Caladiums as house plants, when growing indoors in pots are a stunning addition to any room’s design and feeling. So this is an enigma to me how is it still almost unknown not only to an average home grower, but even to professional home plants’ distributors. Large, fancy painted Caladium leaves are made to be a conversation topic or even a subject of admiration. Easy indoor care and cheap tubers transportation as well as low buying price should make Caladium‘s way into many homes. So probably, its glory days as a house plant are still ahead. As for now YOU can discover its unique tropical beauty and be among yet few Caladium indoor growers.
Caladium description and natural habitat
Unusual patterns and colors on large leaves, it is Caladium‘s own trademark. It can be red and white splashes on green surface or brightly red colored or white areas around midribs and margins of the leaf’s disk. The whole leafs can be in different shades of red – from pink to almost black. Most of these color bonanza is due to a prolific hybridization of two wild species found in tropical rainforests of Latin America: Caladium bicolor and Caladium picturatum.
The distinct traits of those two species are manifested in two different shapes of leaves. More round or heart shaped leaves are heritage of Caladium bicolor. In wild it has plain green surface with random red and white spots. Those hybrids are called fancy leaved Caladiums. The other group of hybrids, called lance leaved Caladiums, has its dominant genes from Caladium picturatum.
Size-wise the larger tubers will produce larger leaves. The leaves can be from 10cm or less (about 3″) and up to 60-70cm (24-27″) long. Each leaf will arise on a slender petiole, which can also get up to 70cm (27″) high.
Flowers are not Caladium‘s main attraction and they will rarely flower indoors. Belonging to Araceae family, its flowers have typical look similar to other family members as Peace lily (Spathiphyllum) or Dumb canes (Dieffenbachia). Actually, in case it does develop a flower, the advise is to remove it. Flowering and developing seeds is any flowering plant’s priority number one. Meaning it will divert all available resources into it, while sacrificing development of the tuber.
Caladium care indoors
Planting Caladium tubers
In habitat, Caladium will grow on limestone outcrops of tropical rain forests, where they receive plenty of humidity with frequent rain falls. The poriferous soil there, however, will never hold any standing water. These are the kind of conditions you need to have in mind when planting your tubers.
You won’t need a big pot for this. About 5 times the diameter of the tuber is a good pot size. Most bagged soil available will do just fine with amendment of 1/3 volume of perlite. Perlite is added to make the soil lighter and more poriferous, while it still will supply enough water to the roots. Don’t forget to add a drainage layer at the bottom of the pot as well as drainage holes.
Look at your tuber. You will see a large “eye” on one side looking a bit like tree rings. This is the up side. The main shoot will grow from the eye. Pot it the eye up, if you want your plant have tall petioles with large leaves. However if you plant it on the side, it will have more dense appearance with shorter and smaller, but more numerous leaves.
Plant the tuber shallow with soil just covering it. Water and put it in a warm place. It will take from a couple of weeks to sometimes a couple of months to start growing.
Watering Caladium and winter storage
Increase watering when the first shoot has made its appearance and has grown a couple of centimeters (about 1in). The soil now should never be allowed to get completely dry. Just make sure it doesn’t stand in water.
High humidity is important for Caladiums. So it will do great with daily showers from a spray bottle, but don’t leave any big water drops on the foliage.
Caladium are seasonally dormant plants. At the end of the growing season the leaves will start to fade. At this point you will have to reduce watering to stop it completely when all the foliage is gone and your plant has entered the winter rest.
Store it in its pot in a warm place not colder than 16°C (60°F). It will need about two months of rest period. After that, take the tuber up, change the soil, take a bigger pot if the tuber has grown substantially and start it all over again.
Feeding your Caladium during the active growing is a must if you want good size tubers to develop for the next season. A balanced fertilizer with NPK about 8-8-8 will do the job.
Apply the soluble fertilizer (as instructed on the label) once a month directly to the soil without spraying or poring it on the leaves. Caladium leaves are very sensitive and are easy to burn with fertilizer.
You can also strew long release granules with about the same NPK. Use about 1/2 tbsp 3 times during the growing season.
Right light conditions for Caladium
Light might be a complicated issue with Caladiums planted outdoors. Too much direct sun and it will burn the leaves or attractive pink color will turn brown. To little light and the colors may be not as prominent as you could expect.
Growing indoors the perfect place for your Caladiums would be in an east or west facing window. A few hours sun light in morning or evening is all they need to reveal all its glory.
The easiest way for a home grower is to obtain tubers. They are normally available during Caladium‘s resting period from late fall to early spring. Advantages are many: law price, easy to ship and a plant true to the type.
The last one is something you will not get when propagation by seeds. The hybrids gens in seeds will be snaffled, resulting in colors different from parents. Often it will reverse to its basic, original form, but in few cases you might get a new exiting variety.
Caladium cultivars / varieties
Due to a bountiful breeding during many years, we can now pick and choose between more than two thousand Caladium cultivars. Those I grow now in our home you can see on photos above in this article. For more cultivars I asked my Facebook friend GDe Leo‘s permission to publish some of his photos of some of his plants.
Enjoy, inspire, try it!