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Master Gardeners of Goodhue County

Master Gardeners of Goodhue County

Growing Caladiums in Your Shade Garden

Bob Jacobus, Goodhue County Master Gardener Intern

Bring excitement to your shade gardens with flamboyant splashes of color by planting bulblike tubers of "Fancy Leaf" Caladiums among your Hosta and Fern plants. Gorgeous hues of red, pink, and white heart shaped leaves move gracefully in the breeze bringing your shade garden to life.

"Fancy Leaf" Caladium are derived from Caladium bicolor, a Brazilian species, the broad, heart-shaped foliage is usually a riot of pink, red, white and green splotches. The 12-30 inch leaves remain fresh and vibrant all summer long if you plant them in a shady location. Caladiums grow very well in part shade as well as full shade.

"Lance Leaf" Caladiums, derived from Caladium picturantum, are smaller and more compact. Their pretty, ruffle-edge foliage seems tailor-made for window boxes and patio panters.

You can purchase started plants from garden centers, but what fun is that. Gardeners like to grow plants from seeds, or bulbs and enjoy the excitement of experiencing emergence of the new plants. This is the true joy of gardening. You can purchase the Caladium tubers at local garden centers and from mail- order suppliers. Many vendors are available on the web, just search for Caladium bulbs as most people refer to the tubers as bulbs.

Caladium tubers are frost sensitive. Plant outdoors after the last frost date when nighttime temperatures are 65 degrees F and soil is warm to the touch. Caladiums tolerate most soils, but perform best in soil that is richly organic. Spade in peat moss or compost at planting time if you have sandy or heavy clay soils.

Place tubers bud side up and plant in furrows or individual holes 6 -12 inches apart. Plant the tubers 2-3 inches deep depending on the size of you tubers, and tamp the soil firmly around each tuber to eliminate air pockets. Water the new planted tubers immediately, and thereafter only water if the soil becomes dry until leaves emerge. Caladium leaves will begin to emerge in 3 to 6 weeks after planting.

I like to grow Caladiums in pots to add additional structure to the garden and for plants of interest on the patio. When your caladiums are up and growing, they like moist surroundings and they will thank you for a shower on hot summer days. Use mulch to keep you soil moist. Keep your caladiums growing by applying fertilizer around your plants. A good rule of thumb is 2 pounds of 10-10-5 per 100 square feet of planting bed. Reapply fertilizer monthly.

Caladiums are frost tender, and if you are interested in saving your tubers from year to year, most gardeners, dig them in the fall. Stop watering as temperatures begin to cool. When foliage begins to yellow and daytime temperatures drop and remain below 60 degrees F, the time is right to dig up caladium tubers. Air dry tubers 7 to 10 days on a flat sunny surface. Allow leaves to fall off by themselves as the leaves are supplying the tubers with needed nutrients for storage. Store Caladium tubers in a well-ventilated spot where temperatures remain ideally between 65 and 75 degrees F. Do not refrigerate the tubers.

White-Tailed Deer do not like Caladiums!!! Deer prefer to eat scarecrow shirts rather than Caladiums.

"Fancy Leaf" Caladium cultivars:
Red: Festivia, Poecile, John Peed, Postman Joyner, and Red Flash
White: Aaron, Candidum, June Bride, White Queen, and White Christmas
Pink: Carolyn Whorton, Fannie Munson, Haldeman, Pink Beauty, and Rose Bud
"Lance Leaf" Caladium Cultivars:
Florida Sweetheart, Miss Muffet, Pink Symphony, Rosalie, and White wing

Credits:
Happiness Farms, Inc.
UMN Extension