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Caladiums are one of the easiest, and showiest, plants that we grow in our summer gardens. Once suitable only for shady locations, there are now sun-tolerant varieties available. One thing that holds true for all of them is that they need consistently moist soil – never let them dry out during their growing season for they will go dormant and could die. 

Caladiums in flower are easily identified as aroids, relatives of jack-in-the-pulpit and calla lilies. The flowers are interesting but not showy and most gardeners cut them off to give added strength to foliage production.

Many varieties are winter-hardy perennials here in sheltered locations, but to completely ensure survival, their corms (underground swollen stems, similar to bulbs) should be dug up and stored when foliage starts declining in the autumn. Lightly clean the corms and keep them in frost-free, dry and cool conditions for the winter. Plant them in April after there is no danger of frost. 

Caladiums originated in tropical America and were introduced into cultivation in the late 1700s. There are about a dozen species, of which a few have been used to hybridize over a thousand named varieties. They all possess two main types of foliage: a shield/heart shape and a narrower lance leaf. Dwarf forms are also available. Innovations abound and we may now choose from a remarkable kaleidoscope of patterns that includes stripes, spots, borders and splotches, along with a greatly expanded color palette that now offers orange, chartreuse-yellow and delicate shading with notes of purple, violet and lavender. 

Darrin Duling is the director of Mercer Botanic Gardens in Humble. Send your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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Darrin Duling
Author: Darrin DulingEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I am the director of Mercer Botanic Gardens located at 22306 Aldine Westfield Road in Humble. I hold The Royal Horticultural Society of England certificate of training, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, diploma of horticulture and a Master of Science degree in plant taxonomy from the University of Reading, England. I have worked in botanic gardens in England, Thailand, Florida and New York, and was sole proprietor of Duling Designs LLC, a landscape design/consultation business in Greenwich, Conn. My botanical explorations have taken me to Brazil, Brunei, Sabah, Singapore, Thailand, Peru and other exotic destinations.