Caladiums

Florida Calypso caladiums

'Florida Calypso' caladiums

Caladiums are known for their stunning leaves with unique patterns and vibrant colors. They will attract attention to any landscape and bring life to shady areas.

Characteristics

Originally discovered in Brazil along the amazon basin, this tropical foliage plant is known for its spectacular, multicolored leaves. Caladiums are wonderful hanging basket, pot and landscape plants. They are easy to grow in Florida’s warm, humid climate and will provide beautiful color throughout spring, summer and fall.

Scientifically known as Caladium x hortulanum; Caladiums are part of the arum family of plants. The color combinations for this plant include white, pink, rose, red, burgundy, chartreuse, or green. There are over 48 different cultivars, but the two main types are fancy-leafed, which have large heart shaped leaves and lance-leafed which have narrow, elongated leaves.

The stems of caladiums usually grow between 1 and 2 feet tall and the attractive leaves grow between 6 and 12 inches in length. The plants grow from tubers and will mature to full size in one season. Caladiums naturally die back in winter.

Most caladiums thrive in the partial shade and only need two to four hours of direct sunlight per day. Although there are new cultivars which have been bred to grow in direct sunlight, minimal morning sun is ideal for caladiums and then shade for the remainder of the day.  When grown in the shade, the leaf colors tend to be more vibrant, than when grown in full sun. There are few plants that will grow in shade and still provide a powerful amount color, so the caladium is an excellent option for shade gardens.

Planting and Care

Caladium tubers can be purchased already started or you can grow them yourself.

Plant caladium tubers in soil that is at least 70°F, cool soil will result in tuber rot and slow growth. In North Florida, plant caladium tubers in the ground in April; in South Florida in late February. When planting tubers place the knobby (puckered area in the center) side up, and plant them 2 inches deep and 8 to 12 inches apart from each other. Remember to plant most caladium cultivars in a well shaded area for optimal leaf color and health.

Soils with high moisture and adequate drainage are preferred. Caladiums should never sit in dry soil or saturated water. The soil should be moist to the touch and watered frequently. To retain soil moisture, mulch around the plant after the leaves have emerged. These plants are heavy feeders so regularly fertilize them with a soluble fertilizer, for prime foliage growth. Caladiums' leaves can also burn if fertilizer is applied directly to the leaves, the plants are in direct sunlight, or there is a lack of water. 

Enjoy the flourishing leaves of the caladium throughout the spring, summer and fall. As fall temperatures cool, caladium leaves will begin to decline, but are back again the following spring.

For more information on caladiums, contact your county Extension office.

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