Sun Tolerant Caladiums
The caladium’s showy, often brightly colored foliage provides summer-long beauty in hot and humid climates where many other plants struggle. Their good looks and reliability make them a popular choice for shady yards and gardens. With the arrival of sun tolerant caladiums, these hardworking foliage plants can now be used more broadly, and in new and exciting ways.
Caladiums grow wild in the shady tropical forests of Central and South America. In this native habitat, they carpet the ground beneath a high canopy trees that protects their foliage from direct sunlight and extreme heat. This natural affinity for shade is the reason the plants usually suffer when they are grown in areas that are too hot or too bright.
Breeding Sun and Heat-Tolerant Caladiums
Caladiums have been grown as shade-loving ornamental plants for hundreds of years. But the fact that their foliage will not tolerate full sun has limited their use. Over the past 50 years, caladium breeding efforts have focused on developing new cultivars that can grow in sun as well as in shade.
The search for sun tolerant caladiums has been driven by two factors: supply and demand. Most caladium bulbs that are produced for the U.S. market, are grown in central Florida. Coddling these plants with acres of shade cloth is cost prohibitive. So commercial growers began breeding caladiums that would tolerate full sun as well as months of temperatures in the 90’s.
Caladiums for Here, There and Everywhere
Landscape designers and home gardeners are also eager to use these hard-working plants more broadly. Most yards have a mix of sun and shade. Light conditions also change during the growing season, making it difficult to ensure certain areas will always be shady. Being able to combine sun tolerant caladiums with traditional shade tolerant varieties allows for more design continuity and opens up many new applications.
Tips for Growing Caladiums
If you are new to caladiums, it’s important to know that these tropical plants will not grow in cold soil. Resist the urge to plant them outdoors before nights are warm and the soil is at least 65°F. Caladiums also require consistent moisture, and this is even more important when they are growing in full sun. If you can’t rely on regular rainfall, use an irrigation system to ensure the plants have the moisture they need to thrive.
Caladiums have a winter dormancy period that lasts from late fall through early spring. Though the tubers are winter hardy in growing zones 8-11, the foliage will die back to the ground while the plant is resting. In colder areas, where caladiums will not survive the winter, they are usually treated as annuals, with fresh tubers planted each spring. You can learn more about planting and care here: All About Caladiums.
Sun tolerant caladiums are an attractive, low maintenance landscaping solution. You can tuck them between shrubs, use them to line a walkway or edge a garden bed, or plant them en masse almost anywhere in your yard. These caladiums also offer gardeners new and creative ways to add interesting texture and bright pops of color to container plantings.