Growing Caladiums


While we’re as busy as bees planting annuals, perennials and, of course, colorful summer bulbs, it’s good to remember that color can come from foliage.

It can get so busy that it often feels overwhelming with all that digging, amending the soil, and planting. At about this point, we look to the ground for a spiritual garden guru to send us a sign. Consider this your sign.

Did you know caladium bulbs do just fine if all you do is lay them on the ground where you want them to grow and cover with three inches of mulch? That’s it.

At first, I was a skeptic. When someone shared this technique with me about ten years ago I thought all these years I’ve been digging and now I don’t have to. But after planting my caladiums this way for the past decade, there is no denying it works. And guess what? I plant more. Why? There isn’t nearly as much work, and they add a powerful punch of color to the garden.

Do you have a mature tree with roots so thick nothing can be planted under it? Caladiums are the answer. Not only do they thrive well in shade, there is no digging required. Just lay them out where you want them to grow, and cover with mulch. It’s that easy. Take note if you have deer as these might be grazed and damaged depending on the level of deer activity in your garden.

Caladiums are best planted once the soil temperature reaches 60-degrees Fahrenheit. These bulbs need the temperature to be just a little warmer than that of the last spring frost date.

If you are looking to add a punch of color, think caladiums. All too often we only think of our summer color coming from flowers, but caladiums provide this as well. Each year, more and more are discovering this old time, classic favorite.

In my garden, Helen’s Haven, I plant them along a shady pathway and in the shadiest corner of my woodland garden, adding a beam of brightness where it’s otherwise just green and dark.

Once planted, caladium leaves will start showing color within a few weeks. Once planted, water in well. You’ll probably then forget about them until the foliage begins to unfurl above the mulch.

The hardest decision you will need to make is which one of the many color variations to buy, and then how to arrange these in the garden. If you can’t decide, get ten of each kind, mix them all together and see what happy accidents happen.

Got Sun?

Did you know there have been many developments in caladiums? Today there are several sun-tolerant varieties. Though here in the south sun-tolerant caladiums prefer some afternoon shade. Don’t we all. And also know, just because these varieties can grow in the sun, that doesn’t mean they have to. Look for these caladiums at your independent garden center.

‘Aaron’ has creamy white leaves with green veins and dark green borders.

‘Brandywine’ is distinguished by its unusual shade of burgundy and contrasting green edges.

‘Fire Chief’ has bright pink and ivory leaves.

‘Florida Fantasy’ is an impressive variety with large, bright white leaves and reddish-pink veins, a slender green border, and pale green markings.

‘Pink Gem’ has bright pink, sword-shaped leaves.

‘Red Flash’ has red-veined leaves speckled with white and fuchsia, edged in deep green.

‘Rosebud’ is a splashy variety with pink and green leaves and pink ribs.

‘White Christmas’ is a caladium variety named for its big, snow-white leaves and distinctive deep green veins.

‘White Queen’ has white leaves marked with contrasting green and red veins and deep green edges.
Featured photo / by Helen Yoest.

Helen Yoest, author of several books including her latest, “Good Berry, Bad Berry,” is an award winning garden writer and sustainable gardening caring for her half-acre wildlife habitat, Helen’s Haven.

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