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Caladium Basics

 

The astounding beauty of Caladium lies in its leaves - they're prolifically appreciated through mid-summer into fall

They're known in the plant world as Caladium bicolor and are native to the rain forests of Brazil. That should explain why the hotter it becomes in summer - and more humid - these showy foliage plants are at their best.

Most caladiums will definitely thrive in partial shade while some can be planted with some sun access and still thrive. They also love the indoors if nighttime temperatures do not become too cool. Their colors are absolutely astounding - variegations of white, red, pink, and green.

Caladiums grow from tubers. There are very few areas in the U.S. where they can be left in the ground year-round. The southernmost portions of Florida and California will be the exceptions, unless there is heavy rainfall throughout the season. They can also be treated as annuals and left in the ground to die out for next-season replacement.

To bring them back each season, just remove the tuber while the ground is still warm and store in a semi-dry peat moss bed. Leave some of the buds on the tuber before storing. Make regular inspections and don't let the moss dry out completely. They'll be ready to go again when the last sign of frost danger is over in late spring. To be safe, it's recommended to plant them a little too late in the season, rather than too early. The tubers will easily rot in too-cool soil. They do love a bulb fertilizer as well as a compost-rich, well-draining environment.

The list of caladium cultivars is long. Some will produce better than others. When shopping, you'll find caladiums fall into two categories: fancy and strap-leaved. Fancy-leaved caladiums are generally taller with larger, heart-shaped leaves. Strap-leaved cultivars bear narrow, elongated leaves and tend to be bushier and more compact.

Among the fancy-leaved cultivars, you'll find these to be hardy choices:
-Fire Chief
-Gypsy Rose
-Florida Fantasy
-Carolyn Whorton
-Pink Beauty
-Rosebud
-White Christmas

Strap-leaved caladium choices will include:
-Florida Sweetheart
-Lance Whorton
-Red Frill
-White Wing
-Gingerland
-Pink Symphony

Tubers are available at nurseries, through catalogs, and on-line. They are available in four sizes: No. 1, No. 2, Jumbo, and Mammoth. If a larger central bud is present (it will be surrounded by smaller buds), it should be carefully removed as it will prevent the smaller buds from maturing.

It is possible for caladiums to also produce blooms. Remove, if desired, as the flowering will draw too much energy from growing bright showy leaves.

Keep caladiums away from children and pets - as any part of the plant contains an irritant that can cause reactions in those with sensitive skin. Ingesting any part of the plant can also cause irritation and swelling in the lining of the mouth and throat.

 

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