Landscaping Made Easy With Caladiums
My idea of a great summer weekend is spending 10 or 15 hours in the garden. But I know not everyone feels the same, and that includes Longfield Gardens co-owner Pete Langeveld. Pete has one of the nicest yards in his neighborhood, with neatly landscaped beds and tons of color all summer long. He loves gardening, but with a busy job, several teenaged children and a passion for fishing, he doesn’t want to spend more than about an hour a week on his garden.
Pete’s solution? Caladiums! He says they are the lowest maintenance plant he’s ever grown. Modern caladiums are bigger, brighter and easier to grow than ever. They look great from July to September without a bit of attention, don’t need to be watered, have no disease or insect problems, and are rarely bothered by rabbits or groundhogs.
Last spring Pete planted more than 2000 caladiums in his yard. If he didn’t own a company that sells them, he probably wouldn’t plant so many. But since he does, he has come to know a lot about growing caladiums and has some tips worth passing along.
When to Plant
Pete lives in central New Jersey, which is growing zone 7. Though spring can arrive in early April, he waits another 6 to 8 weeks before planting the caladiums. Caladiums hate cold weather and refuse to grow until the soil temperature reaches 70°F. Where Pete lives that’s usually around Memorial Day at the earliest and often it’s the first week of June.
If you live in a colder growing zone, you can get a jump on the season by pre-sprouting your caladiums. About 4 weeks before you expect to plant them outdoors, put the tuberous roots into a tub of moist growing mix. Cover the tub loosely with some clear plastic wrap and put it in a warm place away from direct sunlight. About 75°F is ideal. Once the tubers have sprouted and the soil outdoors is warm, you can go ahead and plant.
Where to Plant
Caladiums require well drained soil, so don’t plant them in an area that’s soggy. Light is the other important consideration. Caladiums are shade-loving plants that grow well in full to part shade. Some varieties will also tolerate full sun. Pete’s yard has a mix of sun and shade, so in the sunny areas he plants sun-tolerant caladiums such as Red Flash and Rosebud. In shady areas he goes with varieties with leaves that are too sensitive for direct sun, such as Fannie Munson, Candidum and Dragon Heart.
And don’t forget containers. Caladiums grow extremely well in containers – including hanging baskets. Plant them alone or mix them in with other heat-loving annuals such as coleus, impatiens, licorice plant, euphorbia, tradescantia, lysimachia, begonias and elephant ears. Sun tolerant varieties can be combined with cannas, calibrachoa and other popular container plants.
Design Tips and Recommended Varieties
Pete plants his caladiums in big swathes, keeping the varieties relatively separate. He feels this planting technique helps to unify each area of the garden, while also creating bigger, more eye-catching blocks of color.
For shady areas, Pete’s favorite variety is Fannie Munson. It’s his family’s favorite, too. The leaves are very large and their neon pink color is almost impossibly bright. For areas that get part or full sun, Pete has three favorites: Rosebud, White Queen and Florida Sweetheart.
Rosebud is early and has very well defined leaf patterns – hot pink against shamrock green. White Queen’s foliage changes color as it matures, going from rosy pink to almost white. Newly emerging leaves among older leaves give the planting a two-tone effect. Florida Sweetheart is more compact that most caladiums, growing just 8” tall. This makes it useful for planting under shrubs or in front of taller caladium varieties.
Start with good-size tubers (#1) and plant them 8” on center. Caladium tubers have “eyes” like on a potato. Plant your tubers with the eyes (or sprouts) facing up. Aim for planting them about an inch below the soil surface.
Pete plants caladiums with a garden trowel. He puts the trowel in the soil, pulls back and drops in a tuber. Planting has become a Memorial Day weekend tradition, and with everyone helping, it only takes a few hours. He says watering newly planted caladiums helps settle them into the soil, but it isn’t necessary unless the soil is dry.
Caring for Caladiums
Hot and steamy weather suits caladiums. If the weather is unusually dry, you may need to water them occasionally. Plants that are grown in the sun will be thirstier than those in the shade.
