Most people love to buy flowers for their gardens. What if you could get foliage as colorful as flowers that also hold up great in heat and humidity? One of our favorites is the intricate heart and strap shaped leaves of Caladiums.
These leaves grab our attention in the many shades and patterns of pink, red, white, lime green, and orange. What is even more interesting is that caladiums grow from a tuber. A tuber what? Most people are familiar with potatoes; caladiums are also tubers.
Caladiums were born in Brazil, South America; brought to America by plantsman Dr. Henry Nehrling after visiting the Columbian Exposition in 1887. Nehrling grew his caladiums in his greenhouse in Chicago until he moved to Gotha north of Orlando, Florida with the assignment to grow tropical plants for the USDA. He later moved to Naples, FL when it got too cold for his tropical plants in Central Florida.
Most of the caladium growing continues in Lake Placid, FL. From there, bulbs are shipped all over the world. Every year there is a Caladium Festival in Lake Placid to celebrate!
INTERESTING FACT: Thomas Edison hired Dr. Nehrling to help him bring his gardens in Fort Myers to life.
Growing and Caring for Caladiums
If you decide that you can’t live without this summer star in your garden, here are some planting tips:
- Plant the tubers 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart
- In frost free climates, you can plant them in the fall just under your soil and they’ll be ready to pop up when temperatures climb to 80 degrees
- The time of emergence in Florida occurs in April or May, and June or July in Northern climes
- Once temperatures fall below 60 degrees, the foliage dies back and the tuber stores energy for next year’s growth
- If you are not in a frost-free climate it would be necessary to dig them up once foliage begins dormancy and store in a dry place
- If you are lucky enough to live in Florida, it is not necessary to dig, but they should be planted in an area that doesn’t flood
- While is cost effective to plant just the tubers, you can add some potted caladiums to achieve instant gratification
There are so many varieties of caladium to choose from with such names as Postman Joyner (named after a postman), Red Flash, White Christmas, Pink Beauty, and the list could go on. At the Edison & Ford Winter Estates we planted Aaron and Mrs. Arno Nehrling – both varieties from the early 1920’s. University of Florida has been releasing some new varieties all beginning with the name Florida.
Don’t worry about the names of the caladiums you choose, just get some of these attractive tropical beauties in your garden and you will be glad you took the time to dig. The Edison & Ford Winter Estates sells both the tubers and the potted plants in the Edison Garden Shoppe for your enjoyment.