How to Take Care of Caladiums
image by Carl E Lewis: Flickr.com
Caladiums are flowering plants native to South and Central America, and are more commonly known as elephant ear or angel wings. Many types of caladium are grown as ornamental plants, and are valued for their large heart-shaped leaves which come in a variety of colors. Variegated foliage in colors of white, red and green are highly prized. Caladiums are easy to grow in warm to temperate climates, but may require additional care in cooler locations.
Plant caladium tubers in a partially shaded area with well-drained soil, no more than two inches deep and only after the soil has warmed to at least 70 degrees F. Caladiums are tropical plants and cannot tolerate the cold or full sunlight. They need warm, moist conditions to thrive. Plant smaller cultivars at least 8 inches apart, and larger cultivars at least 12 inches apart.
Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch to the soil surrounding caladiums. This will conserve the moisture that is so vital to the survival of caladium plants, and keep the soil temperature cool. If the temperature of the soil reaches above 85 degrees F, the leaves will become less brilliant.
Water caladiums at least once per week, and never allow the soil to dry out completely. Caladiums are not drought tolerant and will quickly wither without ample moisture. Daily watering may be necessary in dry periods or arid climates. Check the soil regularly, and when the first inch is dry, water deeply.
Fertilize caladiums with a 5-10-10 NPK fertilizer once per month in the spring and summer months. As a general rule, apply approximately 1 tbsp. per plant, but always refer to the manufacturer's instructions for proper dosage and application. Water thoroughly after fertilizing to prevent root burn.
Dig up caladium tubers in the fall when the foliage begins to droop and turn yellow if you live in an area with winter temperatures below 70 degrees F. Place the tubers in a warm, dry area to cure for two weeks, cut off any dried foliage which remains, and then bury in dry peat moss until the next spring. Make sure tubers are not stored in a location where the temperature drops below 60 degrees F.