Caladiums are tropical plants treasured for long-lasting foliage in shades of red, pink, white, green and yellow-green, with prominent midribs and margins in contrasting colors. Caladium cultivars fall under two categories: fancy-leaf and lance-leaf. Fancy-leaf cultivars have broad, heart-shaped leaves situated on long stems. Lance-leaf cultivars have smaller, elongated leaves on short stems. Fancy-leaf caladiums grow from 12 to 30 inches in height, while lance-leaf varieties grow to no more than 12 inches.
Caladiums thrive and provide the best colors when planted in a location that offers at least partial shade and healthy, well-draining soil. Work pine mulch or compost into the planting site, at a depth of 6 inches, before planting caladium bulbs. If the soil is high in clay content, work in equal parts of sand and compost to create soil that will drain sufficiently. In addition, work in a granular or slow-release fertilizer (8-8-8 to 14-14-14) at a rate of 2 tbsp. per foot or 2 lbs. per every 100 feet of planting area.
Caladium Tuber Preparation
Fancy-leaf caladium tubers contain a dominant bud in the center. When the bud is removed, it allows the tuber to create more leaves. If the center bud is left intact, the caladium will create a taller specimen with less foliage. Lance-leaf caladiums do not require de-eyeing, as they produce several uniform buds. To de-eye caladium tubers, use a sharp knife to cut around the large center bud, at a depth of no more than 1/4 inch. Gently scoop out the bud, making certain not to cut or damage side buds in the process, then dust the cut area of the tuber with fungicide to prevent disease.
Planting Caladium Tubers
Outside soil temperature should be at least 65 to 70 degrees F during the day and no less than 55 degrees at night, before caladium tubers can be planted outdoors. If tubers are planted too early, in colder climates, rotting can occur before they have a chance to sprout. Caladium tubers need to be at least 1 1/2 to 2 inches beneath the soil's surface and spaced from 8 to 12 inches apart, depending on the type and size of tuber. Dig a hole for each plant, then place the tuber in with the knobby side facing upward and cover lightly with soil. Water newly planted tubers thoroughly to set, then cover with a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch.