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    How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Caladiums: An Ultimate Guide

    Elephant ears or Caladiums are striking foliage plants that bring colors and textures to gardens and landscapes from June until the first frost. In this guide, we'll cover varieties and how you can grow your own Caladiums!
    blog post authorShrish Tariq
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    Beautiful display of different colored Caladiums from white, green to green and pink caladiums.

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    Caladiums are tropical plants well-known for their big, heart-shaped leaves, unique patterns, and vibrant combinations of colors. Their brilliant leaf colors come in green, chartreuse, white, pink, red, and rose, with distinctly colored midribs, bringing brightness to shady garden areas.
    These classic plants are members of the arum or Araceae family and are native to wet and dry climates (South and Central America). They are fast growers with gorgeous leaves and color patterns that appear hand-painted.
    Caladium bicolor (Brazillian species, synonymous with Caladium x hortulanum) is popular among all Caladium species (almost 20) for its bold foliage with arrowhead-shaped and white variegations between veins. 
    This species has also produced thousands of cultivars and hybrids widely grown as summer annuals in cooler climates. One cultivar with highly decorative foliage is Caladium x hortulanum ‘Candidum Jr.’. It produces big, white, heart-shaped leaves with dark green distinct veins
    Cultivars of other species are also readily available at garden centers and nurseries (over 75 cultivars sold annually).
    Besides the common name ‘Caladium,’ they are called elephant ears and angel wings. But do not confuse the common name elephant ears with the other plants with similar big lance or heart-shaped leaves. Such as Colocasia, Xanthosoma, and Alocasia.
    Let’s learn about the Caladium species and how to grow and care for them as summer annuals during cool climates.

    About Caladiums

    Elephant ears or Caladiums are striking foliage plants that bring colors and textures to gardens and landscapes from June until the first frost. The showy foliage has distinctly colored midribs, contrasting borders, and unique patterns like dark veins and stripes in many shades of green, pink, and red.
     These “old-fashioned” plants do not have stems. Instead, their leaves are borne on long petioles emerging directly from underground tubers.
    Caladiums produce inconspicuous blooms in summer and fall and look similar to calla lily (a greenish-white spathe with spadix) flowers. However, these plants are primarily grown for their attractive foliage, and timely removal of these flowers saves the plants energy and helps to produce more foliage and bigger tubers.
    Caladium species are hardy in the USDA hardiness zone 8 to 11, but they are grown as summer annuals even in their hardiness zones. 
    Gardeners grow them in spring to add a stunning array of colors from summer until autumn, digging up the tubers in fall to overwinter indoors. They are attention grabbers with multicolored foliage grown in containers and hanging baskets for interior and outdoor spaces. Mixing their colorful foliage in perennial garden borders with other shade-loving plants provides a backdrop and perfectly contrasts with their dark green leaves, such as hostas. 
    They are excellent houseplants grown in decorative planters, especially the Caladium ‘Thai Beauty’ that create pink leaves with dark green veins. 
    Caladiums also look great as accent plants in containers for patios, window boxes, and balconies when combined with ferns, astilbes, and begonias. For a fountain of colors, plant Caladiums with black, red, and pink elephant ears with impatiens or fuchsias.
    Do caladiums come back every year?
    Caladiums are tropical perennials that come back every year within their hardiness zone (8,9,10,11) when provided with proper care in the growing season and dormancy period. However, as perennial tubers, they are short-lived and do not survive cold temperatures. That’s why they are treated as annuals and houseplants in cold climates.
    Where do caladiums grow best?
    Caladiums complement the shady or semi-shady areas of gardens with their fancy, multi-colored  leaves. They grow best in partial shade with 2 to 6 hours of direct sunlight daily and produce lush and beautiful leaves.