Pete says the caladium’s only natural enemy is cold. In early fall, when evening temperatures start dropping below 60°F, the plants begin entering dormancy. This happens even in warm areas where caladiums are winter hardy. Their leaves will droop and eventually wither and brown.
If you live in the northern half of the country (growing zones 4-7), you’ll need to dig up the bulbs before the first frost and store them indoors for the winter. In warmer zones where caladiums are winter hardy, the dormant bulbs can be left right in the garden. Covering them with 3 to 6 inches of mulch will add extra cold protection.
Ready to give caladiums a try in your garden? Click HERE to shop our selection. To learn more, read All About Caladiums or Landscaping With Caladiums, and watch our video How to Plant Caladiums.
I live in Phoenix. My small gardening area is south-facing, with full sun in the winter and shade in the summer. (Yes, you read that correctly.) With this weird lighting situation, what calcium varieties would you suggest?
Hi Linda – In frost-free climates like yours, caladium bulbs can be left right in the ground during the winter. They will die back in late fall and be dormant during the winter months. When spring comes they will sprout and re-grow. Since your planting area is a mix of sun and shade, you may want to stick with sun-tolerant caladiums such as Aaron, Carolyn Whorton, Florida Cardinal and Gingerland. We offer a sun-tolerant collection that includes all four of these varieties. It’s available HERE.
What do you do with the seed pods my caladiums have on them. Does this stunt them.
Hi Chris – You can either leave the flowers on or cut them off. We find it doesn’t make much difference to the plant. Cutting them off will give you a more uniform look, but if you have a large planting or are pressed for time, don’t worry about removing them.
I live right at the NC border in Georgia. Can I leave my caladiums in the ground for the winter or must I dig them up?
Hi Carolyn — it looks like you are in growing zone 6 and if that’s the case, caladiums probably won’t survive the winter. BUT, you may want to give it a try and see what happens. To do this, plant your caladiums in a warm, protected location, mulch them in December with 6″ of shredded leaves — and hope for a mild winter!
I live in Mid Missouri about an hoursouth from Kansas City. I planted caladiums in pots last summer and left them in the pots all winter in the garage. Do you think they will survive the winter in the garage? It does not freeze in the garage but this past winter it was in the 40’s.
Hi Dale – Caladiums are rated as being hardy in zones 9+. This means that when they are left in the ground, they will tolerate temperatures as low as 25 degrees. So, as long as the soil in your pots didn’t freeze (which it sounds like it didn’t) the tubers should be fine. If you get a chance, please let us know how this works out — by addinging to this comment section or send an email. I’d like to add the suggestion to our article about growing caladiums in colder zones. Thanks!
The Caribbean is hot mostly with periods of rain. What do you recommend please
Hi Natasha – I don’t know if caladiums will grow well where you are located, but here is some additional information and suggestions. Most caladiums are native to the Amazon basin in Brazil. Some varieties are also found in Puerto Rico and Mexico. Caladiums have a natural dormancy period for part of the year, so even though you are in a tropical climate, the plants will not retain their foliage all year-round. Caladiums need consistent moisture, so you probably want to plant them at the beginning of the rainy season. Choose sun tolerant varieties and select a planting location where the foliage will be protected from sun during the hottest parts of the day. Good luck!
What do you recommend for the Lubbock, Texas area? It’s my first time. Heavy shaded front yard.
Caladiums grow well in all parts of Texas. They thrive in sun (as long as you choose a sun-tolerant variety) or shade, high humidity or low. You can plant a swath of a single variety, mix several varieties, or combine caladiums with other annuals, perennials and summer bulbs. If you are interested, here is a link to a caladium trial conducted by Texas A&M: 2013 Caladium Trial Results. Enjoy!
Can I use river rocks to mulch caladiums or will that keep them from coming up
Hi Sally – I would not put stones directly over the planting area. Caladiums sprout from tubers and you don’t want to inhibit the sprouts. Leave the planting area un-mulched until the caladiums are up and have a chance to fill out. Then you can decide if the mulch is necessary.
This article is extremely helpful! I just moved to Glasgow, MT and I’m trying to figure out what I can plant. Would certain types of Caladiums do well here?
