Caladiums have big, heart-shaped leaves that display amazing color combinations of white, pink, red and green. The plants love hot, humid weather and grow best in full to partial shade, though most varieties can also be grow in full sun as long as they get plenty of water. This gives you many more options for planting caladiums in your garden and landscape, and for combining them with other sun loving annuals, perennials and bulbs. Though caladiums rarely flower, their beautiful leaves guarantee a colorful show wherever they are planted -- beneath trees, between shrubs, in perennial borders or in containers.
START WITH A BETTER BULB
It’s easy to see the difference in a quality caladium when you compare two plants side by side. Caladium tubers are graded by size. A #1 tuber measures 1.5 to 2.5” in diameter. Tubers graded #2 or #3 are smaller. The size of the tuber is important because a larger tubers has more growth points, or "eyes". Each eye produces a sprout, and the more sprouts, the larger and fuller the plant. Healthy caladium tubers are plump and firm, not soft or bruised.
PLAN FOR SUCCESS
SHADE AND SUN: Caladiums are ideal for shady yards and gardens. In southern areas they grow best in full to partial shade. In northern areas, most caladiums can also be grown in the sun as long as they get enough water and their leaves are shielded during the hottest part of the day.
ZONE: Caladiums are winter hardy in zones 9-11. In these warm climates, the tubers can be left in the ground all year round. In zones 3-8, caladiums are usually grown as annuals, planted in the spring after any danger of frost. Not sure about your hardiness zone? Check out our zone map here.
WHEN TO PLANT: Caladiums are tropical plants that like warm soil and hot weather. If the tubers are planted into cold soil, they will not grow and may rot. Wait to plant your caladiums until the nights are warm and soil temperatures are at least 65ºF. In cooler climates you can give your caladiums a head start by sprouting the tubers indoors 4-6 weeks before planting time. Plant the tubers shallowly in pots or seedling flats. Keep them warm (70°F) and barely moist to encourage sprouting.
WHERE TO PLANT CALADIUMS
CONTAINERS, PATIOS AND DECKS: Decorate your outdoor sitting areas with beautiful foliage. Caladiums grow well in pots and planters, and are the perfect solution for brightening a shady porch or a covered deck.
WINDOW BOXES: Strap leaf caladiums grow beautifully in window boxes and hanging planters. They will wrap your home in color from summer through fall.
ENTRYWAYS AND BORDERS: Use fancy leaf caladiums to soften a walkway to your front door, edge a shady garden bed or line a path beneath shade trees and shrubs.
MAILBOX GARDENS: Surrounding your mailbox with pretty foliage is a great way to increase your home's curb appreal and create a charming "mini-garden" at the front of your home.
COMPANION PLANTS IN THE GARDEN: Depending on which varieties you choose, caladiums can be bright and flashy or cool and sophisticated. The pinks, greens and whites pair beautifully with other soft colors, and the red-leaved varieties will hold their own when combined with hot-colored begonias, coleus or impatiens.
PLANTING IS AS EASY AS 1-2-3
1. Dig a hole 3" deep.
2. Set the tuber in the hole so it sits 2" below the soil surface.
3. Replace the soil and water as needed.
Wait to plant your caladiums outdoors until after any danger of frost has passed. It's actually best to wait until the nights are warm and the soil temperature has reached 65-70°F.
Most caladium varieties can be planted in either sun or shade. If you are planting them in a sunny location, it is important that they still get some shade during the hottest part of the day.
Like most plants, caladiums grow best in fertile, well drained soil. You can improve the texture and fertility of your soil by adding compost or top soil at planting time. During the growing season, caladiums will appreciate an occasional dose of liquid fertilizer.
To stimulate bushier growth, some varieties of caladiums can be "de-eyed" before planting. Use a paring knife to carefully cut out one or more of the primary sprouts, taking care not to damage the surrounding tissue or any smaller buds. Though at first this will set the plant back by a couple weeks, many other sprouts will soon begin developing, giving you a shorter, yet fuller plant.
CARING FOR YOUR CALADIUM AFTER THE GROWING SEASON
Caladiums are tropical plants and the tubers will not survive cold winters. If you live in USDA zones 3-7, simply treat your caladiums as annuals. There is no need to dig the tubers at the end of the growing season as they will disintegrate over the winter.
If you live in USDA hardiness zone 8, caladiums are not reliably hardy, so you have a couple options. You can treat them as annuals, try insulating the tubers from cold by covering the area with a thick layer of mulch, or dig up the tubers and winter them over indoors. If you want to dig up the tubers, do it before the soil temperature drops below 55ºF. If you are growing several different varieties, leave some foliage attached to the tubers so it's easier to label them. Spread the tubers out in an area that's protected from rain, cold and direct sunlight. Allow the plants to dry for at least a week and then cut the foliage away from the tubers, keeping like varieties together. Place the tubers in mesh bags or pack them lightly in dry peat moss. Store in a cool, dark place where the temperature will not fall below 60ºF. Replant in spring.
In zones 9-12, caladium tubers are hardy and do not need any special care to survive the winter. At the end of the summer, the plants will begin to go dormant. The leaves will droop and eventually wither away. Simply leave the tubers in the ground where they are and wait for the plants to re-emerge in spring. As long as the soil is well drained and does not freeze, the tubers will return to give you another great show next spring.