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Growing Caladiums: Pot or Container Production

Caladiums make fantastic pot, hanging basket and container plants. Their beautiful leaves and tropical appearance provide a refreshing diversity for consumers.

Plant types range from the large fancy-leaf types to the short strap-leaf types. Some fancy-leaf types are sold as dwarf cultivars, since they are much shorter plants but have broad leaves.

By choosing the right cultivar and container size or shape, many combinations and effects can be achieved.

Tuber and Pot Sizes 

Caladium tubers are sold based on tuber diameter: 

  • Mammoth, greater or equal to 3 ½ inches
  • Jumbo, 2 ½ to 3 ½ inches
  • No. 1, 1 to 1 ½ inches
  • No. 2, 1 to 1 ½ inches.  

In general, two No. 1s or one Jumbo tuber is used for a 6-inch pot, and one No. 1 or two No. 2 tubers are used for 4-inch pots. In larger containers, such as 10-ich hanging baskets or gallon containers, mammoth tubers or six No. 1s are required to produce a full pot.

De-eyeing Tubers

Caladium tubers have one or more dominant eyes or sprouts. 

When these eyes are removed, the resulting plants have more leaves and are shorter making a more compact plant.

There are several ways to de-eye a tuber:

  • A small knife can be used to cut out the main eye. Be sure exercise care to avoid destroying smaller buds surrounding the main eye and making too deep or large wound. 
  • A large nail to “puncture” the main eye also will work. The nail can be pushed through a cork, so only ¼- ½ inch point protrudes. This prevents the nail from making too deep of a wound.

Note: Some cultivars can be produced in 4- or 6-inch pots without de-eyeing . The following cultivars can make excellent pot plants without de-eyeing:

  • ‘Candidum Junior’
  • ‘Florida Moonlight’
  • ‘Frieda Hemple’
  • ‘Rosebud’
  • ‘Tom-Tom’
  • ‘Lord Derby’
  • ‘Florida Sweetheart’
  • ‘Florida White Ruffles’
  • ‘Florida Red Ruffles’

The UF/IFAS breeding program has been developing cultivars that have more leaves and are more compact so that de-eyeing is not necessary.

Planting Tubers

Tubers should be planted upright, with 1 to 2 inches of soil covering the top of the tuber.

Soil and Fertilization

The growing medium must have good soil moisture retention properties—caladiums thrive in soils with a low pH (5.5–6.2).

Thus, high percentage peat soils are generally used for caladiums. Caladiums are considered “light feeders”, but they do respond to low levels of fertilizer.

When caladiums begin to sprout, a complete fertilizer solution can be applied at a low rate (For example, 200 ppm Nitrogen from a 10-10-15, plus micros).

Caladiums prefer a high ratio of potassium. Plants should not be fertilized at every watering, but rather once weekly (full sun) or bi-weekly (shade) after leaves have fully expanded.

For commercial operations, caladiums should not be put on a constant liquid feed; thus, they must be isolated from other bedding plants requiring constant fertilization. Over-fertilization will cause “greening” of white cultivars.

Irrigation 

Caladiums grow best with high soil moisture. Of course, the soil should have good drainage and adequate air spaces, but caladiums prefer constant moisture.

Withholding water is used as a practice to slow growth, reduce plant size, or “harden” some plants. However, this can be dangerous with caladiums.

If plants are allowed to wilt, dormancy can be induced resulting in leaf drop, slow recovery, or cessation of growth even if irrigation is resumed.

Light

Caladiums are generally produced in greenhouses with shade to provide light levels of 2500 to 3000 foot-candles.

In southern states, caladiums can be produced in shade houses with 30–50% shade cloth.

Note: Some cultivars, such as the ones listed below, can be grown in full sun. 

  • ‘Aaron’
  • ‘Candidum Jr.’
  • ‘Carolyn Whorton’
  • ‘Florida Elise’
  • ‘Florida Fantasy’
  • ‘Pink Cloud’
  • ‘Red Flash’
  • ‘Florida Red Ruffles’
  • ‘Florida Irish Lace’
  • ‘Florida White Ruffles’
  • ‘Florida Sweetheart’ and ‘Pink Gem’

Related Sites/Pages

Caladium container