Caladiums: Bright Summer Jewels
by Lynn Hunt
Looking for a way to dress up a
dreary area of the garden this summer?
Try caladiums and you’ll have it made in the shade. These
beauties, originally discovered in the Amazon basin of Brazil, are
becoming increasingly popular thanks to their eye-catching leaves and
congenial temperament. Caladiums are versatile garden performers living
happily in pots, tubs, mass plantings or borders. They prefer shade and
semi-shade but some of the newer varieties can tolerate more sunlight.
The “fancy” caladium varieties
are the best choices for dramatic displays.
They feature heart shaped leaves, prominent colored midribs and
contrasting backgrounds and borders in combinations of pink, red, green
and white. Try planting white caladiums in front of dark green hostas for
a stunning visual effect. Pink and red impatiens planted beneath similarly
shaded caladiums will also draw rave reviews.
Caladiums won’t tolerate
temperatures below 60 degrees, so plant them when soil temperatures reach
at least 70. They like a warm rich soil that contains plenty of organic
matter. Amend sandy soil by adding organic matter such as peat moss or
well-rotted manure. Plant the tubers four inches deep and 8” to 12”
apart. Be sure the growing buds are pointing upwards. Ask your local
Growise Center whether you should remove the large central bud before
planting. Many gardeners believe the plant is more productive with it
four to six weeks after planting, and then every two months throughout the
growing season. You should enjoy several months of showy color before
autumn winds blow. When leaves start to lose their color, dig the tubers
out of the soil. Sort them by color and spread them out to dry for a week
in a protected area. Then clip the foliage, brush off any soil and store
them in a mesh bag someplace where temperatures remain between 60 to 70
degrees. With luck, next spring you’ll be able to plant them again and
enjoy another beautiful summer show.