What to Plant in August

The following is a list of vegetables you can plant in August in Sydney, a temperate zone. Just click on the link for the growing guide for each vegetable:

Plant of the Month – the beautiful Cyclamen

Cyclamen are native to the Mediterranean, (Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Iran and North Africa) which has a climate of hot dry summers and cool wet winters with few frosts. They have adapted to actively growing in the winter and going dormant in the summer.

The beauty of cyclamens have made them a popular indoor potted plant but with care to their needs they can be grown successfully outdoors.

All images on this page can be enlarged by clicking on them to view more detail.

The larger, potted Persicum variety that are so popular in massed display of colour and form.

Cyclamen have a range of variation, including in tuber diameter, leaf length and width, petal length, petal color, and leaf shape.

Description:

Tubers:

The cyclamen has a tuber that develops from the stem of a seedling. The tuber holds water and nutrients to support the plant during its dormant period in the summer.

Emergent plants forming small tuber and first leaves.

Leaves:

Varieties C. persicum and C. coum have roots form below the tuber, and C.hederifolium forms roots from the top and sides.

Leaves and flowers form from points on the tuber. Each leaf grows on its own stem: tips of leaf stems curl upwards, while tips of flower stems curl downwards.

Flower stems with buds, curling downwards.
The mature tuber, one year old, with new leaves forming in winter.

The shape of leaves varies depending on the species. Some are heart shaped, others elongated, or round or shaped like ivy-leaves. Most have attractive variegated patterns and silvering and others are smooth and rounded. The margins of the leaves can be smooth or finely toothed as in the image below.

They make the plant beautiful to look at even when only in leaf. The leaves appear in late autumn and die off in the summer as the plant goes into dormancy.

The beautiful ivy shaped leaves of the Cyclamen hederifolium.

Flowers:

Cyclamen have differing flowering times depending on the variety. Some bloom in winter or spring while others in late summer or autumn.

The flowers are on a single stem with 5-6 petals (depending on the variety), that bend upwards and are fused at the base into a cup, called the corolla which faces downward.

Cyclamen come in a variety of colours and can be white, pale rose, pale to deep pink, carmine, purplish, red, and crimson

The buds emerge and swell and enlarge to a tightly furled bundle before the petals open and reflex upwards around the cup.

The petals of the cyclamen bud lengthen before unfurling.

The flowers are on a single stem with 5 petals that bend upwards and are fused at the base into a cup, called the corolla which faces downward. In some varieties the petals twist.

The cyclamen flower opening out and petals turning upwards.

The style protrudes from the cup but the stamens are inside the flower. Click on image for more detail.

Some varieties, like Cyclamen coum, have small bumps where the petals are fused at the base of the corolla called auricles (ear like), that is a structure that acts as a gripping point for pollinators.

The auricle or ear-like structure at the base of the corolla.

Seeds:

When pollination has occurred the cyclamen flower falls off, a seed pod forms and swells and the stem of the flower coils or turns downward towards the ground where it matures and then releases the seeds. The pod is about 1.5cm and holds between 5-40 sticky seeds.

Seed pods starting to mature.

The pod is about 1.5cm and holds between 5-40 sticky seeds. Often ants are attracted by the sweet coating and disperse the seeds so that you find new little cyclamen plants far from the original location. The young plant below popped up in a garden bed that is close to a much used ant trail. It is about 2m from the parent plant. It takes about 2-3 years from seed to flowering.

A small plant that appeared well away from the parent plant thought to be from seed deposited by ants.

Growing and Caring for Cyclamen

Cyclamen in the wild prefer a slightly alkaline, well-drained soil and those species that grow under trees, a soil amended with leaf compost and composted bark.

Cyclamen in the wild growing in woodlands.

The key to growing cyclamen properly is to understand their native climatic environment: hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters without frost. In the wild they grow in the under story of trees with dappled light and protection from winds. We need to try and replicate these conditions to have success.

Cyclamen can be grown in pots indoors in cool and temperate areas, with care. Using a good quality potting mix that is free draining is the best medium for growing cyclamen. For indoor settings it may help to use self-watering containers such as those for African violets (which have a porous clay pot containing the plant inside a glazed pot holding the with water) This delivers the right amount of water for the plant without over-watering.

When selecting a site for the plant, choose a cool, well lit spot away from direct sunlight and draughts . It is no wonder that cyclamen seem difficult to grow in our dry, stuffy, air conditioned rooms in winter. This does not meet the plants humidity or temperature needs.

Ideally cyclamens prefer temperatures below 20C and 6-15C at night. Temperatures above 20C will induce dormancy. Even when kept indoors, Cyclamen should be put outside at night to provide the coolness they prefer and so prolong their flowering period.

A better way is to choose an outdoor area to locate your pots, under trees in dappled shade or in shady protected areas away from draughts and winds.

The image below shows pots of small Cyclamen persicum that have been growing in a protected corner of the garden under a large mandarin tree for many years.

Cyclamen in pots at the foot of a tree are watered from below with a soaker hose.

The Florists’ Cyclamen below have been growing successfully in a sheltered space outside a window. The location gets morning sun, available rain and is protected from draughts. This picture was taken last year and the plants have gone through dormancy and are now in full leaf just beginning the flowering period in temperate Melbourne.

Watering should never be from above the plant but rather using a saucer and allowing 10 minutes before removing the pot.

As the weather warms the leaves begin to yellow and the plant starts to die down as dormancy approaches.

Cyclamen are sensitive to excessive summer moisture because they do not take in much water when they are dormant. As a result, summer rains and excessively run irrigation systems, combined with poor drainage, can easily rot the tubers

Begin to cut back watering and when fully dormant lie pots on their sides to prevent wetting the tubers and causing them to rot. If placed near other plants needing watering take care not to spray over the resting tubers.

Potted cyclamen can remain under trees even through hot summers if the trees are evergreen and offer shade and protection from sun and summer rains and excesses of irrigation systems. These issues combined with poor drainage, can easily rot the tubers so take care to ensure longevity ofyour plants.

A yearly application of a good slow release fertilizer is recommended for potted cyclamen, just before the foliage begins to grow.

Some of the Many Varieties of Cyclamen

Here are just a few of the 23 or so varieties of cyclamen:

Cyclamen purpurascens

is the Alpine, European, purple variety native to central Europe, Italy and Slovenia growing in deciduous or mixed woodland.

It has spread from eastern France across the Alps to Poland and south to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is also found in mountainous parts of Romania and western Russia.

Flowers appear before the leaves and are sweetly scented, with petals that are elliptical and twisted. Colour ranges from pale rose-pink to purple or rose.

This species does not become dormant and retains its leaves throughout the year.

Cyclamen purpurascens

Cyclamen africanum

is native to northern Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia and does not tolerate frosts. It grows in scrubs and rocky gullies

The tuber produces roots from the top, sides and bottom. The flowers have auricles, at the base of the petals. Flowers vary from pale pink to a deep rose-pink. 

Cyclamen africanum

Cyclamen coum

is native to Bulgaria, Turkey, Israel, Syria, and Lebanon, through Georgia and the Crimea to northern Iran.

Cyclamen coum flowers in late winter to spring. The flowers have tall stalks and are squat with rounded petals that are magenta, pink, or white, with a darker blotch at the base. Below the blotch is a small white or pink “eye”.

The tuber produces roots from the bottom only. Cyclamen coum self seeds and grows slowly. It is a very hardy variety of cyclamen that grows in open areas.

Cyclamen coum

Cyclamen persicum

grows wild in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, the Greek Algeria and Tunisia. It is the

Cyclamen persicum grows wild in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, the Greek Algeria and Tunisia. It is the

Cyclamen persicum grows wild in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, the Greek Algeria and Tunisia. It is the is the parent species of the florists’ cyclamen.

The tuber is round and flattened with roots growing from below.

The flowers are fragrant, white or soft pink with a deep pink or crimson-magenta zone at the base of each petal. Cyclamen persicum blooms in late winter through spring. The leaves are green with marbling on the upper surface.

These delicate and beautiful cyclamen grow in large perfumed drifts that are a sight to see when found growing in their native state.

The fruiting pod develops after pollination and curves down to the ground where it sinks down. it only opens when it is below the ground.

Cyclamen persicum

Florists’ Cyclamen:

Florists’ cyclamen are cultivars derived from the wild Cyclamen persicum and sold all over the world. They flower during the winter in a range of colour shades from white through pink to red. The image below is of a lovely pink specimen with frilled petals.

Lovely frilled Florists’ cyclamen.

Postscript;

The beautiful and colourful cyclamen has always been a popular flower. My Grandmother loved them and this is her wooden trinket box decorated with a lovely cyclamen nearly a hundred years old.

I love them too and though it has been hit and miss growing cyclamen over the years, I have gained a new appreciation for all the diversity of this genus.

Sometimes small and delicate or bold and showy, often with a beautiful perfume, their colour, their beautiful variegated leaves, yes the cyclamen always brings joy during the depths of our winters.

With their true cyclamen colour of these dainty, pretty flowers brightens our garden.

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