Do caladiums come back

Winter Care For Caladiums – Learn About Caladium Care In Winter

Caladium is a popular ornamental plant famous for its large leaves of interesting, striking colors. Also known as elephant ear, caladium is native to South America. Because of this, it is used to hot temperatures and needs special treatment during winter in cooler climates. Keep reading to learn more about storing caladium bulbs and how to care for caladium bulbs over winter.

Winter Care of Caladium Bulbs

Caladiums are winter hardy to USDA zone 9, meaning that they should be able to survive the winter outdoors. Even in these areas, though, a heavy mulching of 3 inches is the recommended winter care for caladiums to keep them from dying in the colder temperatures.

In USDA zones 8 and lower, winter care for caladium bulbs involves digging them up and bringing them inside to go dormant.

Storing Caladium Bulbs

Once temperatures begin to fall and stay below 60 F. (15 C.), dig up your caladium bulb with the foliage still attached. Don’t try to remove any of the dirt from the roots yet. Place your plants in a cool, dark area for 2 to 3 weeks. This process will cure the bulbs and cause them to go dormant.

After a few weeks, cut the tops off level with the soil line. Brush away any loose soil, cut out any rotted areas, and apply a fungicide.

Storing caladium bulbs is easy. Store them at 50 F. (10 C.) in a dry place. It helps to keep them in sand or sawdust to prevent them from drying out too much.

Keep them here until the spring. You should plant caladium bulbs outdoors after the last chance of frost, but you can start them indoors earlier in areas with short growing seasons.

Caladiums can also be grown and stored in containers over winter. Limit watering to once monthly (to prevent it from drying out completely in soil) and keep in a somewhat dark location. Once warm temps and longer days return in spring, the plant should begin regrowing, at which time you can give it additional light and resume normal care.

By Dan Gill, LSU AgCenter horticulturist and Times-Picayune gardening columnist

The caladium is one of the best and most reliable warm season bedding plant for shady areas. The beautifully variegated leaves adorn our gardens from April to October. The foliage includes blends of red, rose, pink, white and green depending on the cultivar.

Plantings of caladiums are getting past their prime now, and it’s time to decide what you want to do with them. Most bedding plants will only provide one season of color (warm season or cool season). The great thing about using caladiums as a warm season bedding plant is that you can get more than one year of colorful foliage for your initial investment.

At this point, your choices are: leave the tubers in the ground or dig them up, store the tubers and plant them again next year.

Are the tubers worth saving

Caladiums tolerate heavy shade, and some cultivars even do well in full sun, but they’re at their best when planted where they receive part-shade to part-sun in beds enriched with organic matter and kept evenly moist.

If you have provided them with the growing conditions they prefer this summer, your caladiums should have produced nice-sized tubers by this time (as big as or bigger than the ones you planted). These tubers can be used to grow caladiums next year, either left in the ground or stored and replanted.

Leave them in the ground

If the beds where the caladiums are planted will stay relatively undisturbed this winter and drain well, you could simply leave the tubers in the ground. Keep the area mulched to protect the tubers in case it’s unusually cold. Since the ground here does not freeze, they will survive and come back up next year.

If the bed tends to stay wet over the winter, which is typical with our rainy winters, the tubers may rot. Generally speaking, experience shows that it’s more reliable to dig and store caladium tubers over the winter than to leave them in the ground. But, feel free to give it a try.

Dig them up

If you intend to replant the area with cool season bedding plants, such as pansies, the tubers should be removed to allow for bed preparation for the new plants. Or, dig them if you just want to make sure that they’re safe over the winter.

Caladiums should be dug when a number of leaves turn yellow and most of the foliage begins to look “tired” and falls over. Do not wait until all of the foliage has disappeared or you may have a hard time finding the tubers. This makes it more likely you’ll accidentally damage the tubers or leave some of them behind.

We usually dig caladiums sometime between late September and mid-October. I’ve observed that it’s common for caladiums planted later in the season to last longer in the landscape.

Use a shovel or a garden fork to lift the tubers, being careful not to damage them. Leave the foliage attached to the tubers, shake off the soil and lay them out in a dry location sheltered from rain (in a garage or under a carport). You also can place them, tubers down, in a bucket or large pot to save room. Don’t pack them in too tightly.

If the growing conditions were not ideal (particularly if they were growing in dense, heavy shade or dry conditions), the quality of the tubers may have declined over the summer and could be too small to perform well next year. If that’s the case, you could discard them and purchase new tubers next spring.

Drying the tubers

Allow the tubers to dry until the foliage is tan and papery in appearance. This takes about 10 to 14 days. At that time, the foliage will easily separate from the tubers, leaving a cleanly healed scar. The tubers can then be cleaned by washing in water to remove any remaining soil. Unless there is a large amount of soil clinging to them, simply brushing them off is enough. If you do wash them, they should be air-dried in a well-ventilated place for several days until the moisture has evaporated from the surface of the tubers before storage.

Storing the tubers

When they’re dry, the tubers are ready for storing over the winter. Tubers that you may have damaged when digging them can be saved if they have healed well and feel solid. Place the healthy tubers in old nylon stockings, mesh bags (such as an onion or crawfish sack), paper bags or cardboard boxes. The idea is that the container should be able to breathe. Do not store the tubers in a plastic bag as this may lead to rotting.

Make sure you keep the tubers in a location indoors where temperatures stay above 70 degrees. Check the tubers occasionally and discard any that show signs of rot or have shriveled up.

When drying the tubers and storing them, it’s a good idea to keep track of the different types you’re growing and keep them separate. This will allow you to place groups of individual colors into the landscape where you want them to be next year. It’s a good idea to label the bags with the name of the cultivar and the color — or at least the color.

Remember that with poor growing conditions, particularly in areas of heavy shade and or dry conditions, caladiums produce small, weak tubers that may not return well either left in the ground or dug and stored. Under the right circumstances and with proper care, however, the tubers you planted this year can provide a beautiful display again next year. And if you did a good job of growing them and the location was to their liking, the tubers should have increased in size. That means the plants you get from them next year will likely be even bigger and nicer than this year’s.

Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter. Email questions to [email protected] or add them to the comment section below.

Follow his stories at www.nola.com/homegarden, on Facebook and @nolahomegardenon Instagram.

How to Save Caladium Bulbs

After 6-8 months of growing when summer ends, your colorful caladiums will begin to look tired, stringy and bedraggled. When foliage begins to die back, they’re ready for a nap. But if their bulbs are stored properly, they’ll winter just fine and you can replant them next year. Lift your bulbs before the first predicted frost from August to October, depending upon your location. Caladiums can’t tolerate freezing.

Cut the caladium’s browning foliage back to about 6 inches tall. You‘ll use that stub as a handle when removing the bulb from the ground. It‘s also a good idea to leave enough foliage intact so that you’ll be able to identify its variety after digging, if necessary.

Grasp the stub in one hand and drive a trowel vertically into the soil several inches away. Start digging a circle around the bulb, scooting the trowel blade underneath it. Gently tug on the bulb as you loosen the soil around it. You can slip a hand under it to help pull it upward. Take care not to nick or cut the bulb with the trowel, since damage can cause the bulb to rot during storage.

Use your fingers to scratch around in the hole a bit. You may find some small bulbs that have developed from the mother plant but have become dislodged. These are as viable as any remaining on the mother bulb.

Spread the caladium bulbs out in a cool, dry location and allow them to dry for about a week. Don’t remove the soil from them until they’re through drying.

Brush dry soil from the bulbs and cut or pull any remaining foliage off. Examine them for signs of rot or damage, and discard any that aren’t perfect. You can divide them with a sharp knife at this point, if desired. Any bulbs that you cut will require an additional 2-3 days drying time for the wounds to heal. Also, keep in mind that second year plants will probably be smaller than they were this year. So most gardeners prefer to leave new tubers on the original for the sake of producing more abundant displays on each plant next year.

Dust caladium bulbs with powdered fungicide, if desired. Layer a cardboard box 3-4 inches deep with Vermiculite or dry peat moss. Arrange the bulbs on the surface so that they aren’t touching each other. Add another 3-4 inch deep layer of substrate. You can continue to add layers of bulbs and medium as desired. Store the caladiums in a well ventilated area which doesn’t drop below 50 degrees F until you’re ready to plant them back outside in early May.

Overwintering caladiums is the best way to keep your favorite varieties, and grow them year after year! Saving caladium bulbs over winter can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, but it’s not terribly difficult. Don’t worry, I’ll show you exactly what to do in this post!

I am a sucker for caladiums. Every year I seem to end up buying at least one because they’re so beautiful and unique. Their colorful tropical foliage looks amazing in my shade garden or growing in containers. There are so many wonderful colors and varieties that I can’t resist when I see them at the garden center!

But it’s expensive to buy caladiums every year to fill containers and gardens. So I like to dig them up and store the bulbs through the winter. That way I can save myself a little cash in the spring.

Are Caladiums Perennials Or Annuals?

It’s common to find caladium plants for sale in the annuals section of garden centers in the spring. But they’re actually tender perennials that can survive for many years with the proper care.

Caladiums can be grown as perennials if you live in a warm climate (growing zone 9 or higher). But for most of us, they won’t survive the winter if left outside. So they must be brought indoors in the fall.

3 Methods Of Overwintering Caladiums

There are three ways to overwinter caladiums, and these methods will work for all caladium varieties. The method you choose will depend on where you live, and how you’re growing caladiums.

  1. Leaving caladium bulbs in the garden over winter (if you live in a warm enough climate)
  2. Storing caladiums in pots over winter
  3. Digging up and storing caladium tubers for winter

How To Overwinter Caladium Bulbs

In this section, I will describe each of the three methods for overwintering caladium tubers in detail. The method you choose will depend on the climate you live in, and whether you’re growing caladiums in pots or in the garden.

Overwintering Caladium Bulbs In The Ground

If you’re lucky enough to live in a warm enough climate, you can just leave your caladium bulbs right in the ground all winter. They will eventually go dormant, and all the foliage will die back. But, once the soil warms in the spring, they’ll grow back better than ever.

If you plan to leave them in the ground, then be sure they’re in a protected spot where they won’t get too much water. If kept too wet, caladium tubers left in the ground over winter could end up rotting.

Caladium coming out of winter dormancy

Overwintering Caladiums In Pots

If you’re growing caladiums in containers, then you can just overwinter them right in their pots. You can extend their growing season by several week if you bring the pots indoors before the temperature outside gets below 60F.

Otherwise, as it gets cooler in the fall, the plant will naturally start to go dormant, and the leaves will begin to die back. Caladiums are not cold hardy at at all, so be sure to bring the pot indoors before it drops below 40F, or the bulb may not survive.

Once the plant has gone dormant, cut off all of the leaves, and store the pot in a dry location where the temperature stays around 60F. Allow the soil to dry out, and don’t water it all winter.

How To Store Caladium Bulbs For The Winter

The most common method of overwintering caladiums is digging the tubers out of the ground, and storing them for winter. Here are tips for lifting caladiums, and instructions for how to store caladium bulbs for winter…

  • When to dig up caladiums – Since caladium tubers will not tolerate frost, they should be dug up before it gets too cold outside. The foliage will naturally start to die back once the temperature gets down into the 50sF, but may not die back completely before they need to be lifted from the garden.
  • Tips for digging up caladium tubers – Use a garden fork or spade shovel to gently lift the tubers out of the ground. Be sure to start digging far enough away from the plant so that you don’t accidentally cut or damage the bulbs. You can gently shake or brush the access dirt from the bulbs, but don’t wash it off.
  • Preparing caladiums for winter storage – Once the tubers have been lifted from the garden, allow them to cure (dry out) for a week or so before storing them. After the bulbs have dried, caladium leaves will usually start to drop, or easily pull away from the tuber. Remove all of the leaves before storing bulbs for winter.
  • Storing caladium bulbs for winter – I like to pack my bulbs into a cardboard box filled with either dry peat moss or coco coir. But you could mix in some perlite if you have that on hand, or use another type of medium like sawdust, newspaper or pet bedding. Just be sure your packing material is totally dry. Pack the bulbs loosley and so that they aren’t touching each other. Place the box on a shelf in the basement or other dark location where they will stay dry and the temperature is around 60F.

