The beautiful variegated leaf colors of the caladium tempt gardeners every year. It's hard to resist the range of pink, red, green and light yellow foliage that adds immediate interest to the shade garden. Learning how to buy caladium begins with understanding what constitutes a healthy plant. Nurseries sell caladium as transplants or as bulbs for use in the home garden.
Evaluate your garden site. Caladiums need shady locations and rich organic soil that remains evenly moist. Avoid planting caladiums in a soggy site. Mature plants in the perfect spot can reach up to 30 inches in height. Provide plenty of space for the caladium to reach mature size without impeding growth with other garden plants.
Visit a local nursery and check the plants to determine quality. Healthy caladium exhibits fresh looking foliage on strong stems. Good quality plants also feature multiple stems per pot. Some cultivars have slightly ruffled or wavy edges. This doesn't indicate damage to the plant.
Touch the top of the soil in the transplant container and slip your fingers down the side of the pot. It should be evenly moist throughout the pot and you should feel extensive roots spaced throughout the container. Any indication of dryness may spell intermittent watering at the nursery. The plant may be under stress and weakened without showing obvious signs.
Consult with the nursery horticulturists if you prefer to purchase caladium tubers. The nursery can order the bulbs for you from a reputable supplier. This allows easy return or exchange if the quality isn't up to par.
Select available bulbs that feature a smooth surface completely free of nicks, dents or rotted areas. Select the largest bulb possible and look for bulbs that appear fresh with even coloring. Like selecting fruit, hold the bulb in your hand and squeeze gently. It should be firm and solid feeling with a uniform shape and color. Caladium tubers feature an elongated fleshy root with multiple shoots popping up along the length. These shoots indicate potential areas of growth for stems and roots.
Ask the garden center when caladium bulbs first arrive for sale. Buying bulbs at this time allows you to select bulbs from the best of the lot. Do not buy older bulbs at the end of the season for use the following year.
About this Author
S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.