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Caladium care

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Caladium care

If you’re an avid shade gardener or just love colourful foliage like we do, give caladiums a try. Pot up a tuber or acquire a plant from a retailer. Either way, you can’t go wrong – and learn how to take care of them all year with our tips.

Caladiums

Mid-October, we dug up our dahlias, tuberous begonias and caladiums. As responsible gardeners who don’t like to see good tubers go to waste, we dig up the bunch and set them in a cool, dry place for the winter.

We are happy to report that our caladium collection is 99 per cent healthy. Despite our best efforts, we had to remove one soft tuber that had begun to rot. Checking on the collection every few weeks ensures any rotting tuber does not spread bacteria to the surrounding bulbs.

We absolutely love caladiums in the garden; they provide colour in the shade where few other plants do, but they do require a bit of extra work. Is it worth it? We have to say yes.

Spring care

In the spring, about six weeks before the last-frost date, pot up the healthy caladium roots to give them an early start. Keeping the knobby (rounded) side up, place them in a two- to five cm pot in a damp mixture of peat and container soil. It is imperative that the soil stay moist, dark and warm (23 to 26 C) until new growth begins. Provide indirect light as soon as you see a shoot, and move outdoors when the danger of frost has passed in May.

As you may have guessed, caladiums prefer a warm, moist environment. They are very winterhardy, depending on the variety, but most prefer shade. Caladiums are not known for their blooms but rather their colourful foliage. Healthy caladiums may produce a bloom which is best removed to keep energy directed towards the tuber. Water frequently to ensure the soil doesn’t dry out below two centimetres deep. Fertilize once a month with diluted 20-20-20. Most caladium varieties will grow 30 to 50 cm tall.

Winter care

Dig up caladium tubers in late autumn for storage, before killing frost penetrates the soil. Brush off soil and allow to dry in a warm environment with good air circulation for a week or two. Cut back foliage after it dies naturally. Store between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius in loosely packed peat moss, keeping several centimetres of space between them.

Recommended varieties

(available at garden retailers midwinter)

CHERRY TART: Suited for pots and baskets; performs well in sunny and shady landscapes.

CRANBERRY STAR: Ideal for pots and as accent or border; best suited to shady areas.

FIRECRACKER RED: Excellent landscape performance; very tall, better suited to the landscape than the container.

GARDEN WHITE: Ideal for use in sunny landscapes or large containers; grows tall, resistant to sunburn.

CALADIUM UF340: Outstanding performance in landscape and container settings; does well in sunny or shady locations; also known as Angel Wing Dwarf White. Some varieties are more tolerant of the sun than others, including: Candidium, F. M. Joyner, Pink Beauty, Postman Joyner, Red Flash, Rose Bud, Sea Gull, Scarlet Beauty and White Queen.

Potential problems

TUBER ROT: Causes tuber to become soft. Select varieties least susceptible to the problem and store tubers properly. Do not store tubers in the refrigerator. A cool, dark area in your basement or cold cellar is best.

LEAF SPOT: Causes leaves to develop brown spots. Remove and destroy affected leaves.

LEAF BURN: Causes brown spots and leaf die-back. Don’t expose leaves to liquid fertilizer, keep plant well-hydrated and from receiving too direct, mid-day sun.

Mark Cullen is a Member of the Order of Canada. He reaches more than two million Canadians with his gardening/environment messages every week. Ben Cullen is a professional gardener with a keen interest in food gardening and the environment. You can follow both Mark and Ben on Twitter (@MarkCullen4), Facebook (facebook.com/MarkCullenGardening) and Instagram (instagram.com/markcullengardening). Receive their free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com.

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