Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > March 2013 > Summer Long Color in Shade!

Summer Long Color in Shade!

When I first saw my house 12 years ago, the first thing I noticed was the nice large raised flower bed in the front yard.  Little did I realize that the dense shade from the maple tree--and the thirsty, thirsty roots--would make it a challenge to plant.  Still I stuck in some impatiens and they did okay--until mid-summer when I was having to water every day before I left for work and again after I got home.  If I forgot even one day, they wilted and some never made it back. Then I planted caladiums there. Instead of watering every day, twice a day, I was watering once or twice a week—much friendlier to my water bill!
Caladiums are native to Central and South American. They’ve been cultivated since the 18th century for their beautiful heart-shaped foliage in pinks, reds, whites, and green. If the beautiful foliage wasn’t enough to make me love them then their shade-tolerance and deer resistance would do it. They are insect and disease resistant as well and, of course, much more tolerant of drying out a little between waterings. You don’t even have to wait for them to grow up enough to bloom. From the time that first leaf unfurls, you’ve got color!
If they have a down side, it’s that they are not even remotely winter-hardy –except in southern Florida and coastal California. They hate cold soil so shouldn’t be set in the ground until soil temperatures are in the 70’s—usually mid-May. 
Caladiums can take four to six weeks to break dormancy. For earliest color, I buy the tubers when they first hit the store in March and start them in pots indoors. When you first plant them, they just need it warm so I don’t worry about putting them near a window until the first leaf begins to open—by then it’s usually warm enough to move them outside. By the first week of May when I set them out, they are already showing color. 
To save my caladiums from year to year, I dig them just before the first frost, cut the leaves off, and allow the tuber to dry for three or four days. I pack the tubers in dry peat moss or sawdust in paper bags and store cool but above freezing over the winter. An attached tool shed or garage, attic or basement works fine.
This year, with impatiens being challenged by Downy Mildew, I’m even happier that I don’t have to rely on them for gorgeous shade color this summer. 
Posted: 3/26/2013 by Bonnie Pega | with 2 comment(s)
Filed under: BonniePega, Bonnie'sGarden
Hi Pat,
Caladiums just need well-draining soil. If you're planting them in a spot that is damp, add a generous handful of coarse brown sand to the soil when you plant.
3/27/2013 10:08:52 AM

Will caladiums do well in any type of soil? If not, what should be added to soil to help them along?

Thanks, Pat
3/26/2013 7:22:47 PM

 Security code