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Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
C or LO
R.J. Black and
B.r~r. A..S- U. iv. C&F~orida
' '' '' 'r
Florida Cooperative Extension Service / University of Florida, Gainesville
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences / John T. Woeste, Dean for Extension
CALADIUMS FOR FLORIDA
Robert J. Black and Benny Tija
Caladiums have been grown in Florida for their colorful foliage for many
years and they continue to be popular landscape and container plants. Whether
grown in a container, beds or as border material, caladiums add color and
dimension to the landscape all summer long for very little cost and mainte-
Caladiums (Caladium hortulanum) are members of the Araceae family and
are tropical American in origin, with many of them coming from the Amazon
basin in Brazil. Caladiums available to Florida gardeners at local nurseries,
garden supply dealers and chain stores are predominantly hybrid cultivars de-
veloped through years of plant breeding.
Caladiums will grow profusely year-round in central and south Florida. In
northern Florida, use as a perennial is somewhat limited by low temperatures
during the winter months. However, caladiums can be effectively grown in
north Florida when the tubers are dug, cleaned and stored in the fall, and re-
planted in late spring.
There are two types of caladiums available fancy leaved and lance or
strap leaved. Fancy leaved caladiums are the more popular type. Large color-
ful somewhat heart-shaped leaves are characteristic of this type. The distin-
guishing characteristic of the lance leaved type is a narrow, elongated leaf.
The length of the leaves is similar to the fancy leaved type but the plants are
usually more compact. Lance leaved caladiums are hardier and lend them-
selves for use in flower arrangements because of their lasting quality as cut
The size of caladium plants is indicated by tuber size. Large tubers will pro-
duce plants with large leaves. Tubers are grouped into grades according to
size: Mammoth 3/2 inches (9 cm) diameter and larger; jumbo 2/2 inches
(6 cm) to 31/2 inches (9 cm); No. 1 1 /2 inches (4 cm) to 2/2 inches (6 cm);
and No. 2 1 inch (2.5 cm) to 11/2 inches (4 cm).
There are numerous caladium cu tivars available in a wide choice of colors.
The following list is presented as a guide to cultivars which are known to per-
form well in Florida.
Fancy Leaved Caladiums
Fannie Munson -
Pink Cloud -
Pink Beauty -
Mrs. Haldeman -
Miss Chicago -
Lord Derby -
Carolyn Whorton -
Dr. Groover -
Freida Hemple -
Postman Joyner -
Red Ensign -
Red Flash -
Crimson Wave -
Fire Chief -
John Peed -
Poecile Anglais -
Red Flare -
Ruby Smith -
Scarlet Beauty -
White Christmas -
June Bride -
Mrs. Arno Nehrling -
Bright hot pink, scarlet ribs, green border
Deep frosty rose, light green border
Variegated pale green, pink border
Splotchy pink, deep pink veins
Bright pink leaf, green edge
Flushed pink, white and red veins
Transparent rose colored leaf, green edge
Light salmon pink, green border
Multi-colored leaves, very fine pink
Bright pink splotched leaf with green edge
Heavy leafing, low growing red
Outstanding dark red
Brilliant metallic red
Red with pink spots, green border
Crinkled transparent crimson
Transparent red colored leaf
Crimson red, heavy leaf
Bright metallic red
Heavy leafing, low growing red
Scarlet leaf, blotched
Crimson red, large leaves
Red scarlet ribs, low growing
Brilliant scarlet, low growing
Heavy leafing, low growing, red
White leaf, green rib
Heavy leaf, solid white, green veins
Green leaf, white ribs
Creamy white center, narrow green border
Creamy ivory to lemon and lime
Transparent white, light green shades
Off-white shaded coppery red, crimson ribs
Lance Leaved Caladiums
White Wing Creamy white, green border
Rosalie Shiny red leaf, green border
Blue Gem Bluish green leaves
Pink Symphony Exotic silvery pink, green border
Pink Gem Deep pink, green border
Caloosahatchie White narrow leaf with pink and green
Caladiums can be purchased as tubers, seedlings or full size plants in the
spring from nurseries or garden supply dealers. Tubers should be inspected
closely for firmness. Soft, spongy tubers should not be purchased as this usu-
ally indicates that the tubers have been damaged by cold temperatures (below
600F (150C)). Full size plants can be left in the container and used indoors or
on the patio or removed from the container and planted in the landscape.
Selection of Planting Site
Caladium tubers are grown commercially in south central Florida under full
sun. Growing under full sun most of the day fades colors, although it is not
detrimental to the plant. Caladium tubers produce larger and more intense
colored leaves in partial shade. They should be planted in the landscape
where they receive filtered sun or direct morning sun for three to four hours a
day. Caladiums should not be planted in heavily shaded areas since plants
will stretch and develop weak petioles.
Caladiums should never be planted under eaves of buildings without gut-
tering. Heavy rain falling from an eave will seriously damage caladium leaves.
Heavy rains will also damage leaves when caladiums are planted on bare soil.
Splashing water combined with loose particles of sand rasp leaves and cause
injury. A mulch of some kind is therefore necessary to protect against rain
Planting and Care
Caladiums grow best on high organic, well aerated soil. To obtain these soil
conditions it is generally necessary to amend sandy soils with organic matter.
Some sources of organic matter include peat moss, well rotted manure and
If started from large tubers, caladiums can be grown in unamended poor
soil for at least one season since there is enough food stored in the tuber to last
one season. Tubers grown in unamended poor soil should be discarded and
Tubers can be planted directly into ground beds after danger of frost is past.
