Dictionary of Flowers: Caladium

Unreal-looking colorful Caladium is used to fill space in container gardens. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Holmes Palacios and Flickr
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Unreal-looking colorful Caladium is used to fill space in container gardens. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Holmes Palacios and Flickr

  • Caladium
  • Common name: caladium
  • Family: Araceae
  • Category: Perennial in USDA zones 9-11, used mainly as annuals
  • Height: 12" to 18"
  • Width: 6" to 9"
  • Shade
  • Blooms: grown for foliage
  • Growth habit: upright, shrub, round. Used as a filler in containers
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: acidic, fertile, evenly moist, well drained. Water regularly when grown in containers.
  • Garden uses: containers, shade garden, mass planting
  • Diseases: disease resistant
  • Pests: none

Caladiums are tropical plants that grow from tubers or rhizomes. They have large, colorful leaves, shaped like elongated hearts or like arrowheads.

Although grown for foliage, caladiums produce a green calla lily like flower.

Blooms are normally removed and discarded, since they hinder the production of leaves. 

Caladium leaves can be white, red, pink and red in countless variations and mixes. They provide a splash of bright color in shady spots in the garden.

Caladium is a native of Brazil.

Grown as an annual in most zones, it is perennial in frost free zones 9 and 10.

Caladium's types determine their placement in the garden. Heart-shaped (fancy caladiums) are taller, up to thirty inches and can tolerate semi-shade. Arrow shaped (lance caladiums) are shorter and best suited for containers and the front of the shade border.

There are dwarf varieties, not shorter but with smaller leaves.

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Caladiums require a fertile soil amended with either compost or peat moss. When first planting caladium, work a granular balanced fertilizer in the soil.

Then, during growing season, an application of 6-6-6 fertilizer every six weeks is sufficient. Keep the soil moist, but not wet, as the bulbs can rot if drainage isn't sufficient.

A layer of mulch around the plant will help keep the ground moist.

Don't plant caladium until soil is warm. Cold soil will slow down the plant's growth or kill the bulb. Sunlight will scorch the leaves, so shade/dappled shade/bright light conditions are best to keep caladium's leaves in perfect shape.

Caladiums are available as tubers or potted plants. The size of the tuber determines the size of the plant: larger tubers have more leaf buds, so they produce larger plants.

They are classified as "mammoth" (largest), "jumbo", No. 1 and No. 2 (smallest). Plant the bulbs two to three inches deep when the soil is around 70F.

At the end of the growing season, dig the tubers to save for next season. Allow the tubers to dry with the foliage still intact for about a week, then cut the foliage and clean all soil.

The tubers can be stored in peat moss or a net bag in a warm place, around 60F.




IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Caladiums are normally free from pest and disease problems. Sunburn can damage leaves.

Popular varieties:

  • White foliage: 
  • 'Garden White' - white leaves with narrow green edges. Somewhat sun tolerant. Fast grower
  • 'Candidum' - not sun tolerant, fancy leaved variety. White with green veining
  • 'White Delight' - can stand some sun. Strap variety, white leaf with marbling green on the edges
  • 'White Ruffles' -strap variety, good for containers
  • Pink foliage:
  • 'Roseglow' - fancy leaf type. Suitable for lager pots. Pink center with white veining and green wide egde
  • 'Carolyn Whorton' - fancy leaf type. Mottled light pink and green with dark pink veining
  • 'Blushing Bride' - good for hanging baskets in shade, lance leaf type. Deep pink with white veins and green edge
  • Red foliage:
  • 'Miss Muffet' - mostly chartreuse green with red dots and veining. Tall variety, grows up to 24". Strap leaf variety
  • 'Postman Joyner' - tall variety, part shade. Deep red center with green edge and red veining
  • 'Red Flash' - sun tolerant, one of the largest varieties. Red centers and light green edges with pink spots
  • 'Red Frills' - red leaves, with wavy green edges. Mounding, good for containers and baskets

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Full List of Dictionary of Flowers Entries

Annuals For Containers

Perennials For Containers

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