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Caladiums Are Incredibly Bright And Moderately Capricious

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There are not so many decorative and deciduous favorites among the tuber crops. And caladium is a true star among the variegated inhabitants of interiors. Dare to get a caladium can not everyone. This plant is demanding, and first of all - to care. But still, rumors about the unusual capriciousness of caladiums are never justified. Attention and care can avoid any difficulties. And the plant can forgive small mistakes almost always. Magnificent shades of leaves and complicated ornaments of charming, impudent and at the same time so gentle caladiums can charm anyone.

Caladiums are incredibly bright and moderately capricious
Caladiums are incredibly bright and moderately capricious. © Alex Mielnikau

Caladium - plant description

Caladiums are often called one of the noblest indoor crops. Not possessing stiff, leathery leaves, but remaining slender and delicate, they are truly unique both in their character, in their choice of varieties, and in the impression they make in the interior. Caladiums are perceived as classic but bright plants, true aristocrats with their own special disposition.

Charming members of the Aroidea family are endemics of the flora of Latin America. All caladiums are found in humid forests, mostly in the tropics, but sometimes in subtropical climates as well. Folk nicknames for caladiums are a vivid testament to their beauty. The plant is known as angel's wings, elephant ears, Jesus' heart and angel's tubers.

Caladiums (Caladium) - tuberous ornamental deciduous herbaceous perennials. Rough, flattened, large, up to 10 cm in diameter, the tubers of the plant appear very massive. The adventitious roots are taprooted and shallow, developing evenly at the base of the tuber.

The height of the plant depends directly on the variety and varies from 20 cm for the most compact varieties to 30-40 cm for most hybrids and almost 70 cm for the largest-leafed specimens. Still, caladiums remain fairly compact, never looking massive and overwhelming. It is a fast-growing, though peculiar, plant that looks like a lush, dense bush of leaves.

All caladiums have a pronounced dormancy period in their development: the plant sheds its leaves and "overwinters" with a single tuber. The development of caladiums is somewhat irregular: it usually takes them up to two weeks to put out the first leaf, but then they grow much quicker and become a lush bush with many leaves in quite a short time. Traditionally, caladiums shed their leaves in the fall and spend the entire winter dry. But plants, like any tuberous plants, can be thrown out at other times.

The bright and large, very beautiful, whole leaves of the caladium are irresistible. Heart-shaped, with a strongly pointed tip and a very pretty base, caladium leaves appear translucent and very light. They are not as dense as their beloved large-leafed indoor competitors. The leaves grow on very long and fleshy petioles.

The leaf shape can vary from narrower and more elongated to more rounded, but the heart-shaped base of the leaves makes it easy to identify belonging to caladiums even from a distance. Leaf sizes range from 10 to 30 cm, with width almost always half the length.

Caladiums are incredibly bright and moderately capricious
Caladiums bloom, and quite spectacularly, but rarely in room conditions. © dana

Caladium colors and blooms

Luxury, small, complex patterns of caladiums is a trait without which this plant cannot be imagined. Contrasting veins - white, pink, red patterns - appear on the, as a rule, rather light base color. They resemble either marble or complex ornaments.

Caladiums have a limited range of colors, but no one will call it boring. It is believed that this plant has the most original and varied colors of all perennial ornamental deciduous stars. White-green or red-green combinations are embodied by different shades and unexpected contrasts. Bright scarlet, crimson-pink, cream, cream, silvery-white in combination with all shades of medium and dark green make caladiums stand out against any background.

Despite their status as purely decorative-leafy plants, caladiums flower, quite spectacularly, but in room conditions - rarely. The flowering stem begins to grow after the full opening of the fourth leaf. Caladiums produce cobs of light yellow color surrounded by a white-salad covering. The plant blossoms in a few days and, when pollinated, quickly develops globular fruit berries on the cob.

Types of indoor caladiums

In indoor culture, caladiums are mostly hybrid, varietal plants, in which even the original species are not always specified. The most common on the shelves are the large-leafed, relentlessly producing leaves almost year-round, famed for their marbled, contrasting leaf patterns, hybrid varieties of Caladium bicolor.

Caladiums are incredibly bright and moderately capricious
Caladium bicolor (Caladium bicolor). © Forest & Kim Starr

Caladium bicolor (Caladium bicolor) is a magnificent species with very large leaves that the tuber produces relentlessly, without a long dormancy period. Heart-shaped or arrow-shaped, large leaves up to 30 cm long sit on very long petioles and create remarkably airy bushes that do not seem heavy even because of their leaf size.

All varieties of this caladium are characterized by a marbled effect, with modern cultivars having contrasting dark patterns as common as plain white or red.

The luxurious leaves of Caladium lindenii (Caladium lindenii) will not leave Caladium fans indifferent either - like luxurious arrows, perfectly symmetrical, they soar on long and thick petioles, captivating with luminous white veins, folded into unusual patterns.

Caladium Schomburgii (Caladium schomburgkii) is a plant with contrasting patterns between veins and elongated, heart-shaped leaves that can grow to 15 cm in diameter.

Caladium Humboldt (Caladium humboldtii) is once one of the most popular caladiums. Famed for its smaller, arrow-shaped leaves. Measuring only up to 10 cm in length, the leaves of varieties of this species always sport a light or white spot in the center, blurring toward the edges, and lighter radially diverging veins.

Caladiums are incredibly bright and moderately capricious
Caladium lindenii (Caladium lindenii). © Plantaholic Sheila
Caladiums are incredibly bright and moderately capricious
Caladium schomburgii (Caladium schomburgkii). © rashmishrinivas
Caladiums are incredibly bright and moderately capricious
Caladium humboldtii. © Tony Rodd

Growing conditions for indoor caladiums

Caladiums are not accidentally nicknamed real softies. They are so demanding to temperatures during the period of active growth, so cold-fearing, that it is not always easy to give them a comfortable environment, even for fans of other tropical exotics.

Caladiums pay for their extremely strict requirements to temperatures with the ability to adapt to more moderate light. But even here their unpretentiousness is very relative.

Cultivate caladiums very carefully: the plant belongs to the number of poisonous, the sap can cause irritation of mucous membranes and skin. Any procedures with the caladium, including transplanting or hygienic measures, require hand protection.

Lighting and placement

Caladiums are considered plants well adapted to the place inside the interior. But they cannot be called shade-tolerant, much less shade-loving. They do not lose patterns on the leaves and growth rate only in the penumbra or in the scattered bright light, and in the depth of the rooms they can not develop normally.

Certainly, to put them on windowsills is not necessary, but the light must still remain bright enough. When selecting lighting for the caladium, it is worth remembering that the more contrasting patterns and the more flowers appear on the leaves, the more light-loving the plant is.

The delicate, thin leaves of caladiums are hypersensitive to direct sunlight. They are instantly covered with burns and do not tolerate even non-afternoon rays. Lighting for caladiums should be diffused, special attention should be paid to protection from direct sunlight on hot days. They are comfortable on western and eastern window sills, but not on southern ones.

For caladiums that have passed to the dormant stage and are outside or in the soil in a state of complete dry and warm wintering, lighting is of no importance. Pots with tubers can be placed even in a dark room. If the tubers are removed from the soil for the dormancy period, they must be protected from light and kept in slightly damp sawdust or peat, paper bags, without letting the tissues dry out.

Caladiums are ideal candidates for greening those rooms in which a warm environment and high humidity is natural. Bathrooms and kitchens are great options for this culture. But only if protected from temperature jumps.

In living rooms, caladiums are better placed separately: their leaves are much inferior in density to their chosen favorites, and against the background of other decorative and deciduous plants caladiums may look slightly unattractive.

Caladiums are better matched with plants with very small leaves and beautiful blooms, crops that usually look sloppy and sprawling.

Temperature and ventilation

Caladiums are among the most heat-loving plants. Only temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius are considered normal for this culture. Even with shedding of leaves and overwintering outside the soil the tubers should not be kept cool, the acceptable minimum values of air temperature for overwintering remain 18-20 degrees. In excessively high temperatures, the tubers will quickly dry out and it is difficult to find the right storage conditions for them.

In the period of active growth, caladiums are better kept in stable heat, but without heat. The ideal range, in which plants reveal their ornamental power completely, is 22-25 degrees Celsius. They are extremely sensitive not only to temperature changes, but also to any draughts. The plant should be placed in a secluded, comfortable place with an almost unchanging atmosphere.

Caladiums are incredibly bright and moderately capricious
Caladiums are extremely sensitive not only to temperature changes, but also to any draughts. © plantingman

Caladium care at home

Many gardeners consider caladiums to be fastidious, capricious and very difficult to grow. The thing is that they are extremely dependent on air humidity indicators and cannot normally develop in the dry air of living rooms. High humidity is vital for them, so water and feed them very carefully. They are only moisture-loving in relation to air humidity. Overflowing, getting the tubers wet is very dangerous for the caladium. Uniform moisture substrate for caladium maintain frequent, but not abundant watering. Soil in pots should partially dry out in the upper half, remaining slightly moist all the time. Drought, full drying of the substrate stops the growth of the caladium, so skipping water procedures for this capricious plant is undesirable.

After the caladium leaves fall off, watering completely stop. But it's better to cut it back from the moment the caladium stops growing and without waiting for all the leaves to fall off. Watering is reduced gradually, making it more and more infrequent. Resume watering immediately after transplanting.

Caladiums are lovers of high humidity. The more stable these parameters are, the better the plant develops and the more beautiful the leaves. Plants like spraying (provided that the droplets are finely dispersed). They grow beautifully with the installation of trays of water, moss or expanded clay. Providing at least average humidity values, you can achieve from the plant much more decorative.

Fertilizers and composition of fertilizers

Fertilizers can be made for caladiums only in the period of active growth. It's very easy to choose the frequency and period of fertilization in this plant: as soon as the shoots grow again, standard fertilization (2 times a month) is included in the care program. But the amount of fertilizers is reduced in comparison with the recommended for the first 4-5 treatments.

Start feeding caladium not when the first sprout appears, but after the first leaf unfolding. During the first few weeks the plant is quite content with the stock of nutrients in the soil.

Two types of fertilizers can be used for the caladium - special for Aroids or tubers and bulbs, in the extreme case - fertilizers for ornamental and deciduous crops. If possible, it is better to choose a complex, mineral-organic preparations or alternate fertilizing with mineral and organic fertilizers. Once more than 5 leaves have unfolded, part of the foliar application can be replaced with foliar treatments. Temperature and water quality for foliar applications should be carefully controlled: soft, warm water and a standard portion of fertilizer according to the manufacturer's instructions will help to avoid mistakes and the appearance of spots on the leaves. For caladiums, spray solutions from a long distance, preventing large drops of water from accumulating on the leaves.

Caladium pruning and shaping

The main mistake in growing caladiums is to cut off fading leaves. As with bulbs, in caladiums the tuber absorbs nutrients from the leaves. And when they wilt before the dormancy period, it is worth waiting for them to wither.

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Caladiums are incredibly bright and moderately capricious
The main mistake in growing caladiums is to cut off the wilting leaves. © garden

Bodies and substrate

Substrate for caladiums is selected from among very light, water-permeable earth mixes. For this plant it's better to choose special substrates for caladiums or for Aroids, in extreme cases - for bulb and tuber cultures, surely adding sphagnum to improve the structure.

If the soil is made by yourself, it's better to use a mixture of peat and leaf soil with quartz or coarse sand and add ashes and moss. It is better to sterilize non-purchased soil mixes. The pH of the soil should remain within neutral values.

Caladiums prefer small, but deep enough containers. Their size is adjusted to the size of the tuber, adding no more than 4 cm in diameter. Caladiums are traditionally planted one plant at a time, only small tubers on the growing group, leaving between them 2-3 cm for growth and development.

Lay a high - not less than a third of the height of the container - layer of drainage at the bottom. It is better to add charcoal to any material, but caladiums grow best when using claydite as a drainage layer.

Transplanting caladium

Caladiums are transplanted annually. Whether the tubers are removed from the soil and stored dry outside the substrate, or the tubers are left in pots, transplanting in early spring - in March or late February - "triggers" a new stage of development. If the tubers are bought, they are first germinated, letting the buds "sprout" and then planted. Digging up the tubers, it is worth immediately separating the daughter plants.

A high layer of drainage is laid at the bottom of the containers. The tubers, which were preserved outside the soil, are carefully inspected, removing dry roots and damaged tissues, treat wounds, soaked in a solution of fungicides of weak concentration and first germinate in sand or perlite, in bright light and in warmth. And then they are planted in the main container (in caladiums it is not always possible to determine the top and bottom of the tuber, and usually before planting they wait for buds to emerge).

Transplanting caladiums that wintered in the soil the tubers are completely released from the soil, cleaned and planted in light soil, trying to keep the same level of embedding. Deep planting is contraindicated for caladiums: it is desirable to plant the tubers strictly horizontally, buds upwards, leaving about 1 cm to the surface if you want smaller and denser leaves, up to a third of the tuber height for larger and smaller leaves. The standard planting depth is 5 to 10 cm.

Pouring after planting is better replaced by careful spraying of the soil for very light moisture. As plants wake up and start to grow after transplanting, pots with caladiums should be put in a sunny and warm place at once.

Taking out the upper bud can stimulate a more uniform development. But under good conditions, and without this procedure, caladiums grow lush leaves. Normal watering is resumed only after the first leaf begins to grow. Fertilizers are introduced into the care program only after the first leaf has fully unfolded and the plant begins to grow actively.

Caladiums are incredibly bright and moderately capricious
Caladiums are considered persistent plants. © Suzanne Lacroix

Diseases, pests and problems in growing caladium

Caladiums are considered pest-resistant plants. The only pest that threatens them in indoor conditions remains aphids, which simply adore the colored leaves of caladiums. Of course, if the soil is constantly damp, caladiums suffer from rotting, which can only be dealt with by emergency transplanting with removal of damaged parts and treatment with fungicides.

Propagation of caladiums

This tuberous plant can easily be propagated vegetatively by separating subsidiaries as independent plants. Separation is done by digging the tuber out of the soil before dormancy or transplanting. Each plant should be planted in a separate container; in the first days the conditions should be mild and optimum for fast and high quality rooting.

If tubers are poorly developed, very large, the number of dormice is not satisfactory or they are not formed at all, you can also divide a large caladium tuber by cutting it into parts with 2 - 3 buds in each. Processing the cuts with charcoal, drying requires neatness and perfect cleanliness. The grafts are planted in light soil and rooted when the substrate is very lightly moist.

Very rarely, but caladiums are also propagated by leaf cuttings. Cutting is done at the very base of the cuttings. Rooting is better carried out in water, keeping its temperature slightly warm. Plant cuttings in the ground only after the formation of tiny nodules. Caladiums obtained by cuttings are sent to the first resting period only after the tubers grow to 5-6 mm in diameter.

Seeds lose germination very quickly, you should be careful when buying them and follow the dates indicated on the packages. Sowing is carried out in a standard substrate, under a hood or film. Caladium seeds can give germination only at a temperature of 25 to 30 degrees.

While caladiums give germination quickly, it is not easy to finish plants. Very high air humidity combined with light soil moisture, the requirement to water with warm and purified, soft water and extreme sensitivity to falling temperatures make tireless care of the young plants. Sprouts are planted after the formation of small but full-grown nodules.

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