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Consumer Qs: florist cyclamen, sweet potatoes

Question: I received a blooming florist cyclamen as a gift. How do I care for it? Can I plant it outside?
Answer: Neither Georgia winters nor summers will allow us to grow florist cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) outdoors. It does not tolerate freezing temperatures and needs to be dry in the summer when it is dormant.
While it is growing and blooming, your florist cyclamen prefers cool temperatures and bright, indirect sunlight. Ideal daytime temperatures are 60 to 65 degrees F. and night temperatures are best at around 50 degrees F. Avoid placing your cyclamen near heat vents. Most homes and offices are hotter than the cyclamen prefers. High temperatures will also cause the cyclamen’s flowers to fade and die more quickly.
While blooming, your cyclamen prefers to be kept moist but not soggy. Water when the potting soil feels dry, and always water along the edge of the pot or from below to avoid causing the tuber to rot. Do not leave it sitting in water, however.
Most people treat florist cyclamens like poinsettias and discard them after they bloom or begin to go dormant because it can be difficult in the home environment to produce a compact, high-quality blooming cyclamen plant. Typically, light levels are not high enough and temperatures are not cool enough which results in weak plants with smaller, lighter-colored blooms and leaves that have elongated petioles.
However, if you enjoy a challenge, give it a try. Here are some tips: Stop watering your cyclamen when the leaves start to turn yellow. It wants to go dormant. Place it in a spot where it will receive no water or direct sunlight. In September, or earlier if leaves have appeared, begin to water it, and place it in a bright location. If its original pot is small, repot the tuber in a larger one with fresh potting soil, leaving to top half of the tuber exposed. Maintain the cool temperatures the cyclamen prefers. It will grow leaves and set buds for a new season of growth. Good luck!

Q: For the past few years, I have not been able to find ‘Porto Rico’ sweet potato slips. Where can I purchase some?
A: While it is still early, ask your local garden center or feed/seed store if they intend to carry slips of the ‘Porto Rico’ variety this spring. Perhaps they did not know there was a demand for this variety. Perhaps they can even special order them for you. Also, your county Extension agent may know a dealer or grower that you were unaware of in your county or a nearby county that may carry them. If you cannot find them locally, here are a few mail-order suppliers:
Steele Plant Company, P.O. Box 191, Gleason, TN 38229. Phone: 731-648-5476 (www.sweetpotatoplant.com)
New Hope Seed Company, P.O. Box 443, Bon Aqua, TN 37025. (www.newhopeseed.com)
Park Seed, 3507 Cokesbury Rd., Hodges, SC 29653. Phone: 1-800-845-3369 (www.parkseed.com)
Burpee Seeds, 300 Park Ave., Warminster, PA 18974. Phone: 1-800-888-1447 (www.burpee.com)
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, P.O. Box 460, Mineral, VA 23117. Phone: 540-894-9480 (www.southernexposure.com)

If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce (arty.schronce@agr.georgia.gov) or visit the department’s website at www.agr.georgia.gov