Caladium 'hortulanum' in the garden.
image by Captain Tucker:commons.wikimedia.org
A tender tropical perennial with dramatically colored and veined foliage, caladium is grown as both an indoor houseplant as well as an outdoor garden plant. While its flowers are not large, the leaves resemble heart-shaped arrowheads hung on the tip of slim arching stems. Depending on the varietal the leaf coloration ranges from crisp white and green to deep cerise and green to solid green. Grown from underground tubers, caladium is hardy in USDA zones 9a through 11 and can be dug up and overwintered in cooler climes and grown as an annual.
Select a growing location for your caladium that affords partial to complete overhead shade but bright indirect light. Avoid hot direct sun and the more partial sun the plant receives the more carefully you need to monitor its soil moisture.
Water your caladiums often to maintain and evenly moist soil around the roots never allowing the soil to dry out. If the plant is wilting but the soil is not sopping wet, it likely needs water. You do, however, want to avoid constantly wet soil as that can readily rot the tuber. Water deeply every few days or once a week but not everyday. Lay down a 2-inch thick blanket of organic mulch to help preserve soil moisture. Consider cocoa hulls, shredded bark or compost for your mulch.
Fertilize your caladium once a month throughout the growing season in your area. For some tropical and temperate climates this can be year round. Use a general purpose plant formula that is water soluble and apply just around the roots not over the foliage. In areas of year-round growth slow release fertilizers can be used to cut down on the fertilizer maintenance.
Harvest the leaves for use in household flower arrangements. Prune away damaged or dying leaves by cutting off at the base of the plant as needed. Cut the flower stalks off at their base as the blooms fade in the summer.
Lift caladium tubers out of the soil in the fall after the foliage slumps and browns. Dust off the soil and cut off the dead foliage. Nestle the tubers in a shallow storage container filled with clean sand or peat moss and maintain in a spot protected from frost but with cool temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant again in the spring after the last frost has passed.