Storing caladium bulbs for winter in peat moss

Caladium Care Over Winter

You don’t have to do anything special for dormant caladiums in winter. Whether left in the ground, in pots, or in storage, the most important thing is to be sure they aren’t getting too much water during dormancy. If they get too much moisture during the winter, they will rot.

It’s also a good idea to check on them a few time through the winter to make sure they aren’t molding or drying out too much. If you find any that have mold growing on them, throw them out immediately so the mold doesn’t spread to the other bulbs.

FAQs About Overwintering Caladiums

Below you’ll find the answers to some of the most common questions I get about how to overwinter caladiums. If you can’t find an answer to your question in this section, or anywhere else in this post, then please leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer it.

Can caladiums grow indoors?

Growing caladiums indoors as houseplants is pretty difficult. The plants naturally requires a dormant period during the winter months, so it’s best to allow them to rest.

You could certainly grow your caladium indoors through the summer, and then allow it to go dormant during the winter. It’s important to note that all parts of the caladium plant are poisonous, so be sure to keep them out of reach of any plant-eating pets.

Can you leave caladiums in pots over winter?

Yes! See the full instructions above under the section titled “Overwintering Caladiums In Pots” for detailed instructions.

Can you leave caladium bulbs in the ground over winter?

Only if you live somewhere warm. Caladiums are hardy in USDA growing zones 9 and above.

Do caladiums come back every year?

Yes. With the proper winter care, caladiums will grow back year after year.

How long can you store caladium bulbs?

In the proper conditions, caladium tubers can be stored for several months. I recommend planting them every spring to keep them growing their best.

But if for some reason you are unable to plant them right away in the spring, keeping them in storage for a few extra weeks/months should be fine. Just check on them periodically to be sure the bulbs aren’t too dried out.

Where To Buy Caladium Bulbs

If you’re wondering where to buy caladium plants or bulbs, you can usually find both for sale at you local garden center in the spring. Plants growing in pots will probably be in the annuals or outdoor tropical plants section, or mixed in with the shade plants.

Most of the time, you can find dormant caladium tubers for sale with the other tropical summer bulbs (like canna lilies, dahlias and elephant ears). Of course, you can always buy caladium bulbs online year round too.

Growing caladiums from bulbs is fun and addicting! Now that you know how to save caladium bulbs over winter, you can keep your favorite varieties year after year. Plus, once you get the hang of overwintering caladiums, you won’t have to feel guilty buying new plants every year.

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More Posts About Overwintering Plants

  • How To Store Bulbs For The Winter
  • How To Store Dahlia Tubers For Winter
  • How To Overwinter Tuberous Begonias
  • How To Bring A Plant Out Of Dormancy

Share your tips for overwintering caladiums in the comments section below.

Caladium

1. Q: Can caladiums be planted indoors?

A: Yes. While growing, caladiums need night temperature in the high 50’s and days around 80, constantly moist soil and fertilize every other week. They are at their best in bright indirect light; a north or east window is ideal. Tubers must rest in the winter the same as outdoor caladiums.

2. Q: How do you care for caladium bulbs over the winter?

A: Lift tubers in fall. Dry in warm place above 40 degrees. When tops die back, clip off. Clean tubers gently and dust with sulphur and store where they are cool but will not freeze. Try to keep bulbs from touching each other. Store in dry peat moss, vermiculite or perlite. Second year foliage is usually not as good as the first year; therefore more satisfactory results may be obtained by starting with new tubers each year.

3. Q: When is correct time to plant caladium bulbs?

A: Wait until after May 1. Soil temperature needs to be at least 70 degrees.

4. Q. Can caladium bulbs be saved from year to year?

A. Saving caladium bulbs in this area is not recommended since bulb size usually decreases after one year’s growth. I have had better luck storing and regrowing tubers of the white- foliaged types. If you want to try to save caladium tubers for another year, dig them as soon as possible and allow to dry in a well-ventilated but shady area. After 7 to 10 days, remove leaves and dirt, then pack in dry peat moss, vermiculite or similar material for storage. Pack tubers so they do not touch each other. Dust with all-purpose fungicide such as Captan (Orthocide) as you pack. Place container in an area where temperature won’t drop below 50 degrees F.

| Parson’s Archive Home | Aggie Horticulture |

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Caladiums grow in a quiet courtyard just steps off of Bourbon Street in New Orleans (Chris Granger, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune).

