How to Grow and Care for Caladium

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Caladium is grown for its long-stalked, broadly arrow- or lance-shaped leaves which are beautifully variegated white, pink, or red. Caladiums bear greenish-white spathes with green flowers that are followed by white berries. Caladium’s dazzling foliage lasts from spring to early autumn; it then disappears until the following spring.

Caladium grows from thick underground tubers. They can be grown outdoors in subtropical and tropical regions, but are commonly grown as houseplants in cool temperate regions. Caladium grows best and is most colorful when the soil is kept moist and temperatures are 70°F or warmer. Caladiums must be protected from temperatures cooler than 60°F.

Caladium is a genus of 7 species. They are perennials native to woodland margins in tropical South America.

Get to know Caladium

  • Plant type: Tender summer-blooming bulbs; annual in Zones 2-9; perennial in Zones 10-11.
  • Growing Zones and range: Zone 11 and warmer
  • Hardiness: Tender
  • Optimal growing temperature: day 72° to 80℉ (22°-27℃), night 65° to 70℉ (18°-21℃)
  • Height and width: 12 to 36 inches (30-91cm) tall and wide
  • Foliage: Long-stalked ovate to elliptic, broadly arrow- or lance-shaped leaves, variegated white, pink, or red
  • Flowers: White spathes with green flowers
  • Bloom time: Summer
  • Uses: Tropical garden, indoor plant
  • Common name: Caladium
  • Botanical name: Caladium bicolor and spp.
  • Family: Araceae
  • Origin: Tropical South America

Where to plant Caladium

  • Plant caladium in light shade in Zones 2-6; plant in deep shade in Zones 7-11.
  • Grow caladium in humus-rich, well-drained but moist soil that is neutral to acidic.
Caladium bicolor
Caladium bicolor

When to plant Caladium

  • Plant tubers 2 inches (5cm) deep in spring when nights are above 60°F/16°C.

Planting and spacing Caladium

  • Space caladium 12 to 36 inches (30-91cm) apart.

How to water and feed Caladium

  • Caladium needs ample moisture.
  • Work in a few spadefuls of compost and a slow-release fertilizer.

Caladium care

  • After the plant emerges mulch to conserve moisture.
  • In fall, after the first frost, lift and store tubers to replant the next spring.
  • Store tubers at 40°F/4°C. Bring small pots indoors as winter houseplants or allow them to go dormant in the pots.

Growing Caladium as a houseplant

  • Caladium needs bright light, high humidity, a warm temperature during the day, and a cool night temperature of about 65℉ (18°C).
  • the soil should b evenly moist, but not soggy.
  • Fertilizer can be applied throughout spring and summer.
  • Rotating the plant daily helps maintain even growth and good form.
  • During the winter months, when the foliage dies back, Caladium should be stored in a cool, dark, dry room.

Caladium common problems

  • Snails and slugs can attack caladium.
  • Caladium is susceptible to tuber rot, bacterial rot, and fungal leaf spot. Indoors, aphids and spider mites may be troublesome.

Caladium propagation

  • Divide tubers in spring; dust cut portions with a fungicide.

Caladium varieties to grow

  • There are scores of caladium varieties, most are unnamed; most hybrids come from Caladium bicolor or C. hortulanum. Cultivars are available in many sizes, markings, and color combinations. Leaves are marked in reds, greens, pinks, and whites.
  • Caladium bicolor, angel wing, elephant’s ear. Arrow or lance-shaped dark green leaves to 14 inches (36cm) long and 6 inches (16cm) wide; red leaves are bordered in green or can be streaked or spotted.
  • C. x hortulanum. Very similar to C. bicolor; with leaves in shades of red, white, and green. Named cultivars include: ‘Seagull’ green leaves with white veins; ‘Pink Blush’ is pink, dark red, and dark green; ‘John Peel’ bears orange, red, and green foliage.
  • C. humboldtii. The miniature plant grows to 10 inches (25cm) high; its leaves are light green splotched with white.
  • C. picturatum has long and narrow green leaves with prominent white veins.

Caladium frequently asked questions

Q: What is the proper care for caladium tubers?

A: Place each tuber in a 5-inch pot of rich, humusy soil. Caladium grows from mid-spring to autumn. Indoors, caladium wants a moderately well-lit spot away from direct sunlight. Outdoors, place caladium in shade. Caladium must be kept warm, a temperature between 70° and 80°F is ideal. Keep the soil evenly moist during the growing period. Let the soil dry towards autumn.

Q: When my caladium starts to grow, the leaves are small but the leaf stems are very long. Does the plant need more sun?

A: Long stems and small leaves are normal for the first few leaves as growth begins. If the condition persists, it is probably a lack of light or humidity. Caladiums like the humidity at 60 percent or more.

Q: How should I treat caladium in the fall?

A: As soon as caladium beings to lose foliage in fall, start to reduce watering. When the leaves are gone, withhold water completely and store the pot and bulbs in a dry place at 60° or remove the tubers, dry them off, and store each one in a heavy paper bag for 2 to 3 months of rest.

Q: How can I propagate caladium?

A: Remove small ‘daughter’ tubers from tubers and pot them up separately in spring. When shoots appear mist them daily and slowly adjust them to the indoor room temperature. The temperature should never be cooler than 60°F.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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