Cyclamen classification

The genus Cyclamen is divided botanically into subgenera and species. Although this is based on botany, it provides a useful guide for the grower to make sense of which species have affinities and similar characteristics and, possibly, similar cultivation requirements.

There have been several systems of classification proposed between 1898 and 2003. The following is based upon that proposed by Grey-Wilson in 2003 with modifications for subsequent changes in nomenclature and the application of helpful group names.

Subgenus Psilanthum (Repandum Group)

Cyclamen repandum

var. repandum

var. baborense

Cyclamen balearicum

Cyclamen creticum

Cyclamen rhodium

subsp. rhodium

subsp. peloponnesiacum

subsp. vividum

Subgenus Psilanthum (Repandum Group)

These are all mid to late spring flowering species with relatively small velvety, thin skinned tubers that root from the centre underneath. Two of the species are white flowered and two are pink flowered but have white forms. The flowers do not have auricles. The group contains both tender, barely hardy, and hardy species that generally require woodland conditions in cultivation

Subgenus Gyrophoebe

Series one (Coum Group)

Cyclamen coum

subsp. coum

subsp. caucasicum

Cyclamen elegans

Cyclamen parviflorum

subsp. parviflorum

subsp. subalpinum

Cyclamen alpinum

Series two (Pseudibericum Group)

Cyclamen pseudibericum

Series three (Cilicium Group)

Cyclamen cilicium

Cyclamen intaminatum

Cyclamen mirabile

Subgenus Gyrophoebe Series one (Coum Group)

Winter or early spring flowering species with velvety thin skinned tubers that root from the centre underneath. Orbicular to cordate (round to heart shaped) leaves. Flowers are generally pink to magenta but two of the species have white flowered forms. The flowers do not have auricles. All species in the group are hardy and require moist but well drained conditions in cultivation.

Subgenus Gyrophoebe Series two (Pseudibericum Group)

A mid-spring flowering species with somewhat corky thicker skinned tubers that root from the centre underneath. The usually elegant flowers do not have auricles. The single species is reasonably hardy where it is sheltered from the worst of winter wet.

Subgenus Gyrophoebe Series three (Cilicium Group)

Autumn flowering species with generally smallish tubers that can be velvety and relatively thin skinned or somewhat corky, rooting from the centre underneath. The leaves are orbicular or cordate (round or heart-shaped). The flowers do not have auricles. These are hardy species that require damp but well drained conditions in cultivation.

Subgenus Corticata (Cyprium Group)

Cyclamen cyprium

Cyclamen libanoticum

Subgenus Corticata (Cyprium Group)

A subgenus containing one late autumn flowering species and one that flowers in mid-spring. The tubers are smooth, thicker skinned and sometimes somewhat corky with roots emerging from the centre underneath or from one side of the tuber. Leaves are cordate (heart shaped) and slightly scalloped or dentate (toothed). The flowers of one species are barely auriculate, whilst the other is quite strongly so. Both species are considered tender but are just sufficiently hardy to be grown outside where winters are not so severe, for instance in the southwest of England.

Subgenus Persicum (Persicum Group)

Cyclamen persicum

var. persicum

var. autumnale

Cyclamen somalense

Subgenus Persicum (Persicum Group)

Winter to early spring flowering species with corky thick skinned tubers rooting from underneath. The flowers are quite large and elegant and do not have auricles. A particular diagnostic feature of this subgenus is that the pedicels do not coil in fruit, but arch outwards and downwards, presumably to distribute seed away from the parent. These plants are not hardy and should be cultivated under glass in well drained conditions.

Subgenus Cyclamen (the type Subgenus)

Series one (Hederifolium Group)

Cyclamen hederifolium

subsp. hederifolium

subsp. crassifolium

Cyclamen confusum

Cyclamen africanum

Series two (Purpurascens Group)

Cyclamen purpurascens (the type species of the genus)

subsp. purpurascens

subsp. immaculatum

Cyclamen colchicum

Series three (Graecum Group)

Cyclamen graecum

subsp. graecum

subsp. candicum

Cyclamen maritimum

Series four (Rohlfsianum Group)

Cyclamen rohlfsianum

Subgenus Cyclamen Series one (Hederifolium Group)

A group of very similar autumn flowering species with thick skinned tubers that root from the upper surface and sides. The leaves are cordate to hastate with angled or toothed margins. The flowers, which can be comparatively large, have pronounced auricles. 

Subgenus Cyclamen Series two (Purpurascens Group)

A group of very similar summer to early autumn flowering species with often irregularly shaped tubers that root from the sides and base. The leaves are orbicular to cordate (round to heart-shaped with dentate (toothed) margins. The flowers are sweetly scented and have auricles, though frequently these are only slight. The growth cycle of these species is over 12 months, with the previous years leaves remaining on the plant after the new season leaves have unfurled. Seed takes 12 months to mature. In cultivation these species require moist woodland conditions throughout the year and shade especially in the heat of summer.

Subgenus Cyclamen Series three (Graecum Group)

Two closely related autumn flowering species with very corky thick skinned tubers that root from the centre underneath. Some of the roots are thick roots that anchor the plant and search out moisture. The leaves are cordate and very variable. The flowers have auricles. In fruit the pedicels coil in both directions from the centre or from the base, not from the tip as is the case for all other species except those in subgenus Persicum.

Subgenus Cyclamen Series four (Rohlfsianum Group)

An autumn flowering species with a very corky and thick skinned tuber that roots from the lower sides. The leaves are almost palmate with very variable patterns. The flowers have auricles and are unique in that the stamens are exerted – they protrude from the mouth of the corolla tube. This species is tender and should be grown under glass.