Caladium foliage brightens shady gardens

Richard C. Bogren, Huffstickler, Kyle, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.

News Release Distributed 04/05/12

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists
Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings

Many Louisiana gardeners enjoy a summer landscape planting of caladiums. These are one of the most popular plants to fill shady gardens because they thrive in the heat and humidity common in Louisiana summers. Caladiums are a great, low-maintenance bedding plant.

Caladiums have attractive foliage. The part of a caladium we see and enjoy is the leaves that are produced from underground tubers we generally refer to as “bulbs” but are actually corms. Heart-shaped leaves are 6 to 12 inches across on plants that reach heights of 1-2 feet.

Foliage colors include combinations of white, pink, rose, red, burgundy, chartreuse or green – often with several colors combined in wonderful patterns. These bright leaves highlight our shady gardens with their bold texture from May until October. Tubers go dormant in late fall and should normally be dug up and discarded. You can, however, dig them up, store them and replant them next year. Caladiums have no insect or disease problems unless they are abused or planted in the wrong location.

The LSU AgCenter has found that caladiums grow best in shade to partial shade (this is generally 2-4 hours of direct sun in the morning with filtered or full shade for the rest of the day). Under these conditions, caladiums produce lush growth with large, colorful leaves. Some varieties tolerate sunnier conditions and are successful in beds receiving partial sun to full sun (six hours or more of direct sun). It is however, essential to avoid hot, dry, full-sun conditions.

You can buy caladium tubers in the spring and container-grown plants in mid- to late spring through summer. It is best to plant caladiums in April through early May instead of in March because they grow best under warmer soil conditions. Caladiums will provide immediate color in the landscape when planted 8-12 inches apart. And they will grow larger and more beautiful throughout the summer and have a peak performance in late summer to early fall.

Proper bed preparation will ensure beautiful caladiums. Begin by turning the soil in the area to be planted and then incorporating a 4-inch layer of organic matter such as pine bark, compost, rotted manure or peat moss. Sprinkle the area with an all-purpose fertilizer according to the package directions and incorporate it into the upper few inches of the soil. As an alternative, a little slow-release fertilizer can be placed around each tuber as it is planted into the bed. During summer, a light application of a liquid fertilizer may be added.

Plant caladiums so that the top of the root ball is level with the soil in the bed. Once they are planted, mulch the bed with 2 inches of pine straw and water in the plants.

Some of the better-performing caladium varieties in landscape trials at the LSU AgCenter the last couple years have included Candyland, Moonlight, Red Ruffle, White Ruffle, White Delight, Mt. Everest, Pink Gem, Lance Whorton, Carolyn Whorton, Elise, Raspberry Moon, Fire Chief, White Queen, Rosemary, White Wing, White Wonder and Florida Sweetheart.

Caladiums are one of our top performers for shade gardens. Many of us do not take advantage of this great plant. They work great in combinations with our more traditionally thought of warm-season bedding plants for shade. Try caladiums with impatiens, torenia, begonias and coleus.

Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to or

Rick Bogren
3/31/2012 12:47:23 AM
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