There are nothing like caladiums to brighten up a shady landscape! Caladiums come in background shades of pink, red, green and white with similar color blotches and veins within the heart-shaped leaf. These South American beauties adapt well to both an organic matter rich landscape as well as to pot culture and can be purchased as started plants or tubers. Many cultivars are available within two distinct types - fancy and lance-leaf. The fancy variety have the usual heart-shaped leaves, while the lance-leaf types have narrow leaves on short stems on an overall compact plant. New cultivars are released on a regular basis through breeding programs. It would not be a Florida garden without some caladiums!
Let's start at the beginning with the tubers. Interestingly enough, caladium tubers are graded and come available in different sizes like eggs. While all size tubers are fine for landscape beds, generally, you want to choose a tuber size that fits the pot size if you are containerizing them. For example, one "mammoth" tuber (which is three and one half to four and one half inches in diameter) fits well in a six-inch pot. A "jumbo" tuber is two and one half to three and one half inches and is best started in a five-inch pot.
Caladiums need a soil mix that is high in water-holding organic matter such as peat. Drainage is also important with additions of sand or perlite. A sterile commercial mix good for caladiums should be available at any garden center. Proper soil moisture is very important because if caladiums are allowed to wilt, the plants may go dormant. Plant the tubers upright (you may notice some sprouts already formed on the tuber) with one to one and one-half inches of soil over the top of the tuber. Roots will form on the top and side of the tuber. While most caladiums thrive in either shade or partial shade, some cultivars even do well in full sun if proper water is provided. Also, plants grown in partial shade, for example, will develop deeper color than those in full shade. Feed caladiums a balanced liquid fertilizer as recommended on the package. After a nice summer of growth, if and when temperatures drop below 65 degrees F, caladiums will begin to go dormant. The foliage will die back and the tubers will over-winter in the pots with some protection provided by storing them in a garage. Those in the landscape are perfectly hardy and will over-winter on their own.
Evans, M.R., Harbaugh, B.K. & Wilfret, G.J. (2006), Caladium As Potted and Landscape Plants, University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS.
Gilman, E. F. (2014) Caladium xhortulanum Caladium. University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS.
Christman, S. (2003) Caladium bicolor. Floridata.com, Tallahassee, FL.
Black, R.J. & Tjia, B. (2003) Caladiums for Florida. University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS.