How to Purchase Caladiums
There are two ways of bringing these wonderful additions into
your landscape. For instant gratification, buy fully grown
plants at the nursery. But this can be cost-prohibitive. My way
is much less expensive:
Order a large number of bulbs online in as many colors and as
great a quantity as you wish.
Do this before April
and start the
bulbs in a potting mix indoors when they arrive, giving them a
jump-start. They must not be planted outside until the nighttime
temperatures are consistently above 65 degrees and the soil has
warmed. These are tropicals that love heat and frosty nights
will be their undoing.
Bulbs come in four sizes: grade 3 is ½-1 inch, grade 2 is 1-1½
inches, grade 1 is 1 1/2-2½ inches and jumbo is 2½-3½ inches.
The lower the number, the larger the bulb. The larger bulbs do
not have larger leaves, just more of them. The real advantage of
the larger bulb is that it will mature more quickly and this is
an important consideration for northern gardeners dealing with a
fairly short season.
Knobby topped bulbs
The bulbs themselves are a bit confusing. It is difficult to
determine which side goes up.
They have a smooth bottom and knobby top.
Planting top side up will afford the shortest growth time.
However, they are like anemones; if they are planted 2 inches
deep, the bulbs will find their way and grow.
Watching caladiums emerge and slowly unfurl is a delight. The
anticipation is well worth the wait and they give color and
drama in the shade, where it is least expected and most
appreciated. There are varieties that have been cultivated for
sunlight but these require more water.
Harvesting & Overwintering Caladiums
Unlike other tropicals like dahlias and cannas, caladium bulbs
grow smaller as their reserves are depleted by the magnificent
harvest my bulbs in September
before the nighttime temperatures plummet. Dig and let them dry
for a week in a protected area, then trim off the foliage. Label
the bulbs as to variety and store them in a place where the
temperatures are in the high 60s to low 70s.
Caladiums can be placed in fine mesh bags, panty hose or paper
bags. Separate them with peat moss. I have had very good results
recycling my caladiums by digging, storing and then replanting.
However, this requires a bit of effort.
New bulbs will always assure success.
I highly recommend going with the jumbo size for the greatest
number of leaves. The varieties that I love are ’Gingerland,’ ’White Christmas’ and
cannot imagine a shade garden without caladiums. They pair so
well with all other parts of the landscape, even though they
could well take center stage. They bring constant color and
drama all season and are well worth the small financial
About the author
Susan Silverman, a Penn State master gardener from Murrysville, Pa. was a
co-winner, large garden category, of the 2006 Great Gardens