They should be planted the last part of February in south Florida, the middle
of April in the central peninsula, and the first of May in the northern peninsula
and panhandle. Tubers should be planted two inches (5 cm) deep and 18
inches (45 cm) apart with growing points facing upward. Firm the soil around
them when planting to prevent the formation of air pockets between the tuber
and the soil.
Figure 1. Preparation of caladium tubers for
planting. (A) Removal of the central bud
will force the tuber to produce many small
shoots and leaves. (B) Cutting the tuber into
sections will also force the production of
many small shoots and leaves. (C) Planting
the entire tuber will produce a plant with a
few large leaves.
Caladiums grow best in a moist, well-drained soil. Overwatering in poorly
drained soil will cause fleshy tubers to decay. Wilting occurs rapidly if soils
are allowed to dry. Foliage loss is likely if plants remain wilted.
Proper fertilization produces healthy large leaved plants. When grown in
organic soils, spread 1 tablespoon (15 cm3) of a complete fertilizer (6-6-6 or 8-
8-8) around each plant or 2 Ibs. (908 g) per 100 square feet (9.3 m2) of bed area
four to six weeks after planting and every two months during the growing sea-
son. Plants grown in sandy soils will benefit from monthly applications during
the growing season, since fertilizer is rapidly leached from sandy soils.
Growing Caladiums in Containers
Caladiums make colorful and compact pot or tub specimens. Caladiums
grown in containers or planters should be started from tubers rather than from
seedlings. Seedling caladiums require too much time to make large speci-
mens, although they are the least expensive initially. If tubers are used, four to
six weeks are required for them to develop into full-sized plants.
When it is desirable to have a large container filled with plants, plant several
small tubers in the container rather than one large tuber. If small tubers are
unavailable, large tubers can be used (Figure 1). Remove the center bud to
allow more smaller side shoots to develop or cut the tuber into 3 to 5 pieces.
If one or several large plants are desired use the largest tubers and do not
remove the center bud.
Caladiums can be grown indoors as container plants provided the proper
cultivars are selected. Some caladium cultivars which tolerate indoor condi-
tions include Lord Derby, White Christmas, Fire Chief, Red Flash, Carolyn
Whorton, Poecile Anglais, Sea Gull, Scarlet Beauty and Aaron.
Storage of Tubers
Caladiums cannot tolerate cold temperatures and when soil temperatures
drop below 600F (15.50C) plants will gradually deteriorate and finally the fo-
liage will die. This is essentially what happens in the fall in north Florida. The
yellowing and drooping of the foliage signals the time to dig and store calad-
ium tubers (Figure 2). They should be dug before the leaves completely dete-
riorate since leafless tubers will be difficult to locate.
It is not necessary to dig and store caladiums in south Florida since they
usually continue growing most of the year. In central Florida there is enough
cold temperature during the winter to cause death of the foliage. However,
tubers do not have to be dug since soil temperatures usually do not drop low
enough to injure them.
Tubers should be lifted from the soil, cleaned of soil particles, and dried.
Pack the dried tubers in dry peat moss or sand and store in a dry, well-venti-
lated area at a minimum temperature of 700F (21 0C). Do not allow tempera-
tures to exceed 900F (320C) or fall below 600F (15.50C) for prolonged periods
of time. Tubers gradually lose moisture and shrink at temperatures above 900F
(320C). Storage temperatures below 600F (15.50C) result in physiological
breakdown of the tubers. Storing tubers in unheated garages where tempera-
store at 70 F (21C)
Figure 2. Digging and storing caladium tubers. Tubers should be dug in north Florida
when the foliage begins to yellow and droop. They should be lifted from the soil,
cleaned, dried and stored in dry peat moss or sand in a dry, well-ventilated area at a
minimum temperature of 70F (21*C).
tures during the winter months can drop to 400F (4.50C) or below will result
in cold damaged tubers.
Tubers will usually begin to sprout after eight weeks of storage. They are
ready to plant at this time, however, they can be held in storage and planted
in the spring.
Insects, Nematodes and Diseases
Insects are not generally troublesome on caladiums. Occasionally aphids
and thrips may become a problem. The most serious insects on caladiums are
chewing insects such as caterpillars which chew leaves, making the plant very
unsightly. Observe plants carefully and if insects are detected apply the appro-
priate insecticide at once to insure beautiful plants all summer.
Caladiums can be damaged by nematodes, and plants grown in the same
area year after year have a greater chance of infestation. When an infestation
builds up, move caladiums to another area or treat the soil with nematicide
The most common disease of caladiums is tuber rot. It occurs when tubers
are stored or held at temperatures below 600F (15.50C). Chalking or dry rot of
tubers is another disease problem which frequently occurs in storage, yet does
not seem to be too deterimental to the tuber.
This publication was printed at a cost of $1077.90, or 7.2 cents
per copy, to inform the public about caladiums. 9-15M-79
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLOR-
IDA, INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES,
K. R. Tefertlller, director, in cooperation with the United States
Department of Agriculture, publishes this Information to further the
purpose of the May 8 and June 30, 1914 Acts of Congress; and is
authorized to provide research, educational Information and other
services only to individuals and Institutions that function without regard to race, color,
sex or national origin. Single copies of Extension publications (excluding 4-H and Youth
publications) are available free to Florida residents from County Extension Offices.
Information on bulk rates or copies for out-of-state purchasers Is available from C. M.
Hinton, Publications Distribution Center, IFAS Building 664, University of Florida,
Galnesvllle, Florida 32611. Before publicizing this publication, editors should contact
this address to determine availability.