June 18, 2024

Reasons and Fixes for Drooping, Wilting Cyclamen Plants

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Are you wondering why your cyclamen is droopy and wilting? Learn about the common causes of drooping cyclamens and how to fix it now on Gardener's Path.

A close up vertical image of a potted cyclamen plant with bright pink blooms on a wooden table indoors. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) houseplants usually perk us up with their colorful blooms during the bleak and chilly winter months.

But sometimes they can begin to look downright droopy. There are a few different reasons for the “flop,” from dormancy to diseases and more.

A close up vertical image of a potted cyclamen plant with bright pink blooms on a wooden table indoors. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.A close up vertical image of a potted cyclamen plant with bright pink blooms on a wooden table indoors. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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For full information about cyclamen care, check out our growing guide. In this article, we’ll specifically explore the causes of drooping and wilting, and offer solutions to help.

We’ll get to the root of the problem together and have your C. persicum perking up in no time.

Here’s what I’ll cover:

Common Causes of Cyclamen Drooping

  1. Dormancy
  2. Insufficient Fertilization
  3. Too Much or Not Enough Light
  4. High Temperatures
  5. Water and Humidity Issues
  6. Pests and Disease
  7. Pot Size

If you’re ready, let’s jump right in and get started!

1. Dormancy

Seasonal dormancy is the most obvious cause of drooping in cyclamen plants. The onset of this phase can appear worrisome, but it’s completely normal and natural.

So, what exactly is going on with this whole dormancy thing? Let me explain.

C. persicum is native to the Mediterranean region where the plants bloom in the cool and humid winter months, then wind down and rest through the dry, hot summers.

In colder regions like the US and Canada, where this plant lives indoors, the dormancy period typically begins in late spring or early summer.

A close up of a potted cyclamen plant with long stems that looks rather leggy set on a wooden surface indoors.A close up of a potted cyclamen plant with long stems that looks rather leggy set on a wooden surface indoors.
Photo by Tabitha Caswell.

At the start of the dormant phase, you’ll probably notice your plant’s leaves start to turn yellow, go limp, and dry up.

Because conditions in our homes and local climates can vary, it’s tough to pinpoint the exact timing for this phase.

But if your plant was thriving a short while ago and the dates on your calendar line up, chances are good that everything is normal, and your cyclamen is totally fine.

If the plant is going dormant then you can expect and accept the drooping foliage and go with the flow!

But take note that you’ll need to give your houseplant some TLC during this time, so be sure to read our guide that covers cyclamen seasonal dormancy in more detail.

2. Insufficient Fertilization

If you’ve ruled out dormancy, there could be a few other factors affecting the health of your plant, including nutrition. When cyclamens aren’t fertilized properly, they might begin to droop.

A close up horizontal image of leggy, limp leaves on a potted cyclamen plant growing indoors.A close up horizontal image of leggy, limp leaves on a potted cyclamen plant growing indoors.
Photo by Tabitha Caswell.

These houseplants don’t demand a feast, but a balanced fertilization schedule during the growth and flowering phase, including the right nutrients, in the correct amounts, can make all the difference to the health of your plant.

But here’s the catch: overdoing it can be counterproductive, and the plant may wilt as a result of overfertilization.

Too much fertilizer can cause your plant to produce new growth quickly. Aboveground, you’ll notice a burst of lush, green growth, but under the soil, the tuber and roots will struggle to keep up.

The new, beautiful growth will demand more support than the roots can provide and sustain, and leaves and flowers will begin to wilt and die. So, what should you do?

For our cyclamen friends, the trick lies in choosing the correct fertilizer, and then applying it at the right time.

Find a product that is formulated for flowering plants.

Look for a nutrient ratio that goes easy on nitrogen (N) and is generous with phosphorus (P). Think along the lines of a 5-10-5 (NPK) blend, and you’ll be right on track.

A close up of a box of Down to Earth Rose and Flower Mix isolated on a white background.A close up of a box of Down to Earth Rose and Flower Mix isolated on a white background.

Down to Earth Rose and Flower Mix

If you’re an online shopper, check out Down to Earth Rose and Flower Mix, available at Arbico Organics.

This all-natural, granular fertilizer has a ratio of 4-8-4 and is ideal for regular application.

If your cyclamen is wilting, and you’re not fertilizing or you’re using a product with a different nutrient ratio, switching to this should help it recover.

Only apply fertilizer during the active growing season, not during the dormant phase.

You’ll most likely need to feed your houseplant approximately every two weeks, but remember to always follow the instructions on the package as the timing can vary depending on what product you choose.

If you’ve been overfertilizing, back off for a bit. Stop feeding for three to four weeks to let your plant recover, then begin with the correct amount and schedule.

If you haven’t been fertilizing correctly you should expect to see an improvement soon after you begin your new regimen.

3. Too Much or Not Enough Light

Imagine being at a concert. You want the volume to be loud enough so you can really feel the music but not so loud that it hurts your ears, leaving you discombobulated for days, right?

Well, that’s how cyclamens feel about light. They want the “volume” set just right – a bright but soft indirect exposure.

In regions where the days are short and gloomy, especially during those winter months, cyclamens might start to slump, as if to say, “We could use a bit more brightness here!”

It’s your job to provide enough light, but be aware that while lack of light can cause your plants to wilt and droop, too much light can harm them too. 

Exposure to direct sunlight will make them droop faster than you can say “shade.” It can even cause leaves to dry out and wither.

A close up vertical image of a cyclamen leaf with an obvious leaf spot on the surface.A close up vertical image of a cyclamen leaf with an obvious leaf spot on the surface.
Photo by Tabitha Caswell.

What’s the perfect sweet spot for these delicate beauties? Try an east-facing window where they’ll bask in the morning light and avoid the harsh midday sun.

Even during cold months, the sun streaming through a south-facing window on a clear winter day can be too much for these plants.

Aim for about four to six hours of indirect light and your plants should reward you with green perky foliage and cheerful blossoms.

By catering to your cyclamen’s light preferences, you’re setting it up to thrive, preventing and avoiding the dreadful droop.

4. High Temperatures

Cyclamens are sensitive to temperature. Growing outdoors in their native regions, C. persicum plants are in their active growing phase during winter.

As houseplants, they do best with daytime temperatures between 60 and 65°F (18°C).

A close up horizontal image of an indoor scene with brightly lit holiday decor and two colorful potted plants in bloom on a table.A close up horizontal image of an indoor scene with brightly lit holiday decor and two colorful potted plants in bloom on a table.

If your cyclamen is performing poorly, the plant could be too warm. Now, I’m not saying you need to keep your home at a chilly 60°F all winter long. That’s a bit too cold, even for my Scandinavian blood!

What I’m saying is that you should avoid direct heat from furnace vents, heat registers, or fireplaces. You might like to be toasty warm, but your plant will not.

If your cyclamen is drooping or wilting, it could be asking you to turn down the heat. Set your thermostat at a realistic temperature and place your plant in a location where it won’t be roasted.

Unless you lose power or abandon your home leaving it completely unheated, don’t worry about the temperature dropping too low. If your home gets too cold, all your houseplants will likely freeze and fail, and so will you!

Keep your cyclamen indoors where it won’t freeze, but don’t let it get too warm either.

5. Water and Humidity Issues

Cyclamens have specific needs when it comes to hydration. Sad, withering foliage could be a sign that you’re not meeting those requirements.

These houseplants like their potting mix to be moist but not saturated. This means you need to stay on top of a consistent watering schedule, monitoring the moisture levels, and adjusting to accommodate changing needs as a result of fluctuating air humidity or evaporation.

The key to knowing when to water is easy. Poke your finger about an inch deep into the soil and if it’s moist, leave it a few days and check again. If it’s dry, give your buddy a drink.

A close up horizontal image of a gardener watering potted cyclamen plants at a garden center.A close up horizontal image of a gardener watering potted cyclamen plants at a garden center.

When watering, aim your watering can for the surface of the soil and avoid wetting the leaves and crown. You might enjoy a long shower, but this plant won’t.

If your plant is wilting because it’s underwatered, you can try a 15-minute soak from the bottom. It’s not a requirement, but bottom-watering is a good method for cyclamens.

It can be helpful to perk up a dry, drooping plant or used as the main method of regular watering. Your choice!

To bottom-water, place the pot into a shallow dish of water and let your plant soak up what it needs.

Let’s not forget that proper drainage can make a world of difference to a drooping cyclamen. They don’t like wet feet and sitting in too much water can also cause rot, which can result in wilting.

Your pot should have holes in the bottom where excess water can escape. If the container doesn’t have holes, it’s time for a quick move.

This is a rare occasion when it’s okay to repot during the active growing season. Choose a pot with drainage holes in the bottom and follow the repotting steps described below, under Pot Size.

Speaking of hydration, cyclamens adore humidity. If your cyclamen is floppy, the air in your home might be a bit too dry for the plant.

Here’s a simple fix: Find a shallow tray and fill it with pebbles, then add water just below the pebble line. Place your cyclamen pot atop this setup.

As the water evaporates, it’s like giving your plant a refreshing facial mist. Remember to refill the tray as needed.

Any source of heat can suck moisture out of the air while it’s warming your space, so choose a home for your potted friend that’s a good distance away from heating vents, radiators, wood burning stoves or any other heat source.

