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12 Interesting Facts About Cyclamen

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Cyclamen are beautiful flowering plants that have captivated gardeners and plant lovers for centuries. Often grown indoors, cyclamen feature delicate flowers in shades of red, pink, white, and purple. Beyond their good looks, cyclamen have some fascinating traits that make them unique in the plant world.

Here are 12 interesting facts about these charming bloomers:


Cyclamen are members of the Primulaceae family of plants, which also includes popular houseplants like primroses and African violets. There are over 20 species of cyclamen, with countless cultivated varieties available.

Cyclamen are native to the Mediterranean region and parts of Africa and Europe. They thrive in cool, humid environments and often go dormant in the hot summer months. Here are some of the most intriguing things that set cyclamen apart:

1. They Grow Upside-Down

One of the most unusual things about cyclamen is that they grow upside-down! Unlike most plants that send their roots down into the soil, cyclamen tubers grow upwards, with the leaves and flowers emerging from the top.

The tuber starts growing towards the soil surface until the sprout emerges. When repotting cyclamen, the tuber is placed with the top side facing up. This unique and beautiful growth habit adds to the visual interest of cyclamen.

2. Fragrant Flowers

Many cyclamen varieties produce delicately fragrant blooms in hues of white, red, purple and pink. Some of the most popular scented types include C. purpurascens and C. hederifolium, which can perfume an entire room when in full bloom.

The dainty blooms have an elegant, sweet and slightly spicy aroma that has been prized since Victorian times. Scented cyclamen varieties make exceptional houseplants or gifts.

Flowers XVII: Cyclamen
Flowers XVII: Cyclamen by W i l l a r d is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 .

3. Butterfly-Shaped Flowers

Cyclamen get their name from the Greek word “kyklos,” meaning circle. This refers to the round, butterfly-like shape of their blooms.

The five petals of a cyclamen flower are reflexed, meaning they turn backward. This gives the blossoms a unique winged appearance resembling colorful butterflies dancing atop the plant.

4. Flower Colors Have Meaning

Beyond beauty, the color of cyclamen blooms also carries symbolic meaning:

  • White flowers represent happiness and innocence
  • Purple blooms signify passion and spirituality
  • Red symbolizes deep love and affection
  • Pink conveys joyfulness, youthfulness, and kindness

So the color you choose may reflect a specific emotion or meaning you want to convey.

5. Foliage Has Silver Markings

Cyclamen leaves are just as showy as the flowers. They emerge directly from the tuber, displaying intricate silver markings, dots, and swirls. Leaves can be rounded or heart-shaped, sometimes with scalloped or ruffled edges.

The foliage is a study in nature’s artistry, with no two plants having exactly the same pattern. As the flowers fade, the leaves take center stage.

6. Ideal Houseplant

Cyclamen make exceptional indoor flowering plants that can bloom from late winter into spring. They prefer the cool temperatures of most homes over hot and dry heat. Filtered light keeps them happily blooming.

Once flowering finishes, ease back on watering to allow the plant to go dormant. After a summer rest, it will re-bloom the next winter. Making cyclamen an ideal recurring houseplant.

7. Unique Seed Pods

After the petals fall away, cyclamen produce equally decorative spiraled seed pods that twist and curl as they dry. The captivating pods split open as the seeds ripen.

If planting seeds to propagate cyclamen, sow them as soon as the pods open for the highest germination rate. Or save them to plant the following autumn. Just don’t throw away those fascinating spirals once the flowers are gone!

8. Poisonous If Ingested

While cyclamen make cheerful flowering houseplants, they do come with some cautions. The tubers and leaves contain toxins that can cause unpleasant symptoms if eaten by pets or children.

Ingesting cyclamen can lead to mouth irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea. So they are best kept out of reach of curious little ones and pets who may try to sample a tasty leaf. Handle tubers carefully and wash hands after.

9. Long-lived Tubers

The tuber of a cyclamen is actually a specialized stem structure designed to store energy and nutrients. It continues growing larger each year, allowing mature plants to reach 10 inches across or more.

As long as the tuber remains healthy, cyclamen can live for many years. Some treasured household specimens are passed down through generations as beloved heirlooms.

10. Hardy Outdoor Growers

While we often associate cyclamen with indoor growing, many species also thrive outdoors. Hardy cyclamen varieties can be planted in gardens and containers where they grow lushly fed by natural rains and soil nutrition.

Hardy types enter dormancy in summer and reemerge in autumn to flower through winter and early spring. Protect tubers from excess moisture during dormancy for best results.

11. Unique Pollination Adaptations

Like many flowering plants, cyclamen rely on pollinators like bees and butterflies for fertilization. But their upside-down blooms posed an evolutionary challenge. How would pollinators reach the nectar?

The ingenious solution lies in the stamens. As buds emerge, the stamens start out bent upwards behind the petals. Then at the flower opens, the stamens straighten and twist downwards, ideally placing pollen right onto the pollinator!

12. Once Used for Cheese

Here’s an unusual bit of cyclamen history: in parts of Europe, cyclamen tubers were once used to curdle milk for cheesemaking. The natural acids in the tubers cause milk proteins to separate into soft curds and liquid whey.

While most often appreciated for ornamental qualities today, cyclamen have provided sustenance and utility to people for many centuries. Truly a plant for all seasons!


From dainty butterflies to curious corkscrews, cyclamen showcase diversity in form and function. These charming plants have graced windowsills and gardens for generations, always enchanting us with new blooms.

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about what makes cyclamen so special. Whether you’re an experienced gardener or new to indoor plants, there’s sure to be a cyclamen variety that fits perfectly into your space. Just don’t be surprised if visitors keep asking about your beautiful “upside-down” flowering houseplant!

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