Question: Some Internet sites say caladiums are annuals, and some say they are perennials. I planted a bunch of caladiums this summer with the hopes that they are perennials. What are they? — Kelly Brou.

Answer: I’ll be the first to agree that researching gardening information on the Internet can be confusing. University Extension sites (such as the LSU AgCenter) can generally be relied on for accurate information. But gardening information from states with climates different from Louisiana may not apply here. Focus on sites that have information appropriate for Louisiana.

The sites that say caladiums are annuals are incorrect. Some gardeners may use them as annuals. That is, they plant them only expecting to get one season of color, and then they are removed and discarded at the end of the season. But, that does not take away the fact that they are perennials that grow from a tuber.

The tubers you plant this summer can be used to grow caladiums again next year, either left in the ground or stored and replanted. If the beds where the caladiums are planted will stay undisturbed and if drainage is good and they will not stay too wet during winter, you may simply leave the caladium tubers in the ground. If the winter is wet, however, the tubers may rot in the cold, damp soil.

Digging and storing the tubers in late September or October is the most reliable way of making sure they grow another year. Dig caladiums when most of leaves turn yellow and fall over. Leaving the foliage attached, brush off the soil from the tubers and lay them out in a dry location sheltered from rain (in a garage, under a carport). After the foliage becomes tan and papery in appearance, pull it from the tubers and store the tubers in paper bags indoors where temperatures stay around 70 degrees through the winter. Plant back outside in April.

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Caladiums

‘Florida Calypso’ caladiums

Caladiums are known for their stunning leaves with unique patterns and vibrant colors. They will attract attention to any landscape and bring life to shady areas.

Characteristics

Originally discovered in Brazil along the amazon basin, this tropical foliage plant is known for its spectacular, multicolored leaves. Caladiums are wonderful hanging basket, pot and landscape plants. They are easy to grow in Florida’s warm, humid climate and will provide beautiful color throughout spring, summer and fall.

Scientifically known as Caladium x hortulanum; Caladiums are part of the arum family of plants. The color combinations for this plant include white, pink, rose, red, burgundy, chartreuse, or green. There are over 48 different cultivars, but the two main types are fancy-leafed, which have large heart shaped leaves and lance-leafed which have narrow, elongated leaves.

The stems of caladiums usually grow between 1 and 2 feet tall and the attractive leaves grow between 6 and 12 inches in length. The plants grow from tubers and will mature to full size in one season. Caladiums naturally die back in winter.

Most caladiums thrive in the partial shade and only need two to four hours of direct sunlight per day. Although there are new cultivars which have been bred to grow in direct sunlight, minimal morning sun is ideal for caladiums and then shade for the remainder of the day. When grown in the shade, the leaf colors tend to be more vibrant, than when grown in full sun. There are few plants that will grow in shade and still provide a powerful amount color, so the caladium is an excellent option for shade gardens.

Planting and Care

Caladium tubers can be purchased already started or you can grow them yourself.

Plant caladium tubers in soil that is at least 70°F, cool soil will result in tuber rot and slow growth. In North Florida, plant caladium tubers in the ground in April; in South Florida in late February. When planting tubers place the knobby (puckered area in the center) side up, and plant them 2 inches deep and 8 to 12 inches apart from each other. Remember to plant most caladium cultivars in a well shaded area for optimal leaf color and health.

Soils with high moisture and adequate drainage are preferred. Caladiums should never sit in dry soil or saturated water. The soil should be moist to the touch and watered frequently. To retain soil moisture, mulch around the plant after the leaves have emerged. These plants are heavy feeders so regularly fertilize them with a soluble fertilizer, for prime foliage growth. Caladiums’ leaves can also burn if fertilizer is applied directly to the leaves, the plants are in direct sunlight, or there is a lack of water.

Enjoy the flourishing leaves of the caladium throughout the spring, summer and fall. As fall temperatures cool, caladium leaves will begin to decline, but are back again the following spring.

For more information on caladiums, contact your county Extension office.

