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Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials

Caladiums (page 2 of 3)

by Barbara Pleasant

Caladiums in Containers

In USDA Hardiness Zone 7 southward, it's always warm enough to grow caladiums in outdoor beds; gardeners everywhere can growing caladiums in containers. Use a peaty potting soil, and plant three to five tubers upright in a 6-inch pot. Cover them with 2 inches of potting soil, soak once, and keep the pots in a very warm spot (70° to 80° F) for three weeks. Because the tubers like semidry conditions while they are breaking dormancy, water lightly, but don't let the soil dry completely.

When slender spikes push through the soil, move the pots to bright light, indoors or out, and start giving them more water. As long as temperatures stay above 70° F, the leaves should quickly unfurl.

Caladiums in full leaf need a steady supply of water. Plants that dry to the point of wilting will revive after a short dry spell, but forgotten plants may become dormant. Once dormant, caladiums will refuse to leaf out for at least eight weeks.

Because caladiums are basically all leaves, they thrive on regular fertilizer. To keep plenty of new leaves coming on, mix a balanced soluble fertilizer such as 10-10-10 into the watering can twice a month while plants are growing well.

The great advantage of pot-grown caladiums is that you can move them about as needed to keep them warm. When nights become chilly in fall, bring them indoors, near a sunny window, until they look as if they need a rest. At that point, let them dry out completely. To save space, you can collect the tubers, shake off the soil, and stash them in old hosiery or a mesh bag for up to five months. As long as the tubers are stored above 60° F, they will be ready to replant the following spring.

Bedding Basics

In the warm, humid climates of southern zones 8 and 9 (National Gardening zones Middle, Lower, and Tropical South), plant caladium tubers directly into the ground in spring. In most other areas, you'll save several weeks of growing time by transplanting potted plants that are already up and growing.

Plant in soil that is moist, well drained, humus rich, and slightly acidic. Caladiums are popular grown around the bases of trees, but for this planting scheme to work, you will need to create a 5-inch-deep bed of rich soil so the tuberous roots will have adequate space and a fair chance at moisture.

To make watering and fertilizing easier, plant three tubers (or plants) in 6-inch black plastic pots (nursery liners) and sink the pots up to their rims in the beds. The pots collect and hold water, stave off invasions from thirsty tree roots, and make it simple to lift and collect the tubers in fall.

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