The Tropical Gardener
Chuck Nicholls, Master Gardener
Fancy Leaf Caladiums
Photos courtesy of Happiness Farms in Lake Placid, Fl.
Add a splash of color to your summer garden.
Originating from the Central and South America, Fancy leaf Caladiums are a perfect solution to Florida’s hot and humid summers. Whether grown in containers, flower beds or used as border plants, caladiums will add fabulous color and dimension to any area of your home or garden.
Other than some flowering shrubs and trees, it is difficult to grow annuals such as zinnias, petunias and marigolds in the summer. These plants are best grown in the winter in South Florida.
Caladiums belong to the family Araceae which includes the common Elephant Ears and Alocasias. There are many colorful varieties of colors ranging from red, pink and various shades of green and white. Each variety has its unique leaf, vein and color characteristics.
They are categorized into two type of varieties. Fancy varieties have large heart shaped leaves and grow 18-24 inches in height. One of my favorite varieties is ” White Queen”. The lance leaf varieties are known for their narrow elongated leaves and unusually shorter (12-18″ in height).
I personally love the lace leaf varieties. I have used a variety “Florida Sweetheart” as a unique summer ground cover. This year, I am very enthusiastic about growing the variety “White Wing” in a shady location in the front garden.
Plants are generally available in quart and gallon containers in late April and early May. Caladium Bulbs are available in late winter and early spring in garden centers and nurseries. I prefer to buy bulbs from wholesalers since I usually order in quantity. I start my bulbs in wooden or plastic flats and cover them with peat moss or light soil for 2-4 weeks until new leaves appear. At that point, I transfer directly to the soil in the garden or in various pots and containers.
In Fall, the plants will begin to wither as they begin to go dormant. I often leave the plants that are in the ground and they will emerge in Spring. I place other bulbs (previously grown in pots and containers) in open pots and store under shrubs in the shade.
Most of the caladiums available in the U.S. are grown in Lake Placid, Florida. The growing of these bulbs is an important part of agriculture in Lake Placid. A major Caladium Festival is coming up July 29-31 (Friday-Sunday). Many activities are planned for the festival including a bus tour of the many growers producing these bulbs. This is a great opportunity to meet growers and become familiar with the many variety of plants they offer. Further information call be obtained by calling 863 465-45331.
You can learn more about caladiums and other plants by attending The Equality Park Garden Club which meets at The Pride Center every third Wednesday of the month at 7:30 PM. The Pride Center is located at 2040 North Dixie Highway.