    Caladiums Care Guide

    Angel wings, Caladium, Elephant’s ear
    Caladium spp.
    Araceae
    6 inches to 2 feet height and 1-2 feet wide
    Annual, Tropical perennial
    Fast growing
    Clumping
    Central and South America
    8, 9, 10, 11
    Medium
    Dappled sunlight, partial shade (2-6 hours of direct sunlight)
    Warm, moist, and well-draining soil
    Once a week to keep the soil uniformly moist
    60-70 degrees Fahrenheit
    Every two weeks with a liquid fertilizer
    Tuber division
    Spring (4-6 weeks before the last frost), in cool climates plant tubers in mid-June
    Begonias, Coleus, Impatiens                                                              
    Exquisite heart-shaped foliage in white, variegated, green, gray/silver
    Container, houseplant, bedding plants, garden specimens
    Tuber rot, slugs, and snails
    Mildly toxic to humans, cats, dogs, horses, children
    Common name
    Botanical name
    Family
    Mature plant
    Plant type
    Growth rate
    Growth habit
    Native region
    USDA hardiness zone
    Maintenance
    Sunlight
    Soil
    Water
    Temperature
    Fertilizer
    Propagation
    Planting time
    Companion plants
    Ornamental value
    Uses
    Pests
    Toxicity
    Where to Buy Caladiums
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    How to Grow Caladiums

    Beautiful Potted Caladium Plant Against Colored Background
    Image Source:Photo by Pikusisi-Studio on getty ImagesBeautiful Potted Caladium Plant Against Colored Background
    Caladiums are old fashioned plants that are grown for their dramatic foliage to add color and textures to summer gardens. They produce best in the shady spot of gardens and landscapes, thus lightening up the sites with their colors. 
    They can be grown anytime from Caladium tubers or corms (without foliage) and full-leafed plants within their USDA hardiness zones (8, 9, 10, 11). 
    However, they thrive best as seasonal plants or annuals, bringing colors and textures from summer until the first frost, then entering the rest period in winter. At the end of the growing season, dig up the tubers, store them in a dry location, and use them for the following season.
    Caladiums are perennials of tropical climates with partial to full shade light requirements. Some newer cultivars can take 4 to 6 hours of full sun daily, particularly the heart-shaped white and green-leafed caladiums.

    When To Plant Caladiums

    Elephant ears or Caladiums need moist and warm soil temperatures to start growing. While planting caladium tubers in cooler soil results in stunted growth and rotting. Therefore, only plant caladium tuber outdoors when the soil temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit to allow healthy sprouting.
    Plant the tubers in warmer climates in March and September when the soil temperatures are 65 degrees Fahrenheit. 
    In colder climates, treat the caladiums as annuals and start the bulbs 4 to 6 weeks before the average date of the last frosts. 
    Then shift the containers outdoors or transplant the seedlings in the ground in late April or early June. Make sure to keep the soil temperature at 70°F with occasional misting of soil to encourage rapid sprouting.

    How To Plant Caladiums

    Caladiums are beautiful summer annuals with a rapid growth rate. They complete their growth cycle within one growing season producing colorful foliage and blooms. These plants can be planted as bare tubers (the best planting time is spring) or as potted nursery plants anytime in late spring to summer.
    Here’s a complete process to plant caladium tubers in garden beds in April:
    1. You can select a garden site with good drainage and partial shade exposure to help the caladium bulbs sprout and develop into a new, more giant plant.
    2. Dig a hole 3 inches deep after the season's last frost. Place the caladium tuber into the hole knobby side up and smooth side down and cover it with a 1” layer of moist soil. When planting multiple caladium tubers for garden beds, space them 8 to 12 inches apart with a depth of 3 inches.
    3. Water immediately after planting to settle the soil around the bulb. If the soil is moist, then there is no need for watering.
    Planting tips to successfully enjoy the beauty of Caladiums through their growing season;
    1. When growing caladiums from tuberous corms, always select the bigger tubers (1.5 to 2.5 inches). The large tubers have more growing points and display abundant foliage throughout the growing season. While the smaller tubers will have only one bud and offer less foliage growth.
    2. Each tuber has one central growing point that will produce giant leaves while suppressing the smaller buds from sprouting. To encourage the development of other buds and fuller plants, you need to remove the central bud with a sharp knife. Be mindful not to damage the smaller buds.
    3. Plant the bulbs in a shady spot with fertile, well-drained soil for the best performance.
    4. For outdoors, plant caladium bulbs only when the soil temperature is  65-70°F because warm soils assist the tuber growth and produce lush foliage.

