Planting for Summer Splendor
All photography courtesy of Longfield Gardens.
The flamboyance of caladium brings a tropical flair to gardens
With the advent of spring comes opportunities to plant the cheery caladium, a favorite of local landscapers. These hardy plants may appear fragile, but are closely related to the hardy philodendron and tend to be resilient.
Although the flower blooms and fades quickly, the leafy splendor of caladium can last six months. Its large decorative “elephant ear” or “heart-shaped” variegated leaves are often marked along the veins with deeper hues. Distinct streaks and splotches add visual interest — anything from pink, purple, red or white.
“Fancy leaf”caladiums tend to have larger leaves and include Candidum, Carolyn Whorton, Fire Chief, Florida Cardinal, Florida Elise and Florida Sweetheart. All do well in and around Houston garden beds. The smaller, ruffly-edged “Lance Leaf” thrive in window boxes, planters and indoors in well-lighted living spaces.
“For overhung or dimly lit spots, select white-tinged caladiums to infuse the light with brightness,” says Hans Langeveld of longfield-gardens.com, an online retail source for quality bulbs and perennials. “This really works, you can change the feel from dank to cool with a mass planting of white-and-green caladiums like ‘Aaron’ or ‘Candidum.’ ”
Tips on Planting
Strategically decide where to plant your caladiums, which will rise to one foot or more. They look wonderful in landscaping and flower beds and are extremely easy to grow. Although some gardeners use seedlings or full-sized plants, it is the caladium bulbs or “tubers” which make light work of mass planting. Tubers should be planted in the ground this month to ensure a blossoming jungle of caladium in late summer.
First-time handlers of caladium tubers may be confused by a seemingly dried brown clump with leftover roots. “How do I orient the tuber in the dirt?” is a common question. Caladium gets planted bud side up with its smooth underside placed three inches down, about a foot apart. This is to protect new roots which develop (oddly) on top of the tuber. These roots like to be warm and wet. They sprout around the dormant eyes (also located on the top) and respond to filtered light
Kids and Pets
The beauty of caladium can’t be beat. But beware! It contains oxalate crystals and may cause burning, swelling, and choking if ingested. Therefore, caladium should be grown out of reach of children and pets.
Precaution: The handling of caladium is generally thought to be safe, but it makes sense to wear gloves when transplanting.