Also on Gardening Solutions

  • Caladium Cultivars Developed at the University of Florida

UF/IFAS Sites

  • UF/IFAS Caladium Breeding Program

UF/IFAS Publications

  • Older Caladium Cultivars Developed at the University of Florida
  • Topic: Caladiums
  • Cut Flower Gardens
  • Landscaping in the Shade

Growing Caladiums

Easy enough for the casual gardener to expect routine success, the caladium’s elegant beauty also makes it a staple in the most accomplished gardener’s landscape. Native to tropical South America, caladiums grow from tubers and thrive in the heat and humidity of our long summers. They are remarkably free from major insect or disease problems.

Caladiums (Caladium x hortulanum) are grown for their attractive foliage. The six to twelve inch heart shaped leaves emerge from the ground on arching stems that are generally one to two feet tall, but can grow taller. The foliage may be splashed with combinations of white, pink, rose, red, burgundy, chartreuse or green, often with several colors combining in wonderful patterns. These bright leaves with their bold texture embellish our shady gardens from April/May until September/October when the tubers go dormant.

WHERE TO PLANT

All caladiums grow well in shade to part shade (two to four hours of direct sun, preferably morning) or bright dappled light. In these conditions they produce lush growth with large, colorful leaves.

Some cultivars are more tolerant of sunny conditions, and are successful in beds receiving full sun as long as they receive adequate irrigation. When grown in full sun, caladiums tend to produce smaller and more brightly colored foliage and the plants will be shorter. These cultivars also do well in the shade.

PLANTING CALADIUMS

You can purchase caladiums two different ways. Buying caladium tubers is the most economical way to add caladiums to your landscape. You can buy caladium tubers and plant them directly into well prepared beds in April.

When planting tubers, you need to determine the top and bottom. If the tubers have started sprouting, it makes it easy. You will see pinkish-white sprouts on the top of the tuber. If it has not sprouted, the knobby side of the tuber is where the growing points are located – look for them. That side is planted up. The smoother, rounder side is the bottom of the tuber. Plant the tubers about two inches deep and eight to twelve inches apart in well prepared beds. After planting, apply a couple of inches of your favorite mulch and water in.

Caladiums are also available sprouted and growing in four to six inch pots, and they will provide immediate color in the landscape. Potted caladium bulbs should be planted with the top of the root ball level with the soil of the bed. Plant them eight to twelve inches apart into well prepared beds and they will grow larger and more beautiful through the summer. Once potted caladiums are planted, mulch the bed with two inches of your favorite mulch and water in.

If you plant the potted caladium in a bed that gets some sun, the leaves on the plants at the time may burn. This is because the plants were in relatively low light at the nursery and aren’t used to the sun. You will see tan areas and even holes burned in the leaves if this happens. Don’t worry, the new leaves that come out will be adapted to the light and be fine.

PREPARING BEDS

Careful bed preparation will ensure healthy, robust plants. Turn the soil in the area to be planted, and then incorporate a four inch layer of organic matter such as compost, rotted manure or peat moss. Next, lightly sprinkle the area with an all purpose fertilizer (such as 15-5-10) following package directions, and rake it into the upper few inches of the soil. As an alternative, a little slow release fertilizer can be placed around each tuber as it is planted into the bed.

Keep beds of caladiums well watered during the summer, especially those receiving lots of sun.

The colorful, tropical foliage of caladiums combines beautifully with impatiens, begonias, torenias, liriope, ferns, hydrangeas, achimenes, gingers and other shade loving plants. They are generally more effective when a single color or cultivar is used in a bed or landscape. If several colors are used, they are most effective when masses or groups of each color are combined in the planting.

WINTER CARE

In late September or early October longer nights and cooler temperatures encourage caladiums to go dormant. But, the tubers you plant this summer can be used to grow caladiums next year, either left in the ground or stored and replanted.

If the beds where the caladiums are planted will stay undisturbed and if drainage is good and they will not stay too wet during winter, you may simply leave the caladium tubers in the ground. Caladiums love moisture when they are in active growth during the summer. But, once they go dormant, moisture in the soil combined with chilly winter temperatures can make them prone to rotting. If you try leaving your caladium tubers in the ground and find they do not return in the spring/the tubers are rotted, you should dig the tubers and store them inside over the winter.

Or, you may choose to dig and store them, as this is the most reliable way of making sure they grow another year. Dig caladiums when a number of leaves turn yellow and most of the foliage begins to look “tired” and falls over. Use a shovel or a garden fork to lift the tubers being careful not to damage them. Leaving the foliage attached , shake and brush off most of the soil from the tubers and lay them out in a single layer in a dry location sheltered from rain (in a garage, under a carport). After the foliage becomes tan and papery in appearance, pull it from the tubers and store the tubers in paper bags indoors where temperatures stay around 70 degrees F through the winter.

With poor growing conditions, particularly in areas of heavy shade or sunny, dry locations, the plants will likely produce small, weak tubers that may not return well either left in the ground or dug and stored. Under the right circumstances and with proper care, however, the tubers you plant in late spring can provide a beautiful display again next year, and for years to come.

Prepared by:

Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter
Consumer Horticulturist

Forest Garden

Caladiums growing in a shady spot on the deck last July from tubers purchased in 2012. This whole pot, including the Caladium, stayed in the living room through the previous winter.

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Finally, our order of Caladium tubers arrived on Wednesday.

These 22 pounds of tubers, ordered in February, were supposed to arrive weeks ago. But Bill Kurek, proprietor of Caladium Bulbs 4 Less in Lake Placid, Florida, promised us that he would watch our weather and ship the bulbs in mid-March when we had a string of warm days forecast.

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The same Caladium in January, now enjoying life in the living room.

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Well, we never had that string of warm days. And since Caladiums hate the cold, even a cold night en route to their new home, Bill waited to ship.

Our bulbs left Florida Monday evening in safe keeping with Fed Ex. They were delivered before noon on Wednesday by one of the Fed Ex drivers who makes special deliveries in a family sized mini-van.

The bulbs arrived in perfect condition, cushioned with Styrofoam peanuts, toasty and warm.

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These are huge tubers with multiple eyes. I was very pleased with the how nice this stock looked as I unpacked it all and repackaged the tubers for friends and family.

A good sized group of us pooled our orders. We ordered lots of 25 #1 tubers of seven different varieties. We each then could have a hand selected variety of cultivars in the colors we prefer.

Caladiums are treated as annuals in Zone 7 because they don’t survive our winters. The instructions for digging, drying and saving the tubers from one season to the next sound straightforward. But many of us have had disappointing results with saved tubers the following spring.

It is critical to keep the bulbs warm. If a Caladium is potted with another plant while it is dormant in the winter, it is a fine balance to keep the soil moist enough for the plant in growth, but not so wet the Caladium tuber rots.

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Line a large plastic box with paper towels to evenly wick the moisture through the mix. Notice there are no drainage holes.

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So most of us just purchase new Caladiums each year in early summer. Purchased, already in leaf, at a garden center or big box store, they can be pricey. They usually retail for $8 to $12 a pot.

Some gardeners purchase bags of tubers at the big box stores or larger garden centers for a little savings. This works, but the selection of varieties is very limited.

Ordering from a grower gives you access to a larger selection of varieties. Not only can you select leaf pattern and color, but also size and sun tolerance. There are many luscious varieties which never make it to the retail nursery trade this far north as plants or tubers.

If you love Caladiums, you will be amazed at the beautiful plants offered through a grower. Even with postage, which is considerable; the average cost per tuber will still be under $2.oo each, when you can order in lots of 25 or more of a single variety.

So once the Caladiums arrive, what to do?

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The first cardinal rule is to keep them warm. Caladiums, even before they are growing, don’t like to dip much below 60F. That means that the wisest course is to start them indoors, and then move the growing plants out into the garden when temperatures have settled for the season.

If planted directly into the garden outside, wait until the nights remain in the sixties, and the soil feels warm to the touch. That is usually around the middle of May here in zone 7B.

I like to start Caladiums in large, lidded, plastic boxes. First line the box with paper towels to evenly wick and distribute moisture.

There are no drainage holes in the container, so we will water sparingly until the Caladiums are growing, and then very carefully until they are planted out.

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Fill the box with fresh, good quality potting mix. Here I’ve dug the first furrow and labeled the box for the “Florida Fantasy” tubers which will grow here.

