AS THE BEAUTIFUL COLORS of spring turn into summer green, wouldn’t it be nice to peek out at the garden and see a burst of color? A special tuber can do that for your garden. Nope, not a potato! This tuber is named Caladium! No flowers on this plant, only heart-shaped colorful leaves on long stems that will color your garden all summer long and even into early fall. Most of these colorful plants originated in South America.
Caladiums come in a wide variety of colors—many shades of pink, green, red and white. They normally grow to a height of 18-24 inches, but there are now dwarf varieties available as well. Many varieties prefer partial to full shade, but new cultivations are more tolerant of the sun (these sun-lovers will probably need a little more watering and tend to be a little shorter in height and maybe deeper in color).
What is a tuber? It is a part of a plant that stores nutrients necessary for a plants growth and reproduction. Tubers are usually found underground and you should always determine the top and bottom of a caladium tuber before planting. The top side will probably have little stemmed sprouts and look knobby. The bottom side will be more rounded and smooth. At local nurseries, most will already be sprouted so that will make your determination a little easier! Caladiums can also be ordered as tubers without sprouts at many online nurseries. Just search them and see all the wonderful varieties available.
Now let’s work on preparing the bed so we can get our tubers planted. As always, turn the soil in the area to be planted and add compost or peat moss with a little sand. That will help promote good drainage. A caladium bed should never be soggy or the tubers will rot. After planting the tuber, sprout up, add some time-release fertilizer to the bed and water thoroughly. Careful bed prep will insure that your caladiums can stay in the ground during their winter dormancy and return again next year. They will begin to go dormant as the nights grow longer and the leaves will collapse and turn brown. When you do your fall cleanup, remove these brown leaves carefully as not to pull the tubers out of the ground.
One more tip—this beautiful plant will also do well in a porch or patio pot by itself or with an underlay of drapey plants. Just be sure to choose a variety that fits the placement of the pot—sun or shade loving that is! Follow the same prep instructions as above for planting the potted caladium. Okay, get to work on coloring your yard. Patience and proper watering are all you need to enjoy caladium’s gift to your garden all summer!
Email your gardening questions and comments to Lisa at [email protected].