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Looking for Fragrant Cyclamens

Some cyclamens are scented, others not at all. Ill.: Buntysmum, Pixabay & www.clipartroo.com, montage: laidbackgardener.blog

Question: Last year, I bought a small mauve cyclamen. After a few days, I noticed a pleasant odor in several rooms of my apartment and it turns out it came from the cyclamen! The scent was intense, pleasant and persistent, present throughout the entire time the plant bloomed, that is, several months. Ever since, every time I head to a garden center, I rush over to smell the cyclamens, big or small, hoping to find another specimen just as fragrant, but with no luck so far.

How can I find another scented cyclamen?

Claude Cauchon

Answer: The wild Persian cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum), parent of the florist’s cyclamen we know today, is very fragrant, giving off a perfume reminiscent of lily of the valley or hyacinth. However, for 200 years, the cyclamen hybridizers developing varieties for use as potted plants have mainly focused on beautiful flowers, attractive foliage and long-lasting blooms. Fragrance was simply not on their grocery list. As a result, perfume was ignored and many modern cyclamens therefore have no odor at all.

20190126b www.vanmeuwen.com
Miracle™ is a line of mini cyclamens developed especially for its fragrance. Photo: www.vanmeuwen.com

However, fragrant wild cyclamens were reintroduced into hybridization programs a few decades back in order to create smaller cyclamens for smaller homes. Thus was born the mini florist’s cyclamen so commonly seen today and it sometimes does inherit the perfume of its ancestors. In fact, there are even cyclamen strains marketed specifically for their fragrance, such as ‘Sweet Scented’ and Miracle™.

Unfortunately, these efforts don’t seem to have had much influence on the merchants who purchase cyclamens for resale to the general public: they generally continue to buy cyclamens according to their appearance rather than their perfume.

Keep looking, though: there are fragrant cyclamens on the market and one of these days you’ll almost certainly run into a delivery of scented mini cyclamens in a garden center near you!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

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