University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Spring News Article


CINERARIA, CALCEOLARIA, AND CYCLAMEN


Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
 
Looking for a little early color indoors this spring, or perhaps something more unusual to give to a favorite friend? Try a cineraria, calceolaria, or cyclamen. All are unusual, festive, and available at many garden centers, florists, and even some groceries and large retailers.
           
The cineraria has conspicuous daisy-like flowers, about two to three inches across, held above large, dark green foliage. Flower colors include red, pink, white, blue, and bi-colors. These potted annuals like bright light and cool temperatures--45 degrees F at night, 55 degrees F during the day. Keep the soil consistently moist--but not waterlogged--to prolong bloom. Cineraria are difficult to flower a second time so should be discarded after bloom.
           
Calceolaria, also known as the pouch or pocketbook flower, has red, yellow, and bronze-colored pouch-like flowers held above pale green leaves. Some varieties have bi-colored blooms. Others produce small, spotted blooms. This plant requires bright, filtered light; cool temperatures; and consistent soil moisture for continued bloom. Again, keep soil moist but never overwater. It is better to have the soil too dry than too wet. Like the cineraria, calceolaria is an annual, so discard after flowering.
           
Cyclamen are by far the more common of these three indoor flowering plants.   They have variegated gray-green elliptical leaves and large, colorful blossoms like waxy butterflies held on stalks above the foliage.  Depending on the variety, cyclamen produce purple, pink, red, salmon, or white flowers.  With cyclamen, you may find the traditional large ones about 8 to 12 inches high, and the same wide. Miniature (often just called mini) cyclamen are about half that size. 
           
This cool temperature plant needs plenty of sunlight, even watering, and nighttime temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees F for long flowering. Poor light or temperatures that are too warm will cause leaves to yellow and drop and buds to fail to open.  If stems start to rot at the base, and you see a fuzzy gray growth there (botrytis disease), plants are staying too wet and need more air circulation.
           
Unlike the other two plants, cyclamen can be held over successfully if the right conditions are provided.  When the flowers fade, gradually decrease watering.  Leaves may mostly, even totally, die back just leaving the "corm" storage structure and roots.  The pot can then be placed indoors in a dark location, or outdoors in summer where it won't get watered.  Early fall, gradually increase watering as new growth occurs.  Fertilize then as you would other houseplants.
            
What we know as florist's cyclamen (compared to their more hardy outdoor perennial relatives) date back to the eighteenth century, and they were popular in Victorian homes and conservatories. The plant in general, however, has been traced back to the time of ancient Greeks.
           
When buying any of these or other flowering potted plants, look for a plant with many buds about to open, rather than one in full bloom.  For cyclamen, look down inside under the leaves for many healthy stalks with flower buds.  Check flowers, buds, and undersides of leaves for signs of insects and disease. Wrap the plant well for its trip home from the store as cold can harm these sensitive plants. Most places will provide paper bags or sleeves for protection.   

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages, Articles uvmext logo