    How To Grow Caladiums In Containers Indoors

    Caladiums grow quickly in containers (it is easier to maintain warm soil temperatures) and gain a mature height in a single growing season. When planting these seasonal plants in containers:
    Step By Step Container Growing Guide 
    1. Select a pot about six inches in diameter with one drainage hole
    2. Fill it with hummus-rich potting mix (a blend of 3 parts coco humus, 1 part perlite, and 1 part moss or coco coir) and plant the corms about 2” deep with the eye sides up. After planting, spread a one-inch layer of soil over the tuber.
    3. Water lightly with a spray bottle just to dampen the substrate.
    4. Situate the container in a warm, bright light area to help the tuber sprout.
    5. Tubers will sprout within three weeks of planting.

    What to plant with Caladiums

    Angels wings or Caladiums are brightly colored foliage plants with unique patterns and textures. Pair the green, white, pink, and red colored foliage of caladiums with wax begonias, ferns, coleus, impatiens, and sweet potato vine containers and gardens for a dramatic statement.

    How to Care For Caladiums

    Different colorful exotic Caladium plants in flower pots in front of white wall
    Image Source:Photo by Firn on Getty ImagesDifferent colorful exotic Caladium plants in flower pots in front of white wall
    After successfully planting your tuberous Caladiums in garden beds, follow these care tips to enjoy the beautiful colors of their foliage.

    💧 Water

    Caladiums need frequent watering for high soil moisture content during the growing season. Water regularly and check the soil moisture levels before the following application to avoid overwatered or soggy soil conditions. 
    Also, plant them in well-drained soil to avoid tuber rot because these plants do not like drying of growth medium.
    How often should I water a caladium?
    Water your caladium once a week for optimum tuber hydration. It is best to check the soil moisture before watering and water only when the top inches of soil feels dry to the touch.
    Do caladiums need a lot of water?
    Caladiums need thorough watering to enjoy the evenly moist soil. They do not like the overly wet and dry soils; therefore, once a week watering plan is ideal throughout the growing season.

    ☀️ Sunlight

    Caladiums perform best in partial shade, whether grown as indoor or outdoor plants. Some species can also withstand the full shade but are less vigorous with no intense foliage colors. 
    So, plant Caladiums in semi-shade locations for the best displays.  However, many new cultivar introductions show sun tolerance, particularly the green-leafed Caladiums. They are suitable plants for cooler, northern areas.

    🌡️ Temperature and Humidity

    Being native to the tropical climate, Caladiums grow best in warmer temperatures with moderate to high humidity. When grown as outdoor or houseplants, aim to maintain soil temperature at 70 degrees Fahrenheit for the best growth.
    Do not allow the soil temperatures to drop below 60°F at night and not rises to 85ºF.

    How to Overwinter Caladiums

    As the cool temperatures of fall approach, the foliage growth of Caladiums starts declining. At this stage, reduce the watering frequency and cut back the yellow foliage and petioles to ground level, helping the bulb to enter dormancy. 
    Then dig up the tubers, let them dry for a few days, and store them in low moisture material or vermiculite at 70 °F temperature for next year in spring. While in their hardiness zone 8 to 11, overwinter the tubers in the ground and, for extra protection, cover them with horticultural fleece or straw.

