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Cyclamen hederifolium, also called Cyclamen neapolitanum, baby cyclamen or Persian violet, is a herbaceous perennial plant native to Europe. It produces showy pink or white blossoms in the fall, followed by attractive foliage throughout the winter months. Several pest and disease problems affect Cyclamen hederifolium, including cyclamen mites, spider mites and gray mold.
These plants are most commonly cultivated as indoor houseplants, but they also work well in naturalistic garden settings. Some enthusiasts add them to rock gardens or plant them around the base of trees. They can also be grown outdoors in containers.
Cyclamen hederifolium plants usually grow between four and six inches (10.16 to 15.24 cm) tall. They send up flower stalks from the ground late in summer or during early fall, followed by two-inch tall (5.08 cm) pink, white or lavender-colored blossoms. Each petal is reflexed, or swept back, and the centers are usually darker in color than the rest of the blossom. The flowers, which can bloom for as long as two months, appear before the foliage.
Most cultivated species or cultivars have greenish-gray leaves with white or silver markings, but the leaves vary widely in shape and color depending on the cultivar. Some are long and narrow, while others are nearly round. Cyclamen hederifolium var. hederifolium plants have dark-green leaves with serrated margins, while Cyclamen hederifolium var. confusum plants have thick, bright-green, deeply lobed leaves.
Cyclamen hederifolium is hardy in United States Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones five through nine. These plants have a reputation for being one of the hardiest cyclamen species, surviving temperatures as low as -20° to -10°F (-29° to -23°C). They thrive in full or partial sunlight and grow best in well-drained, moist nutrient-rich soil. Outdoor plants benefit from a layer of mulch during the winter.
They propagate from corms, which are bulb-like structures that grow beneath the ground as well as seeds. Established cyclamens will self-seed. Cyclamen hederifolium plants become dormant during the summer.
Overwatered cyclamens or plants that grow in poorly-drained soil are susceptible to root rot diseases. Botrytis, or gray mold, occasionally causes problems. The affected plant part wilts, and a grayish fungus grows on the flowers, stems or leaves.
Arthropod pests such as cyclamen mites and spider mites drain sap from the leaves. Infested leaves are discolored, and the leaves might curl. Spider mites spin unsightly webs on the foliage. Severe infestations can kill Cyclamen hederifolium plants. Rodents sometimes feed on the corms.