Hi Jordyn – Caladiums are warm climate plants, so Montana is not an ideal location for them. If you want to give them a try, plant them in pots and put the pots in a cozy, sheltered location where they will get at least half-day sun.
Such beautiful foliage!!! I live in Tumwater Washington, I was wondering what would be best to plant in the Northwest climate. My front yard gets almost full sun in the summer months.
Also , would I need to dig up the bulbs in the fall?!?
Hi Theresa – There are hundreds of sun-loving plants that grow well in your area. I recommend investing in a good gardening book for your region. One to consider is The Timber Press Guide to Gardening in the Pacific Northwest. Different types of plants have different hardiness ratings, so you always need to check the winter hardiness rating for your area (probably zone 8). Most gardeners treat caladiums as annuals — even where the bulbs are winter hardy. As with tulips, you always get the best results when you plant fresh bulbs that were grown in optimum conditions. That said, you can certainly try digging the bulbs in the fall and replanting in the spring.
I live in Colorado, I am wondering about leaving them in the ground with tons of mulch. Our winters don’t start until February and sometimes dosent get below 20 other times it’s negative 17. But only for a day or 2. Then summer right now in July it’s 80-100 every day and some rain in the afternoon. What are my chances of having them grow here? We can have all four seasons in one day here it’s crazy!!
Hi Gina – Yes, gardening in CO is a big challenge! You could certainly try mulching them and see how they do. But even in climates where caladiums are reliably winter hardy, many gardeners treat them as annuals. Fresh tubers that were grown in ideal conditions (like Florida) often yield better results than tubers that were wintered over in the ground. Also – be aware that caladium foliage (like hosta foliage) can be severely damaged by hail, which I know is relatively common in many parts of CO.
I live in South Jersey(Salem County) and I have planted caladiums in the ground and in pots and I have tried every year to save the bulbs for the following spring but I have not had any luck saving them, I love these show stopping plants but I hate losing them every year, what am I doing wrong? One year I dug them up and applied root tone to the Caladiums but they still did not do anything. Please help me out.
Hi Joe – We find that caladiums are best treated as annuals. Though you can dig them up and replant the next year, they never seem to perform as well as newly-purchased tubers that have been grown under optimum conditions. Basically the same as our recommendations for tulips – they may come back, but will never be as good as the first year. Here’s some additional information about growing caladiums from our website: All About Caladiums.
Do they need to be dormant for the winter? Will they survive indoors as a potted plant?
Hi Denise – Yes, caladiums go dormant for the winter, even in warm climates like Florida. You can bring the plants indoors and enjoy them for as long as they last.
I live in SC with afternoon sun – very hot drought area. Will these plants survive there?
Hi Pam – Be sure to start with a sun-tolerant variety such as Carolyn Whorton or Florida Sweetheart. Here is an article about Growing Caladium in South Carolina. It’s from Clemson Cooperative Extension Service.
I live in Edenton, NC which I believe is zone 8a. Will they do well here and can I leave them in the ground year round. Do you think they will work with pink azaleas? Thanks!
Hi Tanya – You are on the edge of the hardiness zone, so caladiums will be fine when there’s a mild winter, but in a very cold winter you may lose them. Also note that well-drained soil will improve a bulb’s ability to survive and soggy soil makes it more difficult. I’m sure caladiums would look lovely with pink azaleas. Be sure to note the height of the variety you choose as some caladiums are taller than others.
I live in Illinois and planted caladiums in flower pots with other plants last summer and they grew well. Before the first frost I brought them into my garage for the winter. The caladiums went dormant in the pots so I wasn’t sure they would make it through the winter in the garage (my garage is heated so I took a chance). I took the flower pots out Memorial Day weekend and the caladiums starting growing once again. They’re doing quite well. I was pleasantly surprised.
Hi Chris – So glad this worked — good to know. Thank you for leaving a comment.
I live in Mesa Arizona and I don’t have much shade at all, I am having a hard time trying to get things to grow, the temperature here gets to 118 degrees, I try to get them watered at least once a day, but not sure how much to give them, I have all my plants in plant pots, can you give me some suggestions on what to do, thank you Aggie Ward
Hi Aggie – You live in a challenging environment for gardening. But there are lots of pretty flowers that can be grown in a desert garden. You just need to stick with the ones that will tolerate heat. Bougainvillea would be my first recommendation. It loves dry climates, flowers all year-round and is available in many beautiful colors. This article from an AZ nursery will give you some more ideas: Summer Flower Favorites for Arizona.
Do you sell caladium bulbs
Yes we do sell caladiums but only in the spring. You can order starting in January and we ship from late March through May.
Nice post! I agree that hot and steamy weather suits caladiums.
Hi Vivian – thanks!
I live in zone 9, so no need to remove the bulbs. I am curious as to what do you plant in these locations for winter interest?
There are lots of hardy ground covers that are suitable for zone 9, but some of them will compete with the caladiums. You could try pansies, alyssum or dusty miller. Ask at your local garden center and see what they recommend and have available.
HI, I live in North Georgia, 60 miles North of Atlanta. . I have a very large mulched space with two big maple trees near to the street. I would like to plant caladiums around the trees – it is a well drained space, mostly shaded. I moved from North Florida where Caladiums did very well around trees. We do have cold Winters here in Cumming.
Hi – There are no guarantees with gardening. Each site is so different. You don’t say what growing zone you are in, but caladiums are not reliably winter hardy unless you are in zone 9 or warmer. That said, lots of people treat caladiums as annuals, so that’s also an option. One concern is the maple trees, which are known to be water hogs. Their canopy can make it difficult to grow turf grass, much less a garden. If it were me, I’d start off by planting a small area next spring and see how it goes. Good luck!
How do you store the bulbs for winter?
Hi Linda – Here is an article on our website about caladiums. Scroll to the bottom for instructions about overwintering: All About Caladiums.
Hi there. I love near Rockwall tx. I have a lot of sun around my . I have a.lot Of sun in my yard. When do I plant some in my yard.
Hi – The time to plant caladiums is late spring. You’ll find more information in this article: All About Caladiums.
Are caladium deer resistant? Also how can I order them from your company?
Hi – Caladiums are not deer resistant. Our company can be found here: longfield-gardens.com
I live in Ohio. What do you recommend?
Hi – If you are asking about planting time, wait until early June. To get a jump on the season you can pre-sprout the corms indoors.
LOOKING FOR WHAT TO PLANT IN A SEMI SHDY- SOGGY AREA OF BACK YARD, FERNS ARE THRIVING BUT WOULD LIKE TO ADD SOME VARIATION, MAY EVEN PULL THE FERNS.
Hi Laurie – How about elephant ears – alocasia and colocasia? Coreopsis is Florida’s State wildflower. Not sure it will tolerate the moisture, but they are tough plants. The University of Florida has tons of information online about plants that grow well in Florida. Next time you’re in Tampa, consider visiting the USF Botanical Gardens for ideas!
I live in San Diego, CA. and am looking for a short pink caladium to grow in deep shade. Do you have suggestions?
Hi Virginia – Other than Kathleen, which grows about 18″ tall, I don’t. Maybe someone else reading these comments will have a suggestion.
Simply lovely but i must correct one inaccuracy. Deer love them. Ate the out of containers.
Hi – Thank you for the correction. Though we have not had problems with deer, Rutgers rates caladiums as occasionally severely damaged. Here’s the link: Caladium deer resistance rating
I live in Naples and part of our HOA we get watered 3 times a week during the season and from June til Nov we get watered 2x a week . I have a raised planter that has good drainage adjacent to my doorway. My problem is one side gets light but shade and the other gets shade n light too except later in the afternoon it gets the hot humid sun. What kind should I plant? I love caladiums!
Hi – there are many caladium varieties that will tolerate both shade and sun. Just take note of which varieties you purchase. You should be able to find a large selection in Florida. The Lake Placid area is considered the caladium capital of the world. You’ll need to check for nurseries that will sell direct to gardeners. Many only sell wholesale. Longfield Gardens also offers caladiums by mail in the spring: Shop for Caladiums.