Can you remember how you became acquainted with a flower with which you fell in love? My first impression of Caladiums, native to Brazil, was their use in a department store as a summer accent. Later, I saw a collection of Caladiums mixed with hosta and ferns at a garden walk.
There are lance-leaved and fancy-leaved leaf shapes. They can brighten shady spots in your garden. They can serve as an accent in a container. A mass planting or a border in your garden may be stunning.
Joining this group of plants called Araceae is the Calla (zantedeschia), native to South Africa, and Elephant Ear (xanthosoma), native to Asia. Consider these as summer bulbs, or annuals which may be called tubers or corms that reproduce by means of a rhizome. They are not hardy in our Indiana zone 5.
In all cases they produce a blossom, and seeds will result if pollination takes place. The larger the bulb, the larger the leaves. The grading system is: mammoth grade tubers are three inches and up, jumbo are two to three inches, No. 1 is one inch to two inches and No. 2 is one inch.
If you look at a Caladium tuber that has just begun to sprout, you’ll notice a large central bud surrounded by several small buds. If you want to have fewer but larger leaves, leave the central bud intact. If you would like more leaves but slightly smaller ones, use a sharp knife to remove that central bud.*
In all cases, because these tubers may look like a potato, sweet potato or any other root vegetable, they should not be eaten. If you are even in question about their safety in the diet, for you or your pets, you should research the genus.
If you live in a warm climate and the threat of frost is past (for Indiana it is May 15) the bulbs can be planted directly in the ground. If you want to get full advantage of the leaves all summer long, start the bulbs inside a few weeks before the frost date.
In my case, using cottage cheese containers that have been made shorter by cutting them off to two to three inches and making three to four drain holes in the bottom is a good thing. Using soil that is enriched with nutrients, lightly cover the bulbs and water slightly. Do not let them get too dry. After last frost date, plant them, containers and all, in their designated space.
The Calla should be planted four to six inches deep, as they get tall. Plant Elephant Ears just below the surface and the same with Caladiums. Cover just below the top of the container from where they grew.
One reason to plant in the container is that rodents will not bother the bulbs and they are much easier to lift in the fall. Store in a cool, dry place after thoroughly drying and sprinkling with a fungus preventative. A paper bag or box is best.
*Plant Palette: [email protected]
Corson is a graduate of Adams Central High School, Manchester University and Ball State University. She and her husband, Ron, were married and enjoyed many years of traveling before they settled at Lake Papakeechie to raise their family. Soon after moving to the Syracuse area, Corson joined the Syracuse/Wawasee Garden Club and then became a Kosciusko County Master Gardener in 2002, the same year she retired from teaching.
“Early on my interest in gardening came from a lineage of farmers and their wives, including three generations of generosity, giving me an enormous collection of heritage trees, shrubs and flowers. History and traveling has given me special interest in native flowers, hosta , the art of bonsai and many plants that have been naturalized.”
Individuals who wish to contact Corson for further information or questions may email her at [email protected].