Caladiums

Caladiums are annuals in South Carolina and are native to Central and South America. These tropical foliage plants are grown for their multicolored, decorative foliage. They are used in borders, bedding plants, or in containers to provide color in shady locations and thrive in the humidity and heat in South Carolina.
Caladium leaves come in a combination of red, pink, white, and/or green with colored midribs and contrasting background and borders. Their leaves do not have stems; however, their petioles emerge directly from the tuber. A petiole is a stalk that joins a leaf to a stem. Caladiums produce a greenish-white spathe flower similar to a calla lily or a jack-in-the-pulpit flower. Since caladiums are grown for their foliage, remove their flower because it takes food away from the leaf production and reduces the tuber size.
There are two main types of caladium cultivars: lance-leafed and fancy-leafed. Fancy-leafed types have large heart-shaped leaves, grow best in semi-shade, and can reach heights of 12-30 inches depending on growing conditions and cultivars. The lance or strap-leaved types have elongated, narrow leaves with ruffled leaf margins. Lance-leafed caladiums are generally smaller and less than 12 inches tall. The lance types tend to produce more leaves than the fancy-leafed cultivars.
Caladiums need protection from full sun for best growth and color. Caladiums require warm, moist, well-drained soil to grow. Planting tubers in cool soil results in a slow growth and tuber rot. Plant the tuber when the soil temperature reaches 70F or at the same time you are planting okra in your vegetable garden. You may also plant caladiums as a plant purchased from your local garden center. Tubers should be planted 1 to 2 inches deep and 8 to 14 inches apart with the eyes (buds) pointing up.
Water frequently and thoroughly to keep the soil moist, but not saturated. If planted in a container, be sure it is well-drained and has a drainage hole, because caladiums will rot when kept too wet.
Fertilize caladiums in containers every two weeks with a soluble liquid fertilizer to promote strong foliage growth, such as Miracle-Gro® Liquid All Purpose (8-7-6). A 6-month time-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote® Outdoor & Indoor (15-9-12 plus micronutrients) is another fertilizer option. Make sure to not fertilize too high in phosphorus, the middle number of the fertilizer analysis. If growing caladiums in the ground, get a soil test to determine what additional nutrients the caladiums may require.
Tuber rot is a fungal decay of tubers in storage during the growing season. Select diseased-free tubers for planting. Store tubers in a dry, warm place to avoid high humidity and where temperatures are above 50F. Never store caladium tubers in the refrigerator. Leaf spot causes lower leaves to develop light tan to brown spots. Remove the diseased leaves and soon as they appear and dispose.
The burning of the edges of older leaves and scorching of leaves are the result of fertilizer touching the leaves. If any fertilizer comes into contact with the leaves, simply wash off the leaves to prevent scorching. Other problems come from watering during the hot part of the day or watering too little.
For more information on caladiums, please visit the Home and Garden Information Center website at hgic.clemson.edu. Tune in on Tuesday nights to watch “Making it Grow” at 7 p.m. on SCETV or mig.org. Email Outen at [email protected]
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