How to Care for a Caladium

Caladium bicolor planted in a garden border image by Captain Tucker:commons.wikimedia.org

Overview

Caladium is a family of tropical perennial plants that thrive when provided heat and humidity. They grow well in partial to complete shade exposures, and the hotter your climate the more shade they will prefer. Grown for their distinctively veined and colored foliage, caladium are tender plants, hardy only in USDA zones 9a through 11. When grown beyond their natural climate range, they are used as indoor houseplants or overwintered indoors as a naked corm and grown as annuals outdoors.

Step 1

Provide partial to full shade planting exposure for your caladium. Morning sun and afternoon shade is an ideal light combination in most climates. Dappled shade or complete shade is best in very hot or dry climates. Bright indirect light is always welcome and cannot harm the plant.

Step 2

Maintain a nutrient rich soil around your caladium. Amend the soil at planting and once a year with fresh compost or well-aged manure. Mulch around the base of the plants each year with shredded bark or cocoa hulls that will feed the soil as they degrade. Mulching will also hold moisture to the soil and prevent weeds from cropping up.

Step 3

Maintain a nutrient rich soil around your caladium. Amend the soil at planting and once a year with fesh compost or well-aged manure. Mulch around the base of the plants each year with shredded bark or cocoa hulls that will feed the soil as they degrade. Mulching will also hold moisture to the soil and prevent weeds from cropping up.

Step 4

Water your caladium regularly and deeply, keeping the soil evenly moist to the touch at all times, but not consistently soaking wet. Depending on your climate and time of year, daily watering may be needed during the peak of summer heat, and every 10 days to 2 weeks may be sufficient in winter.

Step 5

Prune your caladium sparingly throughout the growing season. Harvest leaves for inclusion in household floral arrangements by cutting down the stem at the soil line. Prune away any damaged, browning or dead leaves by cutting at the soil line. Chop off all foliage only after digging up the corm for winter storage.

Step 6

Dig and store your caladium corms in the fall after the foliage has died back or the first frost has come. Carefully dig a wide circle around the plant base, loosening the soil, and gently lift the corm up and out by grasping the plant foliage like you are pulling a carrot. Dust the corms of excess dirt and store them nestled down in clean sand or fresh dry potting mix until spring. Select a dimly lit storage spot where temperatures will remain between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Things You'll Need

  • Caladium corm/s
  • Water
  • Soil
  • Water soluble fertilizer
  • Organic mulch
  • Secateurs
  • Sand or peat moss
  • Storage container

References

  • Iowa State University
  • University of Minnesota
Keywords: caladium, corm bulb, tropical leaf plant

About this Author

A communications professional, D.C. Winston has more than 17 years of experience writing and editing content for online publications, corporate communications, business clients, industry journals and film/broadcast media. Winston studied political science at the University of California, San Diego.

Photo by: Captain Tucker:commons.wikimedia.org