    🌱 Best Soil for Caladiums

    These tropical beauties thrive in moist, fertile, warm, and well-drained soils. Therefore, it is always best to amend the soil with organic matter or compost before tuber plantings. Plant the Caladiums in containers if the garden soil is clayey by providing a potting mix as a growth base.
     The ideal potting mix should be a combination of 2 parts coco humus, 1 part perlite, and peat moss or coco coir. Also, use the mulch during the peak growing season (summer) of Caladiums to retain the soil moisture against warm temperatures. Mulching will also prevent foliage discoloration. 

    🌻 Fertilizer

    Caladiums need applications of liquid soluble fertilizer every two weeks when grown and maintained in containers. Fertilize them with Miracle-Gro Liquid All Purpose (8-7-6) fertilizer for the best growth during the active growing season. 
    Or you can apply a slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote Outdoor and Indoor Smart Release Plant Food in a 17-9-12 nutrient ratio.
    For the Caladiums growing in garden soils, apply an organic or synthetic fertilizer with a nutrient ratio of 12-6-6 at the start of the growing season, followed by every six weeks.
    Pro Tip Icon
    Avoid phosphorus rich fertilizers.
    Do not feed the Caladiums with phosphorus-rich fertilizers, as they encourage flower production instead of foliage growth.
    Image of flowers
    🔥 Join 52,560+ other plant parents.Save this Caladium care guide for later
    Access this caladium care guide anywhere, anytime. You can even print it out and save it as a free PDF. Just pop in your email below, and we’ll send a bookmark your way + extra plant tips!

    Caladium Varieties

    The genus Caladium consists of 20 species with more than1000 cultivars and hybrids that are grown and maintained for the fountain of colors in summer shade gardens. There are two main types of Caladium cultivars based on their leaf shapes and sizes (these are from Caladium bicolor).
    Fancy-leaf Caladiums: These plants have large heart-shaped leaves produced on long 12 to 30 inches long petioles. They grow best in semi-shade lighting conditions.
    Strap-leaf Caladiums: These cultivars (derived from C. picturantum) offer narrow, elongated leaves with ruffled edges on shorter petioles (less than 12 inches tall). These compact plants produce more leaves than fancy foliage caladium cultivars and are ideal for window boxes.
    Caladium ‘White Christmas’ is a fancy-leafed cultivar with stunning, big, heart-shaped white leaves with contrasting dark green veins and edges. It grows to one to two feet tall with the same spread. This cultivar needs little maintenance and is ideal for borders, containers, and as landscape accent plants.
    Caladium ‘White Queen’ is a true beauty with white leaves and dark bright red veins that changes to bright pink as the plant reaches maturity. It thrives best in the shade with a 12 to 24 inches height and 10 to 12 inches spread. It radiates the smudged effect when paired with impatiens or fuchsias in containers and garden beds.
    Caladium ‘Aaron’ offers bright white leaves with dark green margins. This fancy leaf caladium makes an excellent houseplant and grows up to 20 inches tall with 2 feet spread. Its gorgeous leaves are borne on upright stalks that are 18 to 20 inches tall, with a preference for constantly moist and humus-rich soil.
    Caladium ‘Carolyn Whorton’ is prized for its spectacular foliage. It offers lush, pink leaves and dark red veins with contrasting green margins. This cultivar reaches a mature height of two feet with the same spread and is a sun-tolerant caladium. It brings colors and textures to garden borders, beds, and containers while remaining pest free.
    Caladium ‘Moonlight’ is developed for small spaces and offers glossy white leaves with dark green veins. The perfect contrasting colors of lush foliage are enough to brighten up the shady spots of your garden. Grow this plant with a wax begonia (a nonstop summer bloomer) for contrasting white, pink, and dark green colors.
    Caladium ‘Miss Muffet’ is a lance-shaped cultivar with glorious leaves (it seems to be hand-painted). Its leaves are green, adorned with red blotches and white veins. It is compact caladium (only grows to 8 inches) and excellent for window boxes with vigorous narrower leaves. Pair this plant with the lime green foliage of Goldilocks Creeping Jenny to outshine other flowering perennials.
    Caladium ‘Strawberry Star’ is an exotic-looking plant with fancy white leaves with green veins and red speckles over the entire leaf. This cultivar is a bit tricky in its light requirements when grown as a houseplant. So place its container 3 feet away from the south-facing window to provide superb light conditions with watering every nine days.
    Caladium ‘Raspberry Moon’ (Caladium hortulanum) is a winner of the 2022 national caladium of the year for its fancy heart-shaped leaves. It's dark green leaves with raspberry pink to red splotches covering the entire leaf. It thrives best in moist and humus-rich soil with the sunlight of 4 to 6 per day with stable daytime temperatures (70 degrees Fahrenheit). Plant this notable cultivar with coleus and sweet potato vine for a striking statement indoors and outdoors
    Caladium ‘Pink Symphony’ (Caladium bicolor) is a must-have plant for beginners and experts because it features the prettiest pink leaves with green veins. It grows up to 20 inches in part shade locations. Mix this cultivar with coleus, marigolds, impatiens, and chrysanthemums. Also, you can grow this plant in the container and adjust it in front of the ‘Rosy Lights’ azalea.
    Pro Tip Icon
    A few varieties that go together in a windowsill.
    Caladium ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Strawberry Star’ add an attractive appeal to the outside of homes when planted together in a window hayrack.
    Caladium bicolor is the main species for all cultivars and hybrids of caladiums with bi-colored leaves. It grows to 30 inches tall and is an understated plant in containers, beds, or borders in summer.