Watering at the right time, ensuring proper drainage, and controlling humidity in the air around your cyclamen will help it recover and flourish.

6. Pests and Disease

If your cyclamen is showing symptoms of wilt, drooping, or failing to thrive, and you’ve considered all the factors I’ve mentioned so far, you may be dealing with an insect infestation or disease.

Pests

Houseplants typically have less exposure to insect pests than outdoor plants, but there are some that can make their way into our homes.

A close up horizontal image of a cyclamen leaf suffering from an infestation of spider mites.A close up horizontal image of a cyclamen leaf suffering from an infestation of spider mites.

Insects also have the potential to introduce disease while they directly damage plants, so it’s important to address infestations as soon as you notice them.

The most common pests to watch for are:

  • Aphids
  • Broad mites
  • Cyclamen mites
  • Fungus gnats
  • Mealybugs
  • Spider mites
  • Thrips
  • Whiteflies

Most of these pests can be controlled with some attention and care.

Cultural control methods like proper watering and routine inspection to address issues before they get out of hand, can help to prevent a major infestation.

When introducing new plants into your home, inspect them closely for signs of bugs and disease.

To avoid spreading to other plants, it’s a good idea to keep new additions separated from the rest of your houseplant collection for at least two weeks while you monitor for insect activity and signs of damage.

You can also employ mechanical or manual control methods like handpicking, clipping heavily infested sections of the infested plant, and using sticky traps to catch bugs.

A close up horizontal image of a yellow sticky trap in the pot of a houseplant, covered in fungus gnats.A close up horizontal image of a yellow sticky trap in the pot of a houseplant, covered in fungus gnats.

Most insect infestations on cyclamens will cause noticeable damage like leaf curl, brown or yellow discoloration or holes in foliage.

In many cases, wilting and drooping foliage may appear as a secondary symptom.

The most common insect to cause direct symptoms of drooping and wilting is the dreaded fungus gnat.

These rascals reproduce in the soil and then buzz around everywhere, laying eggs in the soil of your other houseplants. Before you know it, they’ve staked a claim in every pot in your house and refuse eviction.

In cyclamens, fungus gnat larvae feed on the tuber in the soil as well as on young, emerging leaves. If the infestation is severe, it can damage the tuber enough to cause the plant to die, and early symptoms are wilting and drooping leaves.

I’ve got a tried-and-true dual combination method to stop them in their tracks: sticky traps and nematodes.

Because I’ve had a few gnat infestations now – they sneak in via the soil of new plants, and in the summer months when the patio door is opening and closing a hundred times a day – I keep a sticky trap always tucked inside one or two pots now, just to monitor for newcomers.

A close up of the packaging of fly sticky traps isolated on a white background.A close up of the packaging of fly sticky traps isolated on a white background.

Harris Super Sticky Fly Traps

You can find a 20-pack of Harris Super Sticky Fly Traps available from Tractor Supply Co.

Biological control methods can be a lifesaver too. Consider introducing beneficial nematodes to help control unwanted pest populations that breed in the soil.

Nema Knights Nematodes

I always keep a fresh container of Nema Knights Nematodes on hand, sold by The Environmental Factor via Amazon.

This is a shaker-style container and it’s simple to use. You just shake out some little “pearls” containing the nematodes onto the soil, water in, and let the microscopic critters feast on the bad guys hiding in the potting mix.

Lastly, using insecticides is an option if you’re highly motivated to save your plant. Choose the right pesticide for the specific pest you’re trying to target and always follow label directions carefully.

Cyclamen mites are worth mentioning here, not only because they share their name with this plant, but because they can be difficult to treat. These little troublemakers cause stunting and curled leaves, and eventually drooping, wilting, and death of the plant.

They’re so tiny that they can only be seen with a microscope, and they multiply quickly, so usually by the time you realize what’s causing the problem, their population has already grown out of control.

A close up vertical image of a cyclamen leaf that is drooping and curled.A close up vertical image of a cyclamen leaf that is drooping and curled.
Photo by Tabitha Caswell.

You can try treating cyclamen mites with miticidal or insecticidal soaps, or horticultural oil. Even then, you may never gain control over these insects.

In this case it might be best to dispose of the plant, not only to protect your other houseplants, but to save yourself the time, agony, and drawn-out heartbreak. Say your last goodbye, wipe your tears, and move on.

Disease

Bacterial soft rot, Erwinia carotovora or E. chrysanthemi as well as Pythium (Pythium spp.) and Thielaviopsis (Thielaviopsis basicola) root rot, are common causes of drooping and wilting.

