|Caladium bicolor 'Carolyn Wharton' in a mixed border in 2012.|
I've come to rely heavily on Caladiums (Caladium bicolor) for color during the later part of the summer. I''ve learned I can use them like bedding plants, to give an edge of continuous color to tie a border together. Their arched stems and hanging leaves can soften the edge of containers. They can also be used as a featured plant, to give a pop of color in an area dominated by lots of green. They always manage to make me smile.
Caladiums are indigenous to Brazil and neighboring parts of South and central America. They grow in the open forest, and go dormant during the dry season. If you remember that, you'll have success with these entertaining clumps of foliage.
Four years ago I discovered Caladium World located in Sebring, Florida. During the late winter/early spring they have a comprehensive selection of the colors and sizes of tubers at
|C. Carolyn Wharton (Whorton?) 2012 sunny border.|
Tubers are graded by size. Caladium World carries four sizes: #3 (smallest: 1/2 to 1") #2 (medium 1" to 1.5") #3 (large 1.5 to 2.5") and Jumbo (2.5 to 3.5"). This year our order was (25) # 2 White Christmas, (25) #2 Pink Symphony, (25) #1 Red Flash, and a 3 quart box of mixed strap-leafed and dwarf tubers.
|C. 'White Christmas' under Hydrangeas on June 29.|
|C. 'Florida Sweetheart" on July 2.|
|C. 'Red Flash' in the Peonies 7-21.|
I'm already re-thinking the color scheme for next year. The 'Red Flash' has been more subtle on the roof than I had hoped for. A more solidly red or pink leaf would work better up there. I've been really happy with the assorted fancy/strap leaf mix. And I think if I still underplant the Hydrangeas, it will be with a color next year other than white.
|Mixed dwarf and strap-leafed, 7-21|
In late fall, before the first frost, I try to salvage as many of the tubers as I can. I use my hands to claw under them and lift them from the soil. Leaving the leaves attached helps the tubers store more energy for the next year. I try to remember to sort them by color. I lay them in mesh bottom nursery trays, so that they can slowly be dried by moving air currents. I also leave some in tubs which I bring in and store in the basement. The tubers left to dry in trays can eventually (no rush to do it) have the soil shaken off, and the dried leaves carefully removed. Store the tubers in a dry place that is between 55 and 65 degrees. In late May in zone 7, you can plant them for another year of color.
|Elephant Ear Colocasia formosana on the Attic Roof Deck.|
|C. Pink Symphony under variegated Dogwoods|
|C. 'Gingerland' 7-21|
|C. mixture on our front porch, 7-22|
|C. mixture along 47th St. 7-22|
|C. Florida Sweetheart 7-22|
|Side yard, C. 'Pink Symphony' along the fence.|
I bring our potted Colocasias in each fall and keep them bright parts of the storefront or the attic. I water them very sparingly. Some will eventually have total die-back of all of their leaves. When that happens, the bulb is dormant. Stop watering it! Come late May, start to give it small amounts of water. Move the pot out to an out of the way location, and as the weather continues to warm, they will leaf back out again.
|Colocasia formosana under my grandmother's Night Blooming Cereus.|
|Colocascia gigantea with Oak Leaf Hydrangea.|
Caladiums also contain calcium oxalate. If your pets have a tendency to chew on your garden plants, be sure to plant these in an inaccessible part of your garden. The crystals can cause swelling of the lips, tongue, and oral cavity and could make breathing and swallowing difficult.
There are a myriad of plant species which can be harmful to pets and children. All gardeners should be aware of them and take steps to prevent accidents. One list of harmful plants can be found here.