Aroids forum: Caladiums in the north

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Name: Lee Anne Stark
Brockville, Ontario, Canada (Zone 5a)
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threegardeners
May 20, 2011 7:39 AM CST
I'm seeing them in all of the garden centres...and I just know that a few are eventually going to come home with me. Problem is, I've always lost them trying to overwinter...mostly because I'm never quite sure what to do with them.

Do they have to go dormant?
If so, how? like I'd store a geranium for instance?(dry out and place in a paper bag somewhere dark)
If not, will they keep growing for 8 or 9 months in the house with artificial heat?

These things are expensive up here...$12.00 and more for one bulb/tuber and I need to be really well prepared.

Thanks in advance for any help.

ps. I'm in northern-ish Ontario, Canada...our winters have been said to be colder and harsher than Moscow :(
Name: LariAnn Garner
south Florida, USA
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LariAnn
May 20, 2011 8:50 AM CST

Moderator

Thanks for your post! Yes, Caladiums do have to go dormant. However, in your case the growing season is shorter than what they require before they go dormant. For example, down here in Florida, USA, my Caladiums started coming up in March and will be up till October (at least) before fading to dormancy. If I had taken them out of the pots last Fall, dried them, and kept them in an area where temps didn't go below 60 degrees F, I might have kept them down for an additional month, but that still gives them a growing season of 7 months! You can "encourage" dormancy by switching to a high-phosphorus fertilization regime about 6 weeks before you want them to go down. In any event, you will have to protect them from frost and freezing in the beginning of their growth period as well as at the end.

Do you have a greenhouse or a well-lit area in your house where plants can be kept? My suggestion is that you plant the tubers in a pot that has a lot of holes (like a Superoots Air-Pot) so the roots can emerge but the tuber and pups can't escape. When you "plant" the pot, leave about 1/2 inch of the rim sticking up so you can see where it is when it is time to take them up for the winter. This way you won't have to dig and try finding all the tubers or worse, risk cutting right into tubers. After you pull them up by the pot, you can keep them growing, if you can, until they go dormant on their own, or you can just let them dry out and force dormancy.

Contrary to what some information online indicates, you do need to fertilize Caladiums if you want them to prosper and multiply. I use 18-6-8 Nutricote incorporated into the soil media before planting, then several times a week I may apply a weak (1/4 strength) solution of regular Miracle Gro soluble. This regimen makes the tubers get large enough so that I get blooms and large leaves. Blooms are essential to my hybridization efforts.
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Name: Lee Anne Stark
Brockville, Ontario, Canada (Zone 5a)
Perpetually happy!
Forum moderator Tip Photographer I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Critters Allowed Cottage Gardener I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Keeps Goats Keeper of Poultry Frogs and Toads Charter ATP Member Region: Canadian
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threegardeners
May 20, 2011 9:06 AM CST
Thank you!

So, with possible growing season of 7 months, they'll be a houseplant almost as long as they're a garden plant.
How well-lit? would bright light indoors be ok? or would they need winter sun?

How do you know they're going dormant? do they just brown off and die back like a tulip?

How would you store the tubers? right in their pots? or dig and keep covered in peat maybe?

Do they start to sprout when they're ready to grow again, like a dahlia?
Name: LariAnn Garner
south Florida, USA
When in doubt, do the cross!
Forum moderator Pollen collector Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Aroids Seed Starter
Foliage Fan Region: Florida Tropicals Container Gardener
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LariAnn
May 20, 2011 10:56 AM CST

Moderator

By "well-lit" I mean about as bright as winter sun. Winter sun is more like summer part shade, so that is ideal for Caladiums.

You know they are going dormant when they stop producing new leaves and the old leaves start to die off. Around here, I can end up with one or two leaves hanging on into December, but you don't have to keep them up that long (unless you want to try). Once you see that they are "declining", then you can let them dry out. In their native habitat, they go through wet and dry seasons. The onset of the dry season is when they go dormant, but if the wet season lasts longer, they'll tend to stay up longer. I suggest that you grow them so that you have them up for at least 6 months, longer if possible. With proper care, you can get a LOT of growth in those months. Mine go from one or two leaves from a good sized tuber to a pot jammed full in 2 1/2 months, but then again this is deep tropics compared to where you are.

For storage, I would keep them in their pots but I would do it as follows: when they are fully dormant, unpot them and inspect the tubers. They should be firm and not mushy, and the soil by this time should be dried out. Loosen up the soil, remove any detritus like dead leaves, etc. and then repot them in the fluffed up dry soil. Do not water! This way, come Spring, it will be easy for you to poke around to look for sprouts, the signal that they are ready to come up.

Make sure when you store them that it is not a location where the temps can get near freezing. If they get that cold, they could rot away, or be very slow to start up in the Spring. With your short season, you don't need any additional delays to growth!Thumb of 2011-05-20/LariAnn/a4d802
Be the Captain of What's Gonna Happen!
Name: Lee Anne Stark
Brockville, Ontario, Canada (Zone 5a)
Perpetually happy!
Forum moderator Tip Photographer I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Critters Allowed Cottage Gardener I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Keeps Goats Keeper of Poultry Frogs and Toads Charter ATP Member Region: Canadian
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threegardeners
May 20, 2011 11:00 AM CST
Thumbs up thank you!

I do believe I'll give one...or two...a try this year Big Grin

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tropicbreeze
May 20, 2011 8:05 PM CST
I've found here that they start to grow different times of the year. Like now most of mine have gone dormant but some that went dormant earlier have again come out. Not sure what triggers them, but the winter growth is usually a bit smaller.

I've heard that what's sold as Xanthosoma lindneri is really a Caladium. But it never goes dormant. Old wive's tale, or is there something to it?
Name: LariAnn Garner
south Florida, USA
When in doubt, do the cross!
Forum moderator Pollen collector Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Aroids Seed Starter
Foliage Fan Region: Florida Tropicals Container Gardener
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LariAnn
May 21, 2011 11:29 AM CST

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I understand that the taxonomists have reclassified the lindenii as a Caladium, but how they can do so without detailed study of a bloom is difficult to understand. I've never seen lindenii bloom; they way the plant grows is not like other Caladiums, either. That one, and the so-called "Alocasia" Hilo Beauty is another one that is not what they say it is. I have an idea about what that one is, but the Hilo Beauty is the one most likely to be a Xanthosoma, IMHO. I've never seen a bloom on it, either.
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Name: Evan
Pioneer Valley south, MA, USA (Zone 6a)
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eclayne
May 21, 2011 3:02 PM CST

Plants Admin

Lee Anne thanks for asking, LariAnn thanks for answering. I think! I hadn't realized Caladium went into true dormancy, soooo one more genus of tender "bulbs" to try.

And now for something completely different. I bought 5 different EE's (I hope) at a local hispanic market: malanga (huge tuber), yellow, white and pink yautia (long tapering tuber) and red yautia (russet burbank size and shape tuber but with very dark skin). Come August I do believe I'll be pestering LariAnn for some Xanth ID's.
Evan
Name: LariAnn Garner
south Florida, USA
When in doubt, do the cross!
Forum moderator Pollen collector Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Aroids Seed Starter
Foliage Fan Region: Florida Tropicals Container Gardener
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LariAnn
May 21, 2011 9:27 PM CST

Moderator

Evan,

I'll be happy to ID them - just post pics as soon as you have a couple of good leaves.

LariAnn
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Name: Evan
Pioneer Valley south, MA, USA (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Database Moderator Forum moderator Aroids Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tropicals Foliage Fan Bulbs Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge)
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eclayne
May 22, 2011 6:14 AM CST

Plants Admin

Thanks, Your the best.

LariAnn, I've read Aroid folk write about keying out Aroids and have found a few keys to genera other than Xanthosoma. I'd like to try this so can you recommend a reference for keying?
Evan
Name: LariAnn Garner
south Florida, USA
When in doubt, do the cross!
Forum moderator Pollen collector Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Aroids Seed Starter
Foliage Fan Region: Florida Tropicals Container Gardener
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LariAnn
May 22, 2011 7:09 AM CST

Moderator

Evan,

Even though I am a scientist and am very familiar with keying out plants, my method of identifying plants is strictly intuitive and in practice, I have IDd plants and insects with far more accuracy and speed than anyone can do with a key. Consequently, I am not well versed in the available keys for aroid genera because I use them only rarely. My work with hybridizing has even led me to question the classification of some aroids. Some aroid genera are refractory to keying because of the number of natural cultivars. Xanthosoma could be one of these.

LariAnn
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birdmanmar
Jun 7, 2011 5:07 AM CST
Hello LariAnn,

It’s nice to hear some basic factual information for a change coming from a person who actually grows n’ hybridizes Caladiums. http://cubits.org/aroidforum/thread/view/57060/

Most of the information I find either comes from people giving generally vague information that makes me question their actual results, or university extensions that give very detailed information, in large volume, and then have to sift through for the highlights on what Caladiums need. In either case for me they fall short of what I am looking for. I need more of a hands on or “how to” information approach by someone that is doing it! That’s why I am here reading your posts and am tickled that I found them.

Feeding: OK you “use 18-6-8 Nutricote incorporated into the soil media before planting” what if everyone is in their pots already? Can I sprinkle Miracle Grow Organic Choice 7-1-2 say monthly? Also, when you “several times a week I may apply a weak (1/4 strength) solution of regular Miracle Gro soluble” do you wet the roots first and then come back with the Miracle Grow soluble or just water only with the ¼ strength solution?

Have you ever used Miracle Grow Organic Choice?
Name: LariAnn Garner
south Florida, USA
When in doubt, do the cross!
Forum moderator Pollen collector Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Aroids Seed Starter
Foliage Fan Region: Florida Tropicals Container Gardener
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LariAnn
Jun 7, 2011 8:51 AM CST

Moderator

If everyone is already in their pots, you can still use the Nutricote, but what you do is a subsurface incorporation. You do this by gently roughing up the top 1/2 to 1 inch of the soil, spinkling in your Nutricote, then cover over and water in. You can do the same with the Organic Choice, but you will need to do it more often than once a season, I'd think. I've never tried the Organic Choice so I can't relate from actual experience.

Whenever I'm doing a liquid feed, I always make sure the soil media is already moistened - liquid feeding into a pot of dry soil is NOT recommended! Another trick I use is what I call "hot fertilization". "Hot" doesn't refer to the strength of the fert, but to the temperature of the water used to mix the soluble fert in. You see, dark colored water-filled hoses left in the sun will make pretty warm to hot water, and I suspect most people would just let the hose run until the hot water turns to cool water before watering plants. Instead of wasting it, I decant the hot water into a 5 gallon bucket and mix my Miracle Gro in that very warm water. So long as you can put your hand in it without actual pain, it seems to be OK. By the time it gets into the soil, it is not as hot, but it is still much warmer than putting cool hose water on the plants. The warm solution seems to stimulate the roots, especially with the fert there too. It may even discourage pathogens that prefer a cooler soil environment.

Caladiums tend to prefer soil on the acid side, so I keep the Miracle Gro for acid-loving plants handy and mix half and half regular and acid loving (1/2 tsp of each) to the 5 gallons. With such a mild solution you can use it as often as 5 days a week. If you also have Nutricote in there, get ready for some serious growth - this is a professional production regime used by nurseries to get maximum growth in minimum time.

Oh, I also use SuperThrive in my fert solution.
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birdmanmar
Jun 17, 2011 5:39 AM CST
Hello again LariAnn,

I picked up the Miracle Gro for acid-loving plants as you suggested and have the regular at hand. Why do you use both?

Now I just want to double check before I use - ¼ strength in 4 gallons would be 1 tablespoon (@1 tablespoon per gallon being standard mix)right? ½ teaspoon of each Miracle Gro = 1 teaspoon in to 5 gallons. I’m confused as to which measurement to use, one is ¼ strength and the other like 1/12 strength? I’m sorry, I just want to be exact and get it right. And “SuperThrive in my fert solution.” How many drops in how many gallons, every time?

The Nutricote is a little harder to find, at least here on the west coast for less than between $5 - $10 a pound. I will find it and use it because I want to feed my plants the very best that is available! I have downloaded Florikan’s TPG.PDF and for 18-6-8-180 Zone 9-10 they suggest for a 1 gal pot using 10 – 25grams what is your experience? Are caladiums heavy feeders?

For acidic soil I’m using a local product by Kellogg called AZALEA® MIX & SOIL All Natural Planting Mix for Acid & Shade Loving Plants. I have not however, been able to find the Ph of this planting mix and there is no pearlite in it. Would the plants benefit from adding large pearlite to this mix?

How should I adjust all the above for use on my Alocasias, & Colocasias?

When you talk about “Blooms are essential to my hybridization efforts. “ I thought if this is unusual then it might be of some interest to you. I heated a room to 86-91F to get my plants started 4-6 weeks earlier this year. The ratio of plants producing blossoms right after the first foliage came out was high for me at over 35% of about 150.

Again I’m sorry for all the questions I promise I will not ask again.
I really appreciate your time with this and I hope this information will be a benefit to many others reading this as well.

Thanks again for the help Ed
Name: Evan
Pioneer Valley south, MA, USA (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Database Moderator Forum moderator Aroids Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tropicals Foliage Fan Bulbs Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge)
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eclayne
Jun 17, 2011 3:30 PM CST

Plants Admin

Lari Ann, does the caution about applying liquid fertilizers to dry soil apply to plants grown in ground as well?
Evan
Name: LariAnn Garner
south Florida, USA
When in doubt, do the cross!
Forum moderator Pollen collector Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Aroids Seed Starter
Foliage Fan Region: Florida Tropicals Container Gardener
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LariAnn
Jun 17, 2011 4:23 PM CST

Moderator

Evan,

Yes, if the soil is dry, moisten it first before applying liquid fert. If the plant roots are already stressed from dry soil, you do not want to aggravate it by adding fert.

Ed,

I use both because i don't know how acid a medium Caladiums will tolerate, so i just want to get it on the acid side of neutral, especially since well water here is alkaline. I cannot comment on the use of a soil mix formulated specifically for acid loving plants as I mix my own. Though I have never tested the pH, based on the ingredients i surmise that the pH is near neutral.

As for the mix strength of the Miracle Gro solution, what I actually use is the 1 teaspoon per 5 gallons. For heavy feeders, like large Alocasias, you can go to the 1/4 strength, but i wouldn't go any stronger than that (assuming you have Nutricote in you soil). It is possible that Caladiums could tolerate a little stronger mix, but so far I have had good success with my regime.

Regarding Nutricote, when mixing my soil medium I use 2 cups for about 2 cu ft of mix. I don't know how that figures in grams, but it works for me and i use it as a general mix for many kinds of plants, especially aroids. For large growing Alocasias, you could use a little more and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't hurt, but since my mix works fine for me, I don't want to mess with success.

Washed perlite is one of the main ingredients in my soil mix, so i recommend using it, particularly if the soil mix is on the heavy side without it. I rinse the dry perlite through before use to eliminate the dust and fluorides that are present in the product.

Interesting about your experience with starting the Caladiums early in a warm room; I had over 75% blooming on my plants so that is not a problem- Now, when it comes to Thai Caladiums, you might need that warm room for the whole winter as they do not do well when exposed to cool temperatures. I just pointed out that in hybridization, blooms are of primary importance so proper feeding during the growing period is important to grow good tubers for next year.

LariAnn
Be the Captain of What's Gonna Happen!
Name: Evan
Pioneer Valley south, MA, USA (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Database Moderator Forum moderator Aroids Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tropicals Foliage Fan Bulbs Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge)
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eclayne
Jun 17, 2011 5:30 PM CST

Plants Admin

Thanks
Evan

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