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Caladiums should be planted about 2″ deep. So fill this shallow container to within just a few inches of the top. I used a full 1 cubic foot bag of Miracle Grow potting mix in each container.

Next, make a planting furrow about 2″ from the side of the container for the first row of tubers. We can space them closely now, but not touching, to begin growing.

Examine each tuber for signs of growth. Some will have begun to sprout, which helps you know how to orient the tuber in the furrow.

In general, the more rounded parts should face up, as stems will emerge from the rounded “bumps”. The concave or flat side, where roots will grow, should be down. If you honestly can’t tell which way to place the tuber, put it on its side . The stems will still grow up.

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Both of these tubers are eye side up, properly positioned to plant. Notice growth on the right. On the left, I look for the rounded bumps from which stems will grow.

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In the early years, I got them upside down from time to time, and the tuber still sprouted! I just sorted it out at transplanting.

Make a second furrow, about 3″-4″ inches from the first, before covering the first one.

Since I purchased specific varieties, I like to plant all of one variety together. Label each group.

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Florida Fantasy tubers laid in the furrow. I cover them as I dig the second furrow to keep things evenly spaced.

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We purchased very long boxes, and managed to get about 25 tubers in each. The box is heavy, once planted. You might want to work with smaller plastic boxes, and dedicate an entire box to a single variety.

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When the entire box is planted, water the bulbs in , and secure the lid. The soil should be moist, but not wet.

The soil should be moist enough to activate growth, but not so moist that the tuber will rot. The paper towels in the bottom help distribute the moisture evenly through the box. I used about 2 quarts of water in this very large box to moisten all of the soil.

Caladiums are fairly thirsty plants throughout the growing season and don’t mind moist soil. But in the beginning, when they roots are just beginning, too much water can be fatal.

Putting the lids on locks that moisture into the box. As it evaporates, it will collect on the lid and drip back into the soil. These boxes won’t need any additional care for at least 2 weeks. You might check once or twice just to make sure that the soil moisture is holding at a good level, but don’t expect to see growth for a few weeks.

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This box is all planted, and watered in with about 2 quarts of warm water.

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Place the boxes in a warm room, out of the way. Ours are resting in the guest room for the rest of the month. I noted the day planted, and a date two weeks away to check for growth.

When the leaves begin to emerge, remove the lids, and move the boxes to a location where they can get indirect light. I hope to move our Caladiums to a shady spot outside during the day, by early May, and just bring them in at night.

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Finally, cover the box, label with the date planted, and move to a warm area in the house where it won’t be disturbed.

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When each tuber has a grown roots, and has emerging leaves, it can be moved to its permanent location. I grow Caladiums mostly in pots. I control the soil, and the voles can’t touch them.

Although Caladiums are poisonous, and so are ignored by deer, I have heard from friends that voles and squirrels destroy them in the ground at times. It may be the last act on Earth for that vole, but that is what I’ve heard.

If you have voles, consider planting your Caladiums into a plastic nursery pot or a terra cotta pot first. Use a good quality potting mix, and fertilize with Osmocote or Plant Tone mixed into the soil. Then dig a hole in the planting bed large enough to hold the pot, with just its rim visible above ground. The pot protects the Caladium tubers and during the season, and can be lifted in the autumn to store the tubers indoors.

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“Gingerland” in September 2013.

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My best success with keeping loved Caladiums season to season is to keep them growing through the winter. I transplant in the fall into containers which are coming indoors, or just bring the whole mixed container, Caladiums and all, into the house when the evening temperatures begin to go below 50.

The Caladiums usually die back for a while and take a rest. But then, in late winter, here they come again! New leaves emerge, and we enjoy Caladiums indoors for the next several months.

These plants grow larger and more lovely year to year, if you have the space inside to keep them going during the winter.

So this is the perfect time to start your own Caladiums for this season. There is still time to place your order to get exactly the varieties, or mixtures of varieties, you want to grow this year. We are still at least a month out here from planting the Caladiums out of doors, and likely many more weeks in colder areas of the country. That means there is plenty of time to give them a start so you have your own gorgeous crop of Caladiums to enjoy this summer.

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Caladiums and Rex Begonia in late October, repotted to come in for the winter.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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