Cyclamen Thrives in L.A. and Jerusalem

cyclamen cultivar with wide white leaf margins

cyclamen cultivar with wide white leaf margins

If you take a map of the world and draw a line between Los Angeles and Jerusalem, you will notice that the line is nearly parallel to the equator. Being practically the same distance from the equator, on the edge of a desert, and just east of a large body of water, the climates of Los Angeles and Jerusalem have much in common; long dry summers and mild winters with a modicum of rain. Jerusalem, however, since it is at an elevation of more than 2,000 feet, gets colder than Los Angeles and even experiences an occasional winter snowstorm.
The garden flora of Jerusalem replicates that found in Los Angeles. At this time of year, bougainvillea is still blooming; the purple Brazilian (brasilensis) variety is most frequently seen. Yellow euryops daisies, orange cape honeysuckle and “Balcon” ivy geraniums are full of flowers.
One of the ground covers found in many planters, flower pots and hanging baskets in Jerusalem is the captivating lotus vine (Lotus berthelotii). This is a plant that certainly deserves a wider showing in Los Angeles. Even out of flower, as it is now, the lotus vine is a wonder to see. It has silvery-green fernlike foliage that demands to be touched. It spills over planters and out of containers in long, soft chains of leaves that look more like pendant jewels than botanical appendages.
Red and Golden lotus vines, whose names indicate the color of their flowers, are the two available varieties of this plant. A common name for lotus vine is “parrot’s beak,” an appellation that bespeaks the unusual shape of its blossoms. Lotus vine grows best in full to partial sun locations in fast-growing soil.
Another reliable winter bloomer in these regions is cyclamen. In Los Angeles, winter flowers often turn out to be a disappointment. Primroses are victimized by snails and turn yellow from soil that is too alkaline. Pansies may quickly fall prey to a variety of soil fungi. Snapdragons can be consumed by insect larvae, disfigured by rust or simply dehydrate unless the soil is kept constantly moist..
Cyclamen, by contrast, will bloom uninterruptedly from November to March. It is true that cyclamen is more expensive than other flowers, costing up to $2 or more per 4-inch pot, but the expense is worth the effect. Silky flowers in white, pink, lavender, mauve and red stand a few inches above remarkable heart-shaped foliage. If you have 10 cyclamen, you are more than likely to have 10 different patterns etched in white upon the foliage of your plants. Since cyclamen produce bulbs, they can be kept alive for more than a year, and produce foliage virtually nonstop if they are not overwatered during the spring and summer. Cyclamen grow well in both shade and partial-sun locations.
TIP OF THE WEEK: The etrog or citron, a type of semi-tropical citrus, can be grown in the Valley. Etrog seed, like the seed of any citrus fruit, can be germinated in a Styrofoam cup filled with potting soil.
Put a hole in the bottom of the cup and set it on a dish next to a sunny window. You can watch the young plant develop into a stout seedling during the fall and winter and put it into a larger container outdoors in the spring. By summer, it should be large enough to be planted in the garden.

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