customers can resist buying one, and when to that is added its good qualities as a house plant it is worthy of our greatest care and attention. There are several species of cyclamen, but only one that is of importance to the florist. We often hear people from Central Europe (not gardeners), when they see the Cyclamen Persicum in our greenhouses, say that they grow wild in Europe, and they call them the Alp violet. It is Cyclamen Neapolitanum they have seen, a native of that continent. All the beautiful varieties we grow are from C. Persicum.
The writer can remember when these plants were coddled up, starved largely and kept from year to year. That day is past, and they are now rarely kept over, but are grown annually from seed.
There are many fine strains. If you will select each winter some of your best plants that have both fine, compact foliage and large, finely colored, stiff-stemmed flowers, and save seed from these, you will soon have a strain of your own as good as any. If in flower in mid-winter the seed will not be ripe till April or May, too late for next winter's crop. If you have to buy seeds don't look for the cheapest; only the best are inexpensive, and get the best you can hear of. Also if you raise a thousand or more plants buy the seed in colors.
Cyclamen in 10-inch Pot.
Sow from middle of September till New Year's; "the former date if you want them in flower in early winter. If not till February or March, then December will do.
Sow in light soil and press the seeds into the soil and then cover slightly.
Keep moderately moist and they will germinate in three or four weeks, but sometimes several weeks longer. When the small leaves are up you should give the pan or flat plenty of light in a temperature of about 55 degrees. When the little bulbs (as we will call them) are the size of a small pea they should be transplanted into pans of very light loam, sand and leaf-mold. In six to eight weeks they can go into 2 1/2-inch pots, or, what is just as good, be again transplanted into other flats of similar soil, and given more room. No definite time can be given for these transplant-ings or shiftings, for that depends upon when you sowed.
Beginners often ask how deep to put the little bulb when shifting. You can put the top of bulb even with surface of soil; the bulb will soon force itself to the surface. Cyclamen are free rooting plants, but by no means want over-potting; yet when the roots have filled the pots they should not be stunted, but should at once be given a shift. From the pans they will need a 3-inch pot and from 3-inch to 4-inch and finish with a 6-inch or 7-inch, or perhaps from 3-inch to a 5-inch, and the last shift into an 8-inch. This will depend on size and vigor of plant.
The question of soil best suited to the cyclamen is not so easy. There can be no doubt that high class cyclamen are grown in many different soils in many different parts of this country and Europe. We think a moderately firm loam sod that has had time to decay is the main thing in the proportion of two parts loam and two parts genuine leaf-mold and one part well rotted cow manure and sand. If me loam is sandy then omit the sand. We often speak of drainage, and with a cyclamen it is essential, especially after they are in 5-inch or over. I call good drainage for a 6-inch pot one inch of broken-up crocks covered with a piece of green wood moss, which does not decay like sphagnum.
Good plants are grown both ways. I am told that most of the expert growers of Europe use hotbeds largely, and doubtless many do here. A friend told me he saw in far-away Denmark the most wonderful plants of cyclamen, and they never saw, or rather felt, anything but a hotbed. There is no doubt that if you used hotbeds and watched the plants as a mother watches her infant, that larger plants could be grown in these miniature greenhouses than any other way, yet there must be no let-up to the incessant care, and therefore the one who does not make a specialty of this plant had better use the ordinary greenhouse bench, or, for the summer months, what is just as good - a coldframe. If a bench in a greenhouse then it should be a detached narrow house, so that a temporary shade can be applied on bright, hot days, and removed by 4 p. m. This shade can be in the form of lattice-work, a frame the size of an ordinary sash, say 6x3, and laths nailed on one inch apart, or nail some long strips of wood on the roof and have cheese-cloth on a round stick, which can be unrolled or rolled up as occasion requires. You may think of some better method. 1 consider a shade during the scorching hours a necessity, while shade in early morning and evening and on dull days is doubtless an injury. Now, a coldframe affords ample opportunity to easily do this shading, and whether on a bench or in the frame, plunge the plants in tobacco stems. Every bright morning the cyclamen should be lightly syringed.
If syringing is properly attended to the thrips and spider are seldom troublesome, but the aphis is a persistent enemy of this beautiful plant, getting down among the young leaves and flower buds. A faithful weekly fumigating must be followed up. With the pie dish and tobacco dust this is as easily done in a frame as in a greenhouse. I tried one winter an experiment on the best temperature to flower them; 45 degrees at night was too cool and 55 was too hot; 50 degrees seemed to be just right, opening the flowers fast enough without drawing them up. If once clean of aphis when brought into the house, a good plan is to stand every pot on an inverted 6-inch pot and place three or four inches of loose tobacco stems between the pots. This will keep down the fly, but it should be renewed every three or four weeks.
There is another enemy of the cyclamen of which too little is known. After the greatest promise and splendid plants are produced, this "mite" attacks the plants in October. The flowers come streaked and sadly off color, in fact useless. We have not heard of any specific remedy for this minute insect, and if it appears, throwing away the affected plants at once is generally advised. We think plenty of pure air, light and the frequent fumes of tobacco will go far toward keeping away this enemy. A severe check, such as neglect of watering, is at any time very bad for the cyclamen.
Plants are seldom carried over the second year. If you wish to, lessen the supply of water after the flowers are gone and keep cool till May, when the pots can be placed outside; in July shake off the old soil and start growing in smaller pots and shift again as required. Old plants, if well managed, give an enormous lot of flowers that are usually not so fine as those on the year-old plants, and the plants are not so perfect. If a plant can in fifteen months be grown in an 8-inch pot, the foliage fifteen to eighteen inches across, with 100 fine flowers, what better is needed
Cyclamen Grandiflora Fimbriantum.
In Europe they use the soot of bituminous coal as an ingredient of the compost; it adds to the size and color of the leaves. A liquid application of nitrate of soda would possibly have a similar result.
The crested and so-called double forms are curious, but no improvement in beauty over the older forms. The double is in fact a monstrosity without beauty.
The colors range from deepest crimson to purest white and in many the colors are finely blended.
Finally, what is true of most soft-wooded plants is more particularly true in the cultivation of the cyclamen; they should have no check, no setback of any kind from the time the seed germinates till they are in bloom, but should be continually growing.