Caladiums are tropical plants grown for their colorful foliage. The multi-colored leaves are combinations of green, white, pink, or red. There are fancy-leaved varieties with heart-shaped foliage, strap-leaved varieties with narrower, elongated leaves, and dwarf varieties. Plant heights vary from 18 to 24 inches for the fancy-leaf types to 8 to 12 inches for the dwarf varieties.
Caladiums can be grown in containers, as specimens, or massed in beds or borders. Plants perform best in moist, well-drained soils in partial shade. While caladium tubers can be planted directly outdoors in mid to late May in Iowa, home gardeners can establish a colorful outdoor display much more quickly by starting them indoors . Plant caladiums indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the average frost date in your area. Tubers should be planted 1 to 2 inches deep. When planting, place the knobby side up. The knobs are the tuber's eyes or buds. Tubers that are mistakenly planted upside down will grow, but they'll take longer to emerge.
While caladiums enjoy warm weather, they don't tolerate dry conditions. In beds and borders, water plants on a weekly basis during dry weather. Mulches are also helpful. Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch around plants to conserve moisture. Caladiums in containers should be checked regularly and watered as needed.
Caladiums have a moderate fertility requirement. In outdoor beds, apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer and incorporate it into the soil before planting. Fertilize caladiums in pots with a soluble fertilizer every 2 to 4 weeks.
Home gardeners can choose from numerous caladium varieties. Some of the more popular varieties, and a brief description of each, are listed below.
- 'Aaron' - white leaves with green edges.
- 'Brandywine' - deep red leaves.
- 'Candidum' - white leaves with green veins and margins.
- 'Candidum Jr.' - dwarf variety, white foliage with green veins and fine green margins.
- 'Carolyn Whorton' - pink leaves with red veins and green edges.
- 'Florida Sweetheart' - strap-shaped, pink leaves with dark rose veins and green margins.
- 'Freida Hemple' - red leaves with green margins.
- 'Gingerland' - white foliage has green and red splotches with dark green edges, dwarf variety.
- 'Miss Muffet' - dwarf variety, chartreuse leaves with burgundy spots.
- 'Pink Beauty' - pink leaves with dark pink veins and green margins.
- 'Pink Symphony' - strap-shaped, pink foliage with green veins.
- 'Postman Joyner' - red leaves with green margins.
- 'Rosebud' - pink foliage and veins with green edges.
- 'White Christmas' - white leaves with green veins.
- 'White Queen'- white leaves with red veins and green margins.
In Iowa, caladiums will not survive the winter outdoors. These tender perennials must be dug up in the fall and stored indoors over the winter months. Carefully dig up the caladiums when the foliage droops and begins to yellow with the onset of cool fall temperatures or wait until after the first frost. Place the plants in a warm, dry location for 1 or 2 weeks to cure. Afterwards, cut off the dry foliage and bury the tubers in dry peat moss or vermiculite. Store the tubers in a cool (50 to 55EF), dry location.
Tubers can be purchased in garden centers and mail-order catalogs. Mail-order sources include:
|McClure and Zimmerman||Brent and Becky's Bulbs||Park Seed|
|335 South High Street||7463 Heath Trail||1 Parkton Avenue|
|Randolph, Wisconsin 53956||Gloucester, Virginia 23061||Greenwood, SC 29647|
This article originally appeared in the February 8, 2002 issue, pp. 12-13.