Botanical Name: Caladium hybrids
The paper-thin, heart-shaped leaves of this tropical native are spectacularly decorated, enough to rival even the showiest flowering plant.
Masses of magnificent leaves grow above tall, slender stems. Leaf patterns and colors can vary widely, from white with green veins and borders, to a blush of rose pink, to spotted and marbled red, pink, green, and white. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from -- one of the most popular is 'White Queen' shown at bottom.
Although you can buy the plants at garden centers and floral shops, growing a caladium bulb -- called a tuber -- is easy and rewarding. Buy tubers in spring and you'll have gorgeous leaves unfurling within weeks.
There are hundreds of hybrids to please everyone, so choose the one you like. 'White Christmas' has striking white foliage with green veins, blending beautifully among your green foliage plants. 'Florida Cardinal' is a stand-out with vivid red leaves. 'Pink Beauty' is a perennial favorite among gardeners. Spectacular 'Rosebud' adds instant beauty to a container garden. 'Thai Beauty' is one of the most stunning varieties we've seen. It thrives indoors in indirect light, making this an easy, spectacular accent for your home.
Grow caladiums in summer. These South American beauties love the warmth and long daylight hours. Plant the tubers in 4-6 inch (10-15 cm) pots, covering with just 1 inch (2.5 cm) of potting mix. Give them a good drink of water, and keep them in a warm spot with indirect light. You can expect those colorful leaves to unfurl within a few weeks.
Caladiums break the rule that all foliage house plants are decorative year-round. This tuberous-rooted hybrid dies down in fall and remains dormant through the winter. That fact -- together with the need for high temperatures and high humidity -- leads to many of these plants being tossed out after their first growing season.
However, keeping plants till the next year is easy. In the fall, allow the pots to dry out. Cut off the withered leaves, then store the pots at 65-70°F/18-21°C in a dark place. Repot the tubers in fresh potting mix in spring and continue with care. Tubers usually can be grown for 2 years before they begin to deteriorate in quality.
Origin: South America
Height: Up to 2 feet (60 cm)
Light: Bright light. Keep out of direct sun because it will cause leaf burn.
Water: Keep potting mix constantly moist throughout the growing season. These plants can drink a lot.
Humidity: Requires moist air. Set the pot on a tray of wet pebbles. Use a room humidifier for best results.
Temperature: Warm 70-85°F/21-29°C
Soil: Any good potting mix
Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks spring and summer with a high-nitrogen liquid fertilizer diluted by half.
Propagation: Division. When repotting, you can break off small tubers and pot them separately. Plant each tuber in a 4-inch pot about 1-inch deep.