Caladium

Prepared by Karen Russ, HGIC Horticulture Specialist, and Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Clemson University. (New 03/99. Images added 09/07.)

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Caladiums are tropical foliage plants grown for their spectacular, multicolored decorative leaves. They are used as pot, border and bedding plants throughout South Carolina to provide summer color in shady locations.

Freida Hemple Caladium
'Freida Hemple' Caladium
Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Height/Spread

Fancy-leafed caladiums grow between 12 and 30 inches tall depending on cultivar and growing conditions. Lance-leafed caladiums are generally a little smaller.

Growth Rate

Caladiums are not hardy year-round, although it is possible to overwinter the dry tubers indoors. They grow to full size in one season.

Ornamental Features

Caladium leaves are combinations of red, pink, green and/or white, with colored midribs and contrasting backgrounds and borders. The varied leaf colors and patterns create many uses for caladiums in the landscape.

Landscape Use

Mass plantings of caladiums create a focal point in the landscape. They provide a striking contrast with the green foliage of other plants, especially when planted in the foreground.

Caladiums need protection from full sun for best growth and color. Some newer varieties will tolerate full sun for a couple of hours daily, but all prefer dappled or moderate shade.

June Bride Caladium growing in filtered shade
'June Bride' Caladium growing in filtered shade
Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Caladiums require a warm, moist soil to grow. Planting in cool soil results in slow growth or tuber rot. A good rule of thumb in determining when to set out caladiums is to plant them when you plant okra seed in the vegetable garden. Soil temperature of 70 °F is preferred.

Water frequently and thoroughly, keeping the soil evenly moist to touch but not saturated. Do not let caladiums sit in water if planted in a container.

Fertilize caladiums regularly with a soluble fertilizer to promote strong foliage growth. You can grow caladiums from tubers yourself or buy already-started plants. Large tubers have more leaf buds than small tubers and, therefore, make larger and better displays.

Each caladium tuber has a large central bud surrounded by several small buds. Most caladium varieties produce only a few colorful leaves if the large central bud is allowed to grow. Remove the central bud to allow the tuber to produce many more shoots and leaves. Use the tip of a sharp knife to lift out the large central bud, being careful not to injure any of the surrounding small buds.

Save caladium tubers for planting next year by digging the tubers in the fall before the leaves have lost all color. Spread them out and allow them to dry for a week. Cut or pull the dry foliage from the tubers and remove all dry soil, then pack in dry peat moss or vermiculite for storage. Pack tubers so they do not touch each other. Store them where the temperature will not drop below 50 °F.

Starting with new tubers each year may give better results since second year foliage is usually not as good as the first year. You may have better luck storing and regrowing tubers of white-foliaged caladiums than those of other types.

Problems

Tuber rot is a fungal decay of tubers in storage or during the growing season. Select disease-free tubers for planting. Store tubers properly to avoid high humidity and cool temperatures. Never store caladium tubers in the refrigerator. Tubers purchased in early spring should be held at room temperature. Leaf spot causes lower leaves to develop light tan-to-brown spots. Remove diseased leaves as they appear.

Burning of the edges of older leaves and scorching of leaves usually are the result of fertilizer touching the leaves, watering during the hot part of the day or too little water.

Cultivars

Fancy and lance-leafed varieties are the two main types of caladiums. Fancy-leafed types have large heart-shaped leaves, grow best in semishade, and may reach a height of 12 to 30 inches, depending on variety and growing conditions. The lance or strap -leafed types have narrow, elongated leaves and perform best as accent plants in borders, in hanging baskets and in patio planters.

Dramaticall patterned leaf of Pink Beauty Caladium
Dramatically patterned leaf of 'Pink Beauty' Caladium
Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Fancy-Leafed Caladiums:

  • 'Aaron' is white with green margins, some sun tolerance.
  • 'Candidum' is an old cultivar that is white with green veins.
  • 'Florida Fantasy' is white with red veins.
  • 'June Bride' is white with green margin.
  • 'Marie Moir' is whitish green with red spots.
  • 'White Christmas' is a popular white leaf.
  • 'White Queen' is white with red veins, some sun tolerance, more red with shade.
  • 'Carolyn Whorton' has pink leaves with red veins and green margins.
  • 'Fannie Munson' is pink.
  • 'Fire Chief' is a dark pink, with limited sun tolerance.
  • 'Pink Beauty' is pink but lighter than 'Fannie Munson.'
  • 'Pink Cloud' is pink with green margins and some sun tolerance.
  • 'Gypsy Rose' has pink veins with green blotches.
  • 'Freida Hemple' is deep red, but lighter than 'Postman Joyner' with green margins and no sun tolerance.
  • 'Kathleen' is red with green margins.
  • 'Postman Joyner' is a well-known dark red with green margins.
  • 'Red Flash' is dark red, has fuchsia spots, green margins and good sun tolerance.

Lance-Leafed Caladiums:

  • 'Caloosahatchee' is white with a green margin.
  • 'Candidum Jr.' is a dwarf white caladium with green veins.
  • 'Gingerland' is white with red blotches and a green margin.
  • 'White Wing' is white with a green margin.
  • 'Florida Sweet Heart' is mauve pink with green margins.
  • 'Pink Gem' is pink and excellent for hanging baskets.
  • 'Pink Symphony' is pink with green veins.
  • 'Lance Whorton' is red with white blotches and a green margin.
  • 'Red Frill' is red and also excellent for hanging baskets.
  • 'Rosalie' is red with green margins.
  • 'Miss Muffett' is a dwarf caladium. Its leaves are green with white veins and red blotches. This variety has no sun tolerance.

Miss Muffet Caladium growing in full shade
'Miss Muffet' Caladium growing in full shade.
Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension

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