    Common Caladiums Problems

    Exotic 'Caladium White Queen' plant with white leaves and pink veins
    Image Source:Photo by Firn on getty ImagesExotic 'Caladium White Queen' plant with white leaves and pink veins

    Root Rot

    If this is your first time experiencing root rot, read our complete guide on root rot.
    Root rot is a common issue with most houseplants, including Caladium. It’s usually caused by moist or waterlogged soil for prolonged periods. Symptoms include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and a rotten brown base. If you see these symptoms, here’s how to treat root rot.
    • Remove the plant from the pot and gently remove the soil so you can see the root system.
    • If the roots are brown and mushy, you must take action immediately.
    • Clean off the roots with sterile water.
    • Take sterilized scissors and trim any mushy roots.
    • You can use a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution to disinfect the roots.
    • Once cleaned up, repot your plant in the fresh houseplant soil mix.

    FAQ


    Why is my Caladium drooping and wilting?
    Overwatering and poor soil moisture content is the primary reason for Caladium foliage drooping and wilting. Keep the Caladium planters in a dappled shade with a suitable watering schedule.
    Why is my Caladium turning brown?
    This is a sign of overwatering and poor soil drainage. These conditions interfere with nutrient absorption, turning the foliage brown and drooping. Other factors that contribute to Caladium browning are over-fertilization and direct sunlight.
    Why is my Caladium leggy?
    Caladiums grow best in dappled shade with protection from the afternoon sun. When in complete shade, the leaf petioles exhibit leggy growth with no vigor, particularly in houseplant Caladiums. To provide these plants ample sunlight, grow in partial shade locations with evenly moist soil.
    Why is my Caladium turning yellow?
    Poor soil nutrition and tuber rot (due to too much watering) is Caladium's chief cause of yellow leaves. Feed the container-planted Caladium with a slow-release fertilizer or compost tea to improve plant nutrition. Avoid overwatering and plant the tubers in well-drained soil for healthy foliage.

    Where to Buy Caladium?

    Adding different caladium cultivars and hybrids to your garden and indoors is a rewarding experience for beginners and experts. These exotic shade dwellers create a striking display of colors and outshine the flowering perennials. 
    Combine them with other shade-loving foliage and flowering plants for an exquisite show of colors. To add caladium cultivars and their companion plants to your collection, visit Neverland.
    Check out our Neverland plant care blog for expert care tips and guides.

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