How to Care for Caladium Plants?
Just one look at the Caladium plant will make you understand its appeal both as a houseplant and as a garden plant. Their colorful leaves are painted in combinations of green, pink, white and red, creating an unmistakable look.
Caladium varieties can be grown indoors or out, in garden beds or containers. While they’re strictly a foliage plant, their colorful leaves can rival any flowering plant.
Although there are a few challenges in growing this plant, my guide below will help you grow a thriving Caladium plant.
Size & Growth
Caladium plants stay at a manageable size, making them perfect both in garden beds, as border plants, or in containers as indoor plants.
On average, the height of a Caladium will be between 18 to 24 inches. There are some dwarf varieties as well that will stay at around 12 inches tall.
The leaves are usually slightly bigger than the palm of your hand. Based on the leaves of the plant, there are two categories of Caladiums — fancy-leaf and strap-leaf.
The fancy-leaf ones have heart-shaped leaves that are large, while strap-leaf ones feature narrower, arrow-shaped leaves. Of the two varieties, the strap-leaf variety is more compact, but also more cold-tolerant.
Caladiums enjoy shady or semi-shady spots in your garden, although some varieties have been bred to tolerate sun as well.
Shade-loving varieties are perfect for decorating areas of the garden that don’t receive as much sun or where other plants would not thrive as well as the Caladium does.
When kept indoors, caladium should receive bright, indirect light. Once outside temperatures allow, you can move these plants outdoors for the summer.
Avoid strong, direct light that can scorch the leaves. This especially for Caladium varieties that are not sun tolerant.
Caladiums have moderate water requirements. They enjoy evenly moist soil throughout the growing season.
Watering extremes should be avoided. Overwatering can quickly cause root rot and other fungal issues, while allowing the soil to completely dry out will cause the leaves of the Caladium to turn yellow and drop.
In warm weather, when evaporation is high, you should add a layer of mulch around the plant to help retain moisture.
To make sure the soil is only moist, don’t drench it in water and always do a finger poke test to see if the soil is only moist or starting to dry out. Water only when the top layer is starting to dry.
Caladiums enjoy rich soil that drains fast. Soil amended by compost or other organic matter will help aerate the soil.
An aerated soil that doesn’t retain water will prevent root rot or fungal issues and keep your Caladium plants in top shape.
If you’re growing your Caladium in a pot or container, make sure they have draining holes on the bottom to allow excess water to escape.
A good watering routine coupled with fast draining soil will keep your plant hydrated without causing potentially fatal root problems.
Temperature & Humidity
As natives of the tropics, Caladium plants need warm air and soil temperatures to flourish. If you’re keeping this plant inside, move it outside only when daytime temperatures are between 70 to 80 F, and nighttime temperatures don’t dip below 60 F.
Within these temperature ranges, your Caladium plants will feel most at ease. However, optimal temperature isn’t quite enough for them. They also need humidity. High humidity.
When the indoors is especially dry, you can increase humidity by misting the plant or by using a humidifier.
Outdoors, make sure to water the plant more frequently if the air is too dry. Also, add a layer of mulch over the ground to help retain humidity.
Caladiums don’t require heavy fertilizing. You can get the most benefits of a fertilizer using a slow-release fertilizer at ¼ strength.
Liquid fertilizers are also good, just make sure to dilute them into a weak solution. Overfertilizing or using a strong dilution will cause leaf burn.
Fertilize once or twice a month during the growing period, from spring to fall. Don’t use any fertilizer during winter.
With time, mineral salts from the fertilizer can build up in the potting mix, so occasionally flushing the soil with water will help dilute any leftover minerals.
Potting & Repotting
Caladiums need to be dug up in the fall and tubers need to be stored indoors in a dry and warm environment.
Even Caladiums that are grown indoors will have their leaves die back in the fall. When this happens, allow the soil to dry out between waterings, then as new growths appear, resume normal watering.
In warm areas, where temperatures stay above 60 °F throughout the year, Caladiums can be grown all-year-round. There’s no need to dig out tubers if temperatures are within the range recommended for Caladiums.
How to Propagate Caladium?
Caladiums can be propagated by dividing the tubers and planting them separately to grow new plants. It’s a simple enough process that you can easily do if you don’t want to buy new plants.
Divide tubers in spring when you’re taking them out of winter storage. Cut each tuber into smaller sections, making sure each section has a knob or eye.
The eyes or knobs are the parts from where new growths should appear.
Pot them in well-draining potting mix, maintain soil moisture, humidity and keep out of direct sunlight. Don’t allow the soil to dry out completely, otherwise the gentle new growths will also dry out.
Caladiums are an unmistakable foliage plant with a highly ornamental value that will surely win you over with their gentle leaves that showcase a multitude of colors.
Although not an easy plant to grow for a beginner, the care recommendations I discussed in this article will help you overcome most of the hurdles of caring for a tropical plant.
If you focus on providing optimal light conditions, humidity levels, soil moisture, and keep your plants within the temperature range I recommended, you’ll soon notice that it’s not that difficult to keep your Caladium plant happy.