Garden Edition: August 2001, Page 2
Three relatively new types of caladiums have been developed:
Strap or Lance Leaf (examples include White Wing, Florida Sweetheart, and Red Frill) and Dwarf (examples include Candidum Jr., Gingerland, and Miss Muffet.
The bulbs are smaller in size but have more eyes that produce a dense, low growing plant. Because the harvest per acre is much smaller they cost more to grow and the supply is limited. These new varieties have are brightly colored and are usually more sun tolerant than Fancy Leaf.
Strap and Lance types stay under 12" in height and are ideal for hanging baskets and front of the border. Lance leaves have a more pointed leaf than Straps. Dwarf varieties are similar in leaf shape to Fancy Leaf plants but have smaller leaves.
Shade or sun?
When I first came to Florida, I was shocked to see caladiums planted in full blazing sun. Caladiums were supposed to be shade lovers, right? Unbeknownst to me, several varieties had been developed to thrive in full sun. I found a list posted on the Web by the University of Florida a helpful guide to the sun-tolerance caladium cultivars.
The most sun tolerant: Candidium, F. M. Joyner, Fire Chief, Frieda Hemple, Galaxy, Ginger Land, Gypsy Rose, Kathleen, Lord Derby, Pink Beauty, Postman Joyner, Red Flash, Rose Bud, Sea Gull, Scarlet Beauty, and White Queen.
The next most sun tolerant are Aaron, Caloosahatchie, Candidium Junior, Carolyn Wharton, Clarice, Fannie Munson, Festiva, Irene Dark, Jackie Suthers, Jubilee, Holderman, June Bride, Lady of Fatima, Lance Whorton, Marie Moire, Miss Chicago, Pink Cloud, Pink Gem, Rosalie, Pink Symphony, Tom Tom, Tropicana, and White Wing. Caladiums that tolerated the least amount of direct sun exposure were Blaze, John Reed, Miss Muffet, Mumbo, Mrs. Arno Nehrling, Poecile Angalais, Red Frill, and White Christmas.
If you end up with a generic caladium or tubers of unknown origin, try partial shade. Most will thrive.
To de-eye or not
Growers routinely de-eye tubers that are destined for pots to get bushier, more uniform plants. It's the equivalent of "pinching back" a garden plant. If the large central bud (or eye) is allowed to grow most caladium varieties produce only a few colorful leaves and the small buds are inhibited from growing and producing leaves.
Use the tip of a sharp knife to lift out the large central bud, being careful not to injure any of the surrounding small buds. Cut no deeper than 1/8 inch deep and no larger than 1/4 inch in diameter since the growing point is on the surface of the tuber. A nail punch works, also.
According to the University of Florida, certain varieties require de-eyeing, whereas for many others, it's optional. For details, see http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/BODY_MG278.
The key to success with caladiums is remembering they're tropical and do not like cold. Consistently hot weather (day and night) is necessary for germination. The hotter the temperature, in fact, the faster they will grow.
When. Make sure the ground is hot. If you're not wearing shorts outside, it's not hot enough.
Where. Pick a well drained area according to the light requirements of the variety. If in doubt, pick partial shade. Amend the soil with peat moss to hold moisture.
Which way up? The answer is any which way, since the caladium is a tuber. Bulbs grow roots from a basal plate and require specific orientation; tubers grow roots out of the skin around the eyes, which means they have no right side up when it comes to planting. If it's already sprouted, planting it in the opposite direction the sprouts are growing will slow growth but result in a bushier plant.
How far apart. Many people think the larger the tuber the larger or better the plant but tuber size actually determines how many leaves you will get and the planting distance. Here are the guidelines, starting with the smallest #2 = 2" to 4"; #1 = 4" to 6"; jumbo = 8" to 12"; mammoth = about a foot apart.
How far down? Till the soil about 6 inches. Cover the tuber with an inch or so of soil. Feed. Every month or so feed with a light application of 6-6-6 . The major requirement, once plants are established, is an adequate supply of water as caladiums will not perform well under dry conditions.