Cyclamen grows beautifully on north-facing windowsill
Cyclamen plants will continue to bloom for a few weeks if they are kept in a north-facing window in a cool room (55 to 60 degrees) and watered enough to keep the soil evenly moist but never soggy.
Avoid splashing the crown of the plant or the foliage as this might promote mold.
Remove fading flowers and their stems as needed. Most gardeners find it too difficult to force the plant to bloom again the following season. Those willing to take the challenge should follow these suggestions:
As foliage and flowers begin to fade, withhold water. Remove all dead foliage from the tuber, clean off the soil and store the tuber in peat moss or vermiculite in a dark, cool (50 degrees) spot for its dormant period.
Later in spring or early summer, check the tuber for new growth. As soon as growth begins, repot the tuber with its top half exposed and bottom half buried in fresh soilless mix.
Resume normal watering and fertilize with a dilute 10-10-10 or 15-15-15 fertilizer mix twice a month.
Cyclamen benefits from summers spent outside in a protected spot in the garden where it receives morning sun. Bring the plant indoors before there is a frost in fall.
• Protect houseplants from cold temperatures when purchasing them in the winter. Most garden centers wrap plants to protect them from cold temperatures, but if they don't suggest it, be sure to ask them to wrap the plants for you. Wrapping the plants also protects them from breaking.
Be sure the plants are placed in a stable location on the car ride home. When transporting plants, the car should be warm, especially if outdoor temperatures are below freezing. Plants should never be transported in a cold trunk or allowed to sit in a cold car for any length of time.
To unwrap the plant, set it on a stable surface and carefully tear or cut the wrapper from the bottom up. Do not attempt to pull the wrapper off the plant, as you risk breaking stems, flowers and leaves.
Plants should stay in their wrappings for no more than 24 hours. Open the top to allow the plants to get air if you cannot remove the wrapping right away.
• Continue monitoring your garden for any animal damage. With little snow cover in recent weeks, animal tracks have been difficult to spot, so take regular walks around your garden, even during warm spells. Extensive damage can occur in the middle of winter if animal activity is not noticed and left unchecked.
When snow levels increase, rabbits can reach higher into shrubs to eat leaves.
• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden, chicagobotanic.org.