A Caladium is one of the most misunderstood bulbs in our tender bulb growing arsenal and I’d like to dispel a few myths and tell you how to successfully grow and overwinter this bulb.
- To begin with, it comes in a stunning variety of leaf colors (you grow it for the leaves and not for the flowers).
- The second thing, while it does grow from seed, it’s best to start with tubers.
- The main thing to understand is this is a serious heat-loving plant but you have to ensure the variety you’re growing will take the full sunshine (many won’t and get burned leaves in the full hot sun)
Plant when the soil temperature in your area hits 70F. (Yes, this is a late date in many areas)
Do not try to grow on clay soils – they really want a well-drained soil.
Shade is good for Caladiums. Seriously, when you see the leaf edges turning brown, the odds are it’s either too much sun or perhaps a lack of water. They’ll keep their leaf color all season in the shade.
Only plant in sun with 6-8 hours a day of sunlight if they’re a guaranteed full sun variety. Any more and they’ll burn.
Feed regularly and/or grow on a well-composted garden area. (they grow well when fed well)
What About Planting Them?
- Plant in any direction. There’s a “top” that’s knobby and a “bottom” that’s smooth but the reality is they’ll grow when planted in any direction.
- Put in ground so you cover the tops with one and a half to two inches of soil.
- Soak after planting.
- Plant bigger bulbs 12-inches apart and smaller bulbs 6-8 inches apart
(Do not put anything down the hole and do not enrich the soil with anything at planting time.)
When the soil temperatures go lower than 60F and before the first frost, harvest the bulbs by digging them up.
Protect from any frost!
Let sit with leaves on in a well-aerated spot out of the sun until the leaves go brown.
At this point, the leaves can be snapped off – each will leave a small, smooth scar.
- Store warm (no colder than 60F) for the winter.
- They prefer a high humidity during storage.
- Do not put them in a warm, dry spot.
Note if your bulb is growing – but really poorly – it’s likely been exposed to a bit of too-cold temperatures during storage.
A big problem with overwintering this bulb is gardeners don’t allow the bulb to “cure” with the leaves on before overwinter.
The second biggest problem is they bulbs are not kept warm enough or in high enough humidity during the overwintering stage.