One day this week I noticed in a friend's flower beds that she had caladiums growing. They were beautiful. I like the way caladiums look in the landscape but haven't been able to grow them.
It seems that I never have the right location to grow them. When caladiums are mass planted, they create a focal point in the landscape. Caladiums are tropical foliage plants grown for their spectacular, multicolored decorative leaves. When you use them in front of green plants, they create a striking contrast to the green foliage behind them.
Caladiums can be grown in all parts of Georgia. They can be grown in pots, as border plants or as bedding plants. They should be considered as annuals.
There are two main types of caladiums, classified according to their leaf shape: fancy-leafed caladiums and lance-leafed caladiums. The fancy-leafed caladiums have large heart shaped leaves, and they will grow from 12 to 30 inches high. The lance-shaped leaf varieties have leaves that are narrow and elongated. These varieties are shorter than the fancy-leaf varieties.
The leaves of caladiums come in many different colors. They can be red, pink, green or white, or a combination of these colors. They can have colored midribs and contrasting backgrounds and borders. The varied leaf colors and patterns is one of the reasons that caladiums are so versatile in the landscape.
In order for caladiums to do well, you need the right area for them to grow in. Caladiums need protection from full sun for best growth and color. Some newer varieties will tolerate full sun for a couple of hours, but all prefer dappled or moderate shade.
Besides shade, the next most important aspect to growing caladiums is the soil. Caladiums require a warm, moist soil. Caladiums should be planted when the soil temperature is above 70 degrees. In our area, the soil will reach this temperature around the first week of May. Another rule of thumb is to plant the caladiums when you plant your okra in the vegetable garden.
Caladiums should be watered frequently and thoroughly. The soil needs to maintain an even moisture level for the plants to grow their best. If you are growing caladiums in pots, make sure that the plant is not setting in water. This can cause the tuber to rot.
When you go to the store to buy caladiums, you will buy them as tubers or plants in a container. If you buy tuber, you need to get the largest tubers that you can buy. The larger the tuber, the more leaf buds you will have, and this will give you a larger and better display. When you buy caladium tubers, you will notice that there is a large bud on the tuber that is surrounded by smaller buds. Remove the large bud from the tuber. Otherwise, the tuber will produce a few large leaves, rather than many more shoots and leaves. You can remove the large bud by using the tip of a sharp knife to lift out the large central bud.
Earlier I said that we need to treat caladiums as annuals. Most gardeners buy new tubers every year. The reason for this is that the foliage growth the second year is not as good as the first year. However, if you want to try and save your tubers, follow these steps.
First, dig the tubers in the fall before the leaves have lost all their color. Then, spread them out and allow them to dry for a week. Next, pull the dry foliage and dry soil from the tuber. Then, pack the tubers in dry peat moss or vermiculite for storage. When packing the tubers, make sure the tubers are not touching each other or the sides of the container. Store the tubers in an area where the temperature will not drop below 50 degrees.
Next year when you are thinking about a new plant to try in your garden, give the caladium a try.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Extension Web address is www.ugaextension.com/columbia.
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