A genus of nearly 20 species of tuberous plants which contain some of the most enjoyable autumn, winter and spring flowering plants the impact of their strongly coloured flowers made greater by their delicate size.
The species are all relatively small, rarely getting above 15cm (6in) tall and usually much less. However some of the florists' cyclamen, which are so popular at Christmas are larger.
All the species are grown in cultivation. Many are tender and need to be grown under glass, but several are hardy and can be grown in the open garden.
Most have attractive foliage as well as beautiful flowers. Many of the varieties collected by enthusiasts rely more on the leaf markings than on variations of flowers. The leaves can have wonderful marbled markings and range in colour from grey through to deep blue-green.
The flowers are pink, varying in depth from pale to almost purple. There are also white variants. The flowers shape is the same in all species and look like a piece of paper falling through the air with flames streaming behind it.
The common garden varieties grow in woodland conditions. They will grow in shade and in surprisingly dry soil, but prefer a leaf mould soil. Plant one tuber and then after a few years many more will appear from self-sown seed that takes a few years to mature to flowering size. Be careful not to accidentally hoe them out in the meantime.