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Looking for Fragrant Cyclamens

Some cyclamens are scented, others not at all. Ill.: Buntysmum, Pixabay & http://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: http://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!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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