Need some dazzling color for those shady spots in your yard? Caladiums are colorful heart shaped tropical leaves sure to brighten up any shady area.
They come in a variety of color combinations; some combination are a bold striking white with Christmas green veins, some are deep red with green veins, others are green with white veins and still others are pink with green veins.
Let’s face it, there’s a caladium just waiting to be planted in your garden. And although they are somewhat transparent and delicate in appearance, they love our hot summer weather.
Most local garden centers carry caladium tubers either prepackaged or in self-serve bins. When selecting tubers look for those which are firm and have several “eyes.” Garden centers that sell individual tubers usually have boxes of different varieties and you select them yourself, placing them into paper bags. Mark your paper bags with the variety and number of tubers before taking them to the check-out counter.
When you get them home remove them from the bags and store them in a cool dry location, keeping individual tubers from touching one another as they produce moisture and are prone to mold. Make note of the name and number of tubers purchased for future reference.
In our plant hardiness zone 8, caladiums are considered an annual. They like their soil warm so it is recommended to not plant them until May. I always plant mine on Mother’s Day.
These tuberous rooted tropicals grow 18 to 24 inches tall and are happiest in full to partial humid shade.
Before planting, beef up your planting area with a good dose of compost and expanded shale. They will perform best in moist, well-drained soil so pick a spot where water doesn’t stand. Consider a raised area to ensure good drainage.
Plant tubers 2 inches deep and 8 inches apart for small tubers and 12 inches apart for large tubers. A bit of bone meal at the time of planting is also recommended. Both roots and shoots emerge from the top of the tuber — place the knobby side up.
Mulch with a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic material to conserve moisture and keep the soil cool. Apply a bit of bone meal to each planting hole and a bit more to the soil every four to six weeks during the growing season.
Do not allow fertilizer to contact the leaves. Water thoroughly after fertilization to prevent fertilizer burn. Caladiums are not drought tolerant and should be watered on a regular basis.
Take pictures of your beds after the caladiums leaf out, shooting pictures at different times of the day, in different lighting situations. Study your pictures to ensure you are pleased with the effect of the colors you selected for the site where they are planted.
If you like what you see, mark the photo with the variety of the caladiums you planted and repurchase the same variety next year. Recipe cards are a good way to record plant varieties for future reference.
Carolyn Neff of Grandview is a volunteer for Texas AgriLife Extension and a Johnson County Master Gardener. For information, visit txmg.org/johnson or aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu or call the Extension office at 817-556-6370. Like us on facebook at Johnson County Master Gardeners.