Even though Florida is blistering hot right now, the climate is perfect for growing caladiums, a tropical foliage with multicolored, heart-shaped leaves.
More than 1,200 acres in Florida are home to caladium farms for commercial production. In fact, the town of Lake Placid, located east of Sarasota in the middle of the state, hosts an annual Caladium Festival. Why Lake Placid? Because it is known as “the Caladium Capital of the World.”
Caladiums often get confused with the popular plants known as elephant ears. They are in the same “Araceae” family, the Pinellas County Extension Service says, and have a similar big-leaf shape. But caladiums are considerably smaller. What they lack in size, they make up for in color.
“Caladiums are easy to grow in Florida’s warm, humid climate and will provide beautiful color throughout spring, summer and fall,” according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) website on Gardening Solutions.
There are two ways to plant caladiums. One is to plant full-leaved plants. The other is to plant tubers or bulbs.
According to the website: “Caladiums with foliage can be planted at any time of the year.” However, planting bulbs is best between March and September, depending on where you live in the state.
It’s easiest to plant caladiums with foliage. Dig a hole about 2 inches deep and stick the plant in. Keep the ground moist and it will thrive. According to UF/IFAS, most caladiums do best in partial shade and only require two to four hours of sunlight. However, some new cultivars have been bred to grow in direct sunlight.
“When grown in the shade the leaf colors tend to be more vibrant than if grown in full sun,” UF/IFAS advises.
Planting tubers or bulbs is a bit more difficult. They need to be planted “eye side up,” 2 inches deep and 8 to 12 inches apart. Caladium bulbs prefer soils with high moisture and adequate drainage. According to the University of Florida, “tubers should never sit in dry soil or saturated water, but in soil moist to the touch. Keeping it moist but not soaked may require frequent watering.”
You can add caladiums to your landscape in hanging baskets or containers, as borders and as landscape accent plants. Some can also be grown indoors. Caladiums are annuals and will naturally die off at the end of the summer or early fall and, hopefully, return again the next spring. Bulbs can be dug up and preserved, or left in the ground.
For more information, visit gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu.