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How to Care for a Caladium Bulb

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How to Care for a Caladium Bulb

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Overview

Caladium, also known as "elephant ear," is a splashy plant valued for the vivid colors and immense size of the foliage. Although caladium isn't difficult to grow, the bulbs require a bit of extra care to keep them blooming year after year. If you live in a warm climate where winter temperatures never drop below the freezing point, it's safe to leave caladium bulbs in the ground all year. Otherwise, the bulbs must be removed from the ground and stored during the winter, as caladium is a tropical plant that won't tolerate cold.

Step 1

Allow the foliage to die down naturally on the caladium plant. The foliage provides energy needed by the bulbs for the following year. Dig the bulbs when the foliage dies down and turns yellow.

Step 2

Loosen the soil around the caladium plant. Use a spade or a garden fork to dig several inches from the plant to avoid accidentally cutting into the roots. Continue loosening the soil around the caladium, then lift the clump carefully from the ground.

Step 3

Cut the foliage from the bulbs. Rinse the bulbs with a hose, then set the bulbs in a warm room or a shady spot to dry. The bulbs will take approximately a week to dry, depending on the temperature, which should be between 60 and 70 degrees F.

Step 4

Dust the caladium bulbs with sulphur, then store the bulbs, not touching, in a cardboard box filled with peat moss, sphagnum moss or perlite. Store the bulbs in temperatures between 50 and 55 degrees F.

Step 5

Check the caladium bulbs regularly during the winter. Discard any soft or rotting bulbs.

Step 6

Re-plant the caladium bulbs when you're sure all danger of frost has passed. Plant the bulbs in soil that has been amended with manure or compost.

Step 7

Water the caladium immediately after planting. Apply 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch to keep the soil temperature even and conserve moisture.

Step 8

Feed the caladium every four to six weeks during the growing season. Use a tablespoon of 5-10-10 granular fertilizer for every square feet of growing space. Water deeply immediately after fertilizing.

Things You'll Need

  • Spade
  • Garden fork
  • Garden hose
  • Sulphur
  • Cardboard box
  • Peat moss, sphagnum moss or perlite
  • Manure
  • Compost
  • Organic mulch
  • 5-10-10 granular fertilizer

References

  • University of Minnesota: Storing Tender Bulbs and Bulblike Structures
  • Texas A&M: Caladium
  • NC State University: Caladiums for the Home Landscape
Keywords: caladium, dig caladium bulbs, elephant ear

About this Author

M.H. Dyer is a long-time writer, editor and proofreader. She has been a contributor to the East-Oregonian Newspaper and See Jane Run magazine, and is author of a memoir, “The Tumbleweed Chronicles, a Sideways Look at Life." She holds an Master of Fine Arts from National University, San Diego.

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