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.
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.