How to Plant Caladium Bulbs
Do you may have nostalgic memories of certain bulbs growing in your grandparent's or parent's home garden beds and pots? There are so many varieties, colors, shapes, and sizes! At Lively Root, we offer old favorites and recommendations for more unusual and exotic bulbs too. We want to take the mystery out of planting them if you've never done this before and give you some ideas of where to use these bulbs in your garden space!
All About Caladiums
These are some of our very favorite bulbs. You can use these in your home garden beds and in container plants too! They’re lovely mixed with annuals or amongst perennials along a garden path so you can get up close and personal with them!
Caladiums are tender bulbs that produce colorful tropical foliage in pinks, fuchsias, reds, and whites with variegated patterns throughout the spring and summer months.
And if you're like us, it's hard to pick just one color! There are so many gorgeous ones.
And if you read to the end, you can find out how to get a head start to the caladiums sprouting faster for your garden!
Varieties of Caladiums
LivelyRoot offers some pink varieties