How to Care for Caladium Plants
Caladiums (Caladium spp.) are tuberous tropical perennial plants in the arum family that are native to Central and South America. These plants are grown for their variegated, heart-shaped leaves that vary in color depending on the species and cultivar. They may be grown in the ground or as houseplants.
Also known as angel wings, these foliage plants are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 10. They may be grown in the ground and dug up in the winter in cooler climates or kept year round as houseplants.
Caladium Plant Care Outdoors
Caladiums are propagated by planting the tuber directly into the soil. These plants are stemless, with leaves growing directly from the tuber. Before planting, it is a good idea to remove the large central bud from the tuber, which will increase leaf production.
However, as tropical plants, caladiums need warm soil. Therefore, you must wait until after the last frost when soil temperatures have reached 70°F before you plant caladium tubers in the ground. While caladiums outdoors need consistent moisture, well-draining soil is essential.
A soil test is the best way to determine what kind of fertilizer you should apply to caladium plants grown in the ground. Alternatively, feed your caladiums every six weeks with a fertilizer with a 12-6-6 formula.
Caladiums are considered heavy feeders and require fertilization with a formula low in phosphorus to look their best.
Caladiums grow best in full shade or partial shade. Too much direct sunlight can diminish the colors for which caladium leaves are prized and can also result in leaf scorch.
Caladiums in Containers
When growing caladiums in containers, it is important to choose a pot with drainage holes. Otherwise, the caladium tuber may rot in overly moist soil.
Caladiums grown in containers should be fertilized biweekly with a soluble liquid fertilizer. Avoid fertilizers high in phosphorus. Too much nitrogen should also be avoided, as it can affect the coloration of the foliage.
Indoor caladium plants should be placed in a room with high humidity where they receive indirect light. Like outdoor caladiums, indoor plants go through periods of dormancy, during which you should reduce watering. You can resume watering when new growth appears in early spring.
Care of Caladium Tubers
Caladium tubers can be dug up in the fall and overwintered indoors to be planted again in the spring. New tubers are usually used, however, since the foliage tends to decline after the first growing season.
If you wish to dig up and store tubers, dig them up while the leaves still have some color. Allow them to dry for two weeks and then remove all foliage and soil and store the tubers in a dry medium, like vermiculite, peat moss or perlite.
If you are growing caladiums in containers outdoors, you can simply bring the containers indoors without removing the tubers from the soil.
Store caladium tubers in a dry medium at a temperature of 50°F or higher.
The tubers should be kept at a temperature of 50°F or above. Because they have a propensity to rot, a caladium tuber should not touch other tubers or bulbs in storage.
- Store bulbs at room temperature in a dry area until planting.
- Add a general-purpose fertilizer when planting bulbs to improve poor soils.
- Removing any blooms will lead to healthier, more dense foliage.
- Too much sunlight leads to leaf browning.
- Remove dead or damaged caladium leaves to avoid leaf rot.
- Avoid getting fertilizer on caladium leaves, as this will burn them.
Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.