Before this year, I was jealous of anyone who grew caladiums. I’d see them growing in other people’s garden and I was green (and sometimes pink) with envy. It’s not that I don’t have a place to grow caladiums, I have plenty of shade, and there are some new varieties that will grow in the sun, but the thought of digging holes for masses of bulbs (actually tubers) in late spring, was overwhelming. I was just too tired from all my other spring planting to bother with adding caladiums.
Then late last winter, I was interviewing a gardener about his garden.. I asked about this summer display, and he said, the entire front beds are lined with caladiums. As I looked over at the beds, I noticed huge trees in the gardens; I thought, No way, how did he dig through all those roots?
Turns out, he didn’t.
Here’s a gardening trick that works: caladiums don’t need to be buried in the ground. Just placed them on the surface of the soil and then cover with mulch. It is best, though that the soil is well drained.
Why bury caladiums when planting them by covering them works perfectly fine! @HelenYoest Click to Tweet!
I’ll admit, I was skeptical, so I tried it in my own garden, Helen’s Haven.
I laid them out and then covered with 3-4 inches of composted leaf mulch, my mulch of choice. Voila! The summer display was spectacular.
Caladiums hail from South America, so they like a warm climate. Wait until the soil temperature warms to 60º F before putting on the ground, about the same time you would plant tomatoes. In the South, that is usually around Mother’s Day.
Most of the literature will tell you to water caladiums regularly, keeping the soil slightly moist, but some of mine were planted under the eave of the back porch roof, out of the reach of rain, and rarely received any watering on my part. Another big batch of caladiums were planted in the open and did receive rain. Both areas performed about the same.
With regards to fertilizer, again the literature recommends fertilizing during the growing season. Mine didn’t receive any additional fertilizer other than what was provided from the composted leaf mulch breaking down. I think they did fine.
In tropical areas, the tubers are hardy year-round. In other areas of the country, you can treat your caladium bulbs as annuals and just cut back the foliage after the first frost. Lifting the bulbs to winter-over is also an option. I choose not to do that with my bulbs since I have so little space to winter-over plants, or even a bagful of tubers. I did, however, offer them to a friend to come dig and store for her own use next year. If I had a garage or place under the house where the temperature is moderate, I probably would dig, store, and replant for next year. I was so satisfied with the success of growing these caladiums, I will grow them again next year.
Dig tubers from the ground. Remove all foliage and roots. Let bulbs dry in a shaded area for a few days, then place in dry peat moss to keep over the winter. Store in a warm spot, around 50 to 60 degrees, until next spring when it is time to replant.