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Plant Profile: 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 gone.

 Fertilize 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.



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