Caladium x hortulanum is a tropical plant grown from dormant tubers. They are known for their green, white, pink or red leaves. The caladium originated in the Amazon jungle of South America. They can be planted directly into the garden after the last frost in spring or in pots for decks and patios.
Caladiums can be purchased at local garden centers as already-potted plants. This makes the planting process much easier. They can also be purchased as tubers, which is where the plant stores its entire life cycle. Generally, each tuber has a primary bud surrounded by smaller ones. Tubers should be inspected before planting to check for rotten spots or other problems. Bigger tubers can be cut into smaller ones, but there should be eyes left on each piece. Plant tubers topside up. Tubers should be planted according to the length of the growing season. If the growing season is shorter in colder zones, start them inside to ensure full enjoyment.
Planting in Gardens
Planting directly outdoors is determined by hardiness zone. Caladiums are hardy in zones 10 and 11. In the rest of the zones, they shouldn't be planted until the after the last frost of the season. They generally do best in part shade and well-drained soil. They need warm weather to sprout; ground temperatures should be at 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
The tubers should be placed in a hole 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep with the eyes up. The smaller plants can be spaced 7 to 8 inches apart but the bigger varieties should be 14 to 18 inches apart. Planting closer together will promote stem height. Once planted, water frequently, keeping the soil moist but not soaked. Use a 6-6-6 slow-release fertilizer every six weeks.
Planting in Pots
Caladiums can be planted in pots to start growing before the last frost and then transferred outside when the weather is right. They are good container plants and can be left in the pot after planting. Any potting soil found in a garden center will work well. Plant the tuber 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep. Make sure your containers have good drainage because the tubers will not grow in soggy conditions. The pots need to be kept as warm as possible for three weeks or until the caladiums have sprouted. If the threat of frost has passed, the pots can be moved outside to patio areas and decks. Caladiums look good with other plants such as lilies and geraniums as long as the care requirements are the same for all plants in a container.
In most regions caladiums are considered either a tender perennial or an annual. During fall, before the first frost, dig up the tubers to keep them over winter. They will need to dry for a couple of days and then stored over winter in a cool place in bags filled with peat moss.
Caladiums are often noticed because of the size of their leaves. Most plants are grown for the beautiful flowers they produce. Caladiums produce equally beautiful leaves that provide bright color throughout the summer months.