Botanical Name: Caladium plant spp.
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. And they are big, growing about 12 in (30 cm) long. 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.
Caladium thrives indoors in indirect light, making this South American native a spectacular tropical accent for your home. You can expect the showy season to last for 6 months or longer.
There are hundreds of Caladium varieties to please everyone, so choose the one you like. Some named cultivars include:
'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 a burst of dramatic color to a container garden. 'Thai Beauty' is one of the most stunning varieties we've seen. Petit 'Miss Muffet' is a dwarf variety with red spots.
Although you can buy the plants at garden centers and nurseries, growing a caladium bulb -- called a tuber -- is easy and rewarding. Buy tubers in spring and you'll have gorgeous leaves unfurling within weeks.
Grow caladiums in spring and summer. These South American beauties love the warmth and long daylight hours. They're warm-natured and will begin to grow as soon as you plant them -- no special treatment required.
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 (about 75°F/24°C) with indirect light. You can expect those colorful leaves to unfurl in 6-8 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. When the foliage dies down 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. In spring, repot the tubers in fresh potting mix and continue with care. Tubers usually can be grown for a few years before they deteriorate in quality. If the leaves are few and/or smaller than normal, it's time to replace them.
Origin: South America
Height: Up to 2 ft (60 cm); dwarf varieties can vary, but reach about 1 ft (30 cm)
Light: Bright, indirect light. Some direct morning sun is fine, but keep out of direct midday sun because it will cause leaf burn. Several hours of light each day will produce the biggest, showiest leaves.
Water: Keep potting mix constantly moist (but not soggy) throughout the growing season. Check on it often -- a caladium plant can drink a lot.
Humidity: Requires moist air (around 50% relative humidity or higher). Use a cool-mist room humidifier for best results.
Temperature: Brrr! This South American native wants warm temps -- 75-80°F/24-27°C is ideal, but it will tolerate a range of 70-85°F/21-29°C. Protect caladium plant from blasts of cold air from AC vents.
Soil: Peat moss-based potting mix
Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks with a high-nitrogen liquid fertilizer, while plant is growing.
Propagation: Division. When repotting, you can break off small tubers and pot them separately. Put each tuber in a 4-in (10 cm) pot. Plant them 1-in (2.5 cm) deep.