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6 Tips for Growing Caladiums in Zones 5-7

Posted by Kath LaLiberte on Mar 3, 2015

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If you live in the northern half of the U.S., you may think caladiums are only suitable for southern gardens. Not so! The photo above was taken in a zone 6 garden in New Jersey, and we have customers from Pennsylvania to Iowa getting the same great results.

During the summer, most of the country has exactly the type of weather caladiums love: 80-85 degrees and humid. Other plants — including many annuals and perennials —  struggle when the weather gets hot, but caladiums flourish. They continue producing fresh new leaves throughout August and right into the fall, so your yard and garden looks great while you’re indoors with the air conditioner on. 

If you live in growing zones 5-7, here are a few tips to help you get the most from these easy summer-blooming bulbs.

 

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  • Start with large, grade #1 caladium tubers rather than the smaller, #2 or #3 sizes. The bigger the tuber the more stored food energy the plant will have available to fuel its growth. You’ll get more stems per bulb and faster coverage. All Longfield Gardens caladiums are #1  tubers.
  • Don’t be too eager to plant your caladium tubers. Wait until the soil temperature is warm — at least 65-70°F. In the central U.S. this is usually around Memorial Day. In northern areas you may need to wait until mid-June.
  • To get a quicker display of color, caladium tubers can be pre-sprouted indoors. Start them about 6 weeks before you’ll plant them outdoors. Grow the tubers in barely moist potting soil, under lights or in a sunny window. Keep the plants cozy (70-75°) day and night. 

 

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  • Caladium tubers are usually planted about 6″ apart. In northern areas, another option is to plant the tubers in groups of 3 spaced a little more closely together. At the start of the season, these clumps have a bigger presence than single plants that are evenly spaced. 
  • Caladiums grow very well in pots and planters — including hanging baskets. Soil temperatures are usually higher in containers, and caladiums appreciate that extra heat. In northern areas where the soil temperature may not reach 70°F until June, planting caladiums in containers gives the tubers a big head start.  

To learn more about growing caladiums, read our Growing Guide for Caladiums. You can click here to see our complete selection of caladiums.

Topics: Foliage Plants Shade Plants Summer Blooming Bulbs

Kathleen LaLiberte has been writing about gardening for more than 30 years from her home in northern Vermont, where she tends a half acre of flowers, vegetables and fruit. She has been working with Longfield Gardens since 2011.

24 Replies to “6 Tips for Growing Caladiums in Zones 5-7”

    1. Hi Lloyd,
      Officially, caladiums are hardy to zone 9. But there are no hard and fast rules. In a protected location with well drained soil and a few inches of mulch, you may find they will overwinter. Hardiness zones are based on averages, and some winters are milder than others. I would definitely give it a try!

        1. Hi Henri — The purpose of an insulating mulch is to trap air — that’s what provides the insulating value. So you want a mulch that will stay fluffy (not get compacted) and allow moisture to pass through to the soil. That’s why straw makes one of the best winter mulches. Dry leaves also work well, though some types need to be shredded first (like oak and maple). This prevents the leaves from flattening out into a thin, water-shedding pancake. Good luck!

  1. Lloyd,

    I would bring them in for the winter, living In VA your winters will be unpredictable ( I loved in RVA for 36 years ) and the bulbs may come back if it is a soft winter but a harsh winter will zap them and one of the best things about these bulbs is that over time they get bigger. I would suggest uprooting them in the fall and placing them in a open tub with soil, they can get cold but not frozen they should be good in the garage in the winter. I Live in Alabama now and I still do that because even thought we are typically warmer cold is still cold. Good Luck

    1. Thank you Katie for that good advice. Gardening is local and the best information always comes from someone who has experience gardening where you do!

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience & information. 2016 was my first year trying caladiums, & our winter was mild in OK. I’m hoping my potted caladiums, will survive my ignorance. I’m looking forward to trying again with new bulbs. I truly enjoyed the lovely variety of colors under my pear tree.

    1. Hi and thanks for your comment. I bet they looked lovely under your tree. Hope you have good luck again this year!

  3. Thank you for your ideas, tips and experiences.Hola. I live in Arizona, and our temperature in the summer time is sreamly hot. Any recommendations.

    1. Hi Martha – Caladiums are native to South Africa and the ones we sell are grown in Florida, where it is also very hot in the summer. For you to have success growing them in AZ, you will need to plant them in soil that is relatively rich in organic matter water them regularly so the soil stays slightly moist. If you can’t provide those conditions in your garden, you could think about growing them in containers. Also, you may want to start with sun tolerant varieties, as the leaves are less sensitive.

  4. I have a very interesting situation….I came across a caladium tuber from my planter last year (in Chicago) as I was cleaning it out to replant it last week. We are in zone 5, in addition the planter is above ground and not protected from the temperatures dropping as low as zero degrees last winter!
    It was not only in great condition, it was sprouting! In my 40 years of gardening this has never occurred. I am watching it closely and its first leaves are about to open….

    1. Hi Jeff – Wow! That is something! Try wintering that tuber with a little more protection next year. Maybe you have something there.
      Do you know what variety it is?

  5. I bought Caladium bulbs on closeout at the end of July. Do I need to wait until March of next year to plant. Should I plant in pots and keep in the house until spring. Help. I was so excited to find bulbs on sale, I did not think about planting them. I live in zone 7.

    1. Hi Peggy,
      You need to get those bulbs into pots or into your garden right away. There should still be time for them to grow and give you some late season color. The bulbs won’t survive if you try to save them from now until planting time next spring. Good luck!

  6. I planted caladiums in pots for the first time this year. I live in northern Ohio. What should I do with them over the winter? They are beautiful.

    1. Hi Linda – So glad to hear your caladiums have been a success. They are great plants!
      If you want to winter over your caladium bulbs, you’ll find information about how to do that right on our website: longfield-gardens.com
      Click on the LEARNING tab on the navigation bar, go to summer-planted bulbs and All About. There you will find an article about growing caladiums, with information at the bottom about overwintering the bulbs.

  7. I am living in zone 5 B. This year I planted different color caladiums in containers with the idea I will be taking them indoors during winter season.

    I have also grown elephant ears in 18″ plastic containers ( cheap ) which might crack once the plant becomes huge.

    1. Hi Savita. Caladiums are dormant in the winter months, so the foliage will eventually die back in the fall — even if you bring the plants indoors. When that happens, you can let the soil dry out and store the bulbs somewhere out of the way where they won’t freeze. When the weather gets warm again in spring, you can start them back up again as you did this year.
      Some types of elephant ears are also dormant during the winter months. If the leaves die back, just treat the plants as you will the caladiums and repot the bulbs in fresh soil next spring. Elephant ears can get very large and you will probably need larger containers for them next spring.

  8. I live in zone 5 (Midwest) and had a great summer garden full of caladium. I think I will dig them up and store them indoors this winter; how soon should I dig them up?

    1. Hi Gina — If you want to try overwintering your caladiums, you can dig up the tubers as soon as the foliage starts yellowing and going limp (which means the tubers are entering dormancy). Leave the foliage attached and lay the plants out to dry in a protected location. When fully dry, gently clean the tubers to remove most soil and foliage, and put them into a mesh bag. Store in a warm, dry place (70°F) and then replant in spring.

      Note that if the tubers you dig up are smaller than the ones you planted last spring, it’s probably not worth saving them. Tubers that you purchase fresh are grown in optimum conditions so they’ll be as large as possible and give you the best results.

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