Root rot is typically caused by excessive moisture in the soil, which is why it’s important to avoid overwatering and ensure good drainage. Rot cannot be cured, so it’s best to toss a plant that is infected.

If you notice gray fuzzy mold present on the tuber or at the base of the plant, alongside drooping or wilting, you may be dealing with a fungal infection like Botrytis blight, caused by Botrytis cinerea.

Fungal diseases can be treated with fungicides. I like natural products, so I prefer to use Bonide® Liquid Copper Fungicide.

A close up of a spray bottle of Bonide Liquid Copper Fungicide isolated on a white background.A close up of a spray bottle of Bonide Liquid Copper Fungicide isolated on a white background.

Bonide Liquid Copper Fungicide

It’s available as powder dust or liquid spray and you can find it at Arbico Organics.

Fusarium wilt, caused by Fusarium oxysporum, presents symptoms of yellowing in leaves, followed by wilting.

All the foliage falls off and eventually the plant dies. If it’s the middle of winter when a cyclamen should be growing, it could be a victim of Fusarium wilt.

Keep in mind that in the case of Fusarium wilt, as with root rot, the best practice is to dispose of infected plants as there is no effective treatment.

Many diseases can be avoided by following best practices for watering and general care and upkeep. As well, ensure good air circulation and ventilation in your home, and jump on any insect infestations when you spot them.

And as I’ve mentioned already, it’s essential to regularly inspect your plants for signs of pests and disease.

Early detection and intervention can help to prevent future damage to your cyclamen and surrounding houseplants.

7. Pot Size

Has your cyclamen grown too big for its pot? Just like other potted plants, C. persicum might throw a mini tantrum by starting to droop and wilt when it needs a larger pot.

Expect to repot your cyclamen every two to three years. The frequency will vary depending on how fast your plant is growing and the size of its current container.

If you’ve checked all the other variables on this list, and you haven’t repotted your cyclamen for at least two years, this is likely the reason your plant is drooping or wilting.

To know for sure, you’ll need to inspect what’s going on beneath the soil to see if the roots are potbound.

However, the best time to inspect the tuber and roots is during the summer when the plants are dormant.

If you choose to repot your cyclamen in the middle of the winter when it should be in its active growth cycle, it will need time to recover and adjust to its new pot.

Leaf and flower production will likely be low for the rest of the cycle. However, it should move into dormancy and grow normally the following winter.

Plan ahead for repotting. Choose a new container that’s about an inch bigger than the current one. Bigger isn’t always better. A big pot has a large volume of potting soil which can retain too much water and increase the risk of root rot.

Look for a potting mix for indoor container plants. This should be a lightweight blend to promote both adequate moisture retention and good drainage.

A close up of a bag of Perfect Plants Indoor Plant Soil isolated on a white background.A close up of a bag of Perfect Plants Indoor Plant Soil isolated on a white background.

Indoor Plant Soil Mix

I like a peat-free blend like the Indoor Plant Soil Mix made and sold by Perfect Plants.

Instead of peat, this product contains coconut coir and ground pine bark.

When you’re ready to make the move, add some potting medium to the new pot. Carefully lift your cyclamen out of its old pot and gently brush off any old soil, but don’t rinse it with water.

A close up horizontal image of the gloved hands of an indoor gardener repotting a blooming cyclamen.A close up horizontal image of the gloved hands of an indoor gardener repotting a blooming cyclamen.

Place the tuber in its new pot. Fill around the sides of the tuber with potting mix and leave the top of the tuber peeking out of the soil. This might sound funny, but it’s how cyclamens prefer to grow.

The bottom of the tuber should be underground, and the top should have some exposure to air. This doesn’t need to be a precise measurement but aim for 25 to 40 percent aboveground.

Now let your tuber chill for the rest of the summer in a cool, shaded spot. Come fall, gradually start watering again to kickstart its growth cycle.

With its new digs, your cyclamen should leave its droopy days of the last season behind. The next growing phase you shouldn’t see droop or wilt if the issue was pot size.

Wilting to Winning!

From pot sizes to pesky pests, there are a myriad of reasons your cyclamen might be drooping.

But with a sprinkle of knowledge and a dash of care, you’re now equipped to bring that vibrant, healthy vibe back to your plant.

A close up horizontal image of bright pink cyclamen flowers pictured on a soft focus background.A close up horizontal image of bright pink cyclamen flowers pictured on a soft focus background.

Do you have a quirky question to ask or a cyclamen success story to share? Feel free to drop a comment below!

If you’d like to learn more about being a better houseplant parent, have a read of these guides next:

  • Common Reasons Why Cyclamen Fails to Bloom
  • Houseplant Primer: A Guide to Basic Care and Durable Plants
  • Houseplant Propagation for Beginners

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