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Caladiums - Tropical Perennials to Light Up Every Shade Garden

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Caladium Foliage

Caladium Foliage

Marie Iannotti

Overview:

Caladiums are tropical plants that are grown for their spectacularly colorful foliage. Although tropical, they grow fast enough to be enjoyed during the summer in cooler climates and all year long as houseplants. Shade and humidity lovers, Caladiums dazzle in shade gardens with their large, pointed arrow-shaped leaves splashed with shades of green, white, cream, pink and red.

A Word of Caution: Caladiums can be a skin irritant and are poisonous if ingested.

Latin Name:

Caladium bicolor

Common Name(s): Caladium

Zone:

9 - 11 Can be grown as annuals or over wintered as tender bulbs.

Size:

18 -24" H, (Dwarf varieties 8 -12"), Width varies with cultivar and age

Exposure:

Partial to Full Shade

Bloom Period:

Grown for their foliage. Flowers are inconspicuous, if they flower at all.

Description:

Description Caladiums are tuberous rooted tropical plants that thrive in warm, humid shade. The foliage is a pointed arrow or lance-shape, held up on long stalks that grow directly from the tuber and usually are somewhat crepe like in texture. Although there are no flowers to speak of, the foliage puts on a dazzling show all season.

Design Tips:

Caladiums are wonderful bright spots in a shade garden. Grouped together, they can look like they are in bloom. Caladiums grow equally well in containers and pair nicely with ferns and other soft textured plants like astilbe, with spiky leaved plants such as ornamental grasses and shade tolerant iris and with coordinating colored blooms of fuchsia and Impatiens.

Suggested Varieties:

  • Caladium bicolor ‘Freida Hemple’ - Bright Red Centers and wide green margins
  • C. B. ‘‘Little Miss Muffet’- small, lime-green leaves with deep red speckles and often red veins
  • C. b. ‘Pink Beauty’ Pink centers surrounded by pink-speckled green margins, often with red veins
  • C. b.‘White Christmas’ white leaves with green veins.
  • Sun Tolerant Varieties Include: ‘Carolyn Whorton’, ‘Florida Fantasy’ & ‘Pink Cloud’

Cultural Notes:

You can purchase Caladiums already in leaf or you can start with the less expensive tubers. Tubers purchased from a nursery will have a knobby appearance. Each knob is actually an eye that will produce a leaf. Sometimes the tubers are a bit desiccated and the knobs are hard to spot, but they should re-hydrate and sprout. Fresh tubers ordered from growers will sprout the fastest.

It can be confusing determining which end of the tuber is up, because the roots grow from the same side as the leaves. Trust the tuber to know what to do, and bury it about 2 inches deep with the knobs facing up.

When pottinng, start them in a damp peat/soil mix. Caladiums like a slightly acid soil (5.5 - 6.2). Once they sprout, move into indirect light.

To start caladiums indoors for outdoor planting, pot them up about 4 - 6 weeks before your last frost date. Wait until the soil warms to plant outdoors. Peat pots will make transplanting easier on the plants.

Maintenance:

Winter Care in Cold Zones: If grown outdoors in a cold climate, they can be considered annuals or you will need to dig and store the tubers over winter. Do not wait for them to be hit by frost.

Division: You can divide your Caladium tubers in the spring, to create more plants. Cut the tuber into sections that each contain at least one eye or knob and pot or plant as normal.

Houseplant Care: When growing Caladiums as houseplants, water whenever the soil feels dry and feed monthly. Begin watering less in autumn, as plants naturally stop growing.

Problems: Although Caladiums are carefree growers, they can be subject to the following problems if growing conditions are not ideal: tuber rot (especially if planted outdoors in cold, wet soil), Southern blight, leaf spot and root-knot nematodes. Indoor Plants: aphids and spider mites.

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