Tropical Florida Gardens - What's in Bloom at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates?

Tropical Florida Gardens

What's in Bloom at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates?

Growing and Caring for Caladiums

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 13th

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.

5 Responses

  1. M.J. Trupke Says:

    I was given a couple doz. caladium plants and
    cut the drooping foilage. Would like to dry
    and keep them til next Spring as we do get hard
    freezes here. Should I keep the bulbs in a pot
    or take them out of soil and lay on newspapers
    to dry? Thanks, J.

    Posted on August 30th, 2012 at 1:17 pm

  2. mohan Says:

    Hi,thanks for the tips. Im now living in Malaysia. My parents bought a couple of caladium but i dont know how to take care of them. Malaysia is a tropical country. My parents went for vacation. Im taking care of their house.please help me with tipa of taking care of caladium. The plants are.getting direct sunlight now. I work from morning till night. Im resposible for my parents garden.thank you…

    Posted on September 29th, 2013 at 2:45 am

  3. Edison Ford Winter Estates Says:

    HI Mohan-Lucky for you living in Malaysia must be beautiful. Caladiums are a tropical plant originating in South America. They were brought to United States in the late 1800’s and research done by Henry Nehrling, who established a tropical garden in Naples near Thomas Edison’s Estates gardens in Fort Myers, FL. We plant the caladiums in the summer or fall because they put on their best show during the summer and fall during warm weather. WE get cold in the winter sometimes below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t fall below this temperature you may get the great foliage colors all year. They are a tuber similar to a sweet potato, but do need some dormancy resting period during part of the year to gather energy up for next year. Sometimes the caladiums will grow so well, they may use up all of their energy and not continue thriving without a cold period of dormancy. I am sure you will do a good job, but nature sometimes does what it needs to do when it comes to plants. When that happens in Florida, we purchase additional tubers during the year to plant during their best show time in the summer and fall in the United States.

    Debbie Hughes, Horticulturist

    Posted on January 14th, 2014 at 7:42 am

  4. Lori Woodell Says:

    I bought ten bulbs at a sale in Orlando. Can I assume that the biggest bulbs will be the tallestbwhennplanting? I have started them in pots but want to move to a raised bed.

    Some have sprouted and are very tall already. Should I wait to get an idea of which get tallest fastest and go from there? Is there a rule of thumb to follow to define tallest so they may be planted in the back?

    Can the tubers be split after they have sprouted?

    Posted on April 19th, 2014 at 8:05 pm

  5. dana w Says:

    Hi,i transplanted some caladium that look just like your picture of the 3 lime green ones.they are doing great but i have one question since i have not seen this happen before. They got bushy and fuller and are now stranding out long branches like philedendrons. But i know for sure they are not philedendrons. Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Dana

    Posted on August 17th, 2014 at 10:08 pm