In keeping with the theme of providing color through foliage, Caladiums have some of the most colorful leaves available. They tolerate a deeper shade then Coleus and can brighten up dark areas. Caladiums are in the same family as Calla lilies, (Araceae) and have a similar, but less spectacular flower, often hidden amongst the leaves. They prefer a damp, but not soggy soil and can tolerate some sun. They grow from corms and can be propagated from dividing the tubers. They are susceptible to the cold and must be pulled in the early fall to over winter them. Clean them well, store them in an area where the temp won’t got below 65o, dry them out well, but not too dry. I use a plastic bag poked with holes, as the method of storing the corms is to not get them too dry (as they will turn to dust,) and not to keep them too moist (as they will turn to mush.) If you have successfully over-wintered your corms or are purchasing new ones, the trick to starting them in the spring is consistent, gentle bottom heat. Apply this heat until temperatures in the evenings are regularly above 65o.
Elephant Ear Caladiums don’t come in as many interesting colors as fancy leaved Caladiums, but the leaves can reach up to 3 feet long and two feet wide. New forms are appearing on the market from the deep purple leaves of “Black Magic” to a chartreuse variety called “Elena.” Leaves can hang pendulously from stems, or upright like an arrow, they can have a ruffled edge or a smooth one. These are usually grown as specimen plants or towards the back of the garden since they can get to 4 feet or taller.
The fancy leaved Caladiums come in color combinations of red, green, white, pink and yellow with new combinations coming on the market every year. These brightly colored leaves can really pop in a shade garden where low light seems to make them glow. I usually keep them in pots or planters so I can control the soil moisture and move them around to where color is needed. Healthy plants are not bothered by any insects or disease. They thrive on a dark porch and are an excellent choice for bringing color into the shady garden. Readily available hybrids are “Pink Beauty,” “Miss Moffet,” “June Bride” and “Postman Joyner.”
An Elephant Ear Caladium called “Black Magic.” A very healthy specimen in a terra cotta pot on the deck in a semi-shadey location.
This variety of Elephant Ear is tall, but has a smaller leaf. Here it is growing on a brick patio in a galvanized tub.
This is the Calla-lily type flower that appears early in the season. Since the focus is on the leaves with this plant, I cut the flowers off, just in case the plant decides to go dormant after if flowers.
This earn had violas growing in the early spring. As they start to fade when the weather warms it becomes time to replace them with Caladiums. But there is a period when they are both growing together, creating an attractive compliment.
The intense colors and pure whites of the Caladiums really make them stand out in the shade, where they thrive.
The leaves of Caladium “Pink Beauty” seem to dance around this garden statue.
Interesting new varieties are introduced every year. New color combination and leaf variations allow you to create vibrant new displays such as this one, called “Miss Moffat.”
Here, three types of Caladiums go well together in an old wooden box. White queen is one of my favorites, it’s stark white leaf combine with it’s vivid red veins making it seem to pop right out of the shadey garden.
Another old wooden box, bursting with Caladium color.