Want to brighten up a shady spot in your summer annual containers? Caladiums are an excellent choice. Due to their insignificant flowers, caladiums are grown for their colorful foliage. The leaf colors range in a wide variety of red, pink, white, and green combinations with contrasting leaf margins.
There are now over 1,000 named cultivars featuring both lance and fancy leafed selections. Most caladiums are best grown in shade, but there are newer cultivars that will grow in the sun, such as Red Flash, Red Frill, and Celebration. However, due to the extreme heat of our South Carolina summers, avoid planting all caladiums in the hot afternoon sun. Intense sun exposure will cause bleaching and burning on thinner leaf cultivars.
Caladiums are an excellent choice to plant in a wide variety of containers, including hanging baskets, hayracks, and pots. They contrast well with the leaf textures and colors of hostas, ferns, and other shade loving annuals and perennials. Care should be taken to plant caladiums in well-drained soils. If kept too wet, the tubers will develop root rot. Because caladiums originated in Peru and the Amazon basin of Brazil, they are frost sensitive, tropical annuals. Bulbs in the landscape are dug in the fall and stored in a cool dry location for replanting in the spring.
For immediate gratification, planting transplants may be your answer. Tubers will take longer to develop the colorful leaves. Both grow best when temperatures are 70 °F or above, as lower temperatures will lead to slow growth and root rot. For best success, wait to plant when the weather has warmed up.
Plant a container or two with caladiums this summer. You’ll be delighted with the results.
For more information, see HGIC 1160, Caladiums.