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Caladiums are a beautiful choice for Florida landscapes


Florida Fantasy is a white-leaved caladium.

Courtesy of Wendy Wilber
Published: Saturday, June 15, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 3:45 p.m.

Q: I am thinking about growing caladiums this summer. Is it too late to plant them, and should I put them in the sun or shade?

A: Normally the caladium tubers are planted in the spring, but you still have plenty of time in early summer to enjoy their colorful foliage. They are a beautiful choice for your Florida landscape.

Caladiums' brightly colored elephant ear-shaped leaves come in different shades of red, pink, white and green, and combinations of all of those colors. For most gardeners, the hardest part of growing caladiums is deciding what cultivar you would like to grow.

Red-leaved cultivars include Frieda Hemple, Red Flash, Postman Joyner, Florida Cardinal and Firecracker Red. Popular pink types are Carolyn Whorton, Pink Beauty, Fannie Munson, Rosebud and Summer Rose. My favorite white-leaved caladiums are White Christmas, Florida Fantasy and Florida Moonlight.

One of the novelty types that often is planted in the Gainesville area is one called Tapestry. Its 8- to 12-inch-long leaves have green margins with red veins and has pink and white coloring as a background. The plants will grow from 6 inches for the dwarf cultivars to 18 inches for the standard-sized plants.

Plant the tubers upright about 1 to 2 inches deep. Your soil should be well-drained with some organic matter worked in. Very sandy soils should be amended with compost or composted manure to increase the water hold capability of the soil. Water at least once a week to get the caladiums to sprout and grow well. A small amount of slow-release fertilizer applied a few times during the growing season will keep the leaves looking their best.

Most caladiums do best in about 50 percent shade, making them a nice shot of color for your shady landscape. Some varieties do well in full sun. For your sunny spots try cultivars like Florida Red Ruffles and Florida White Ruffles.

Caladiums look great in containers, too, and can be used for a tropical punch in a hanging basket as well.

Caladiums will grow well through the warm months in North Florida. When the temperatures cool in the fall, the caladium leaves will fade. UF/IFAS experts recommend digging and cleaning the tubers and then storing them in a dry place for the winter. Replant the tubers in the late spring and you will enjoy the caladiums' color for another year.

Most of the country's caladium tubers are produced in Lake Placid. One year, I am going to make it to Lake Placid for the Caladium Festival. This year it is July 26-28. For more information about caladium varieties, visit the UF/IFAS website, www.solutionsforyourlife.com.

Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at wlwilber@ifas.ufl.edu.

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