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Plant Profile: Caladium (Caladium bicolor)

The large showy leaves of caladiums are always a big draw especially if you have a shady area that needs color. The leaves range in color from red and pink to white with various shades of green, and feature attractive veining as well. The color develops best in partial shade and lasts all season; too much sun may scorch the leaves while too little light leads to less color. There are two different kinds of caladiums. One group has arrow-shaped leaves and are tall; the other has lance or strap-shaped leaves and are shorter. The lance-leaved caladiums produce more leaves and are more compact.

Caladiums are natives of warm humid tropics so won’t do well if planted outside before temperatures are warm and they thrive in the heat and humidity of southern summers. They are available in spring as potted plants or tubers. If you decide to buy tubers, start them about two months before you want them outside. To prepare the tubers for maximum leaf production, dig out the central bud on each tuber with a sharp knife. Plant tubers in a warm place with temperatures around 70o F. The plants are very sensitive to cold so don’t plant them out until temperatures are over 70o and the soil has warmed to at least 60o. Tubers planted in cold temperatures do not grow well and may rot. In the fall you can dig them up and store them in a warm area until spring. For more information on storing caladiums see my article “How to Lift and Store Caladiums”.

Type: Tuber.

Bloom: NA (Grown for colorful leaves).

Foliage: Large, white, pink, red and green, arrow-shaped leaves with midribs, veins and margins in contrasting colors.

Size: 12-30” H.

Light: Partial shade.

Soil: Fertile, moist.

Fertilizer: Caladiums are nitrogen sensitive and may stretch or fail to develop good color if over fertilized.

Hardiness: Zone 10-11.

Pests and Diseases: Generally considered pest free but can be susceptiable to aphids, mealy bugs, spider mites, thrips, and white flies.

Propagation: Division of tubers.

Companion Plants: Ferns, astilbe, tiarella and other shade loving plants with fine foliage.

Outstanding Selections: There are many fine cultivars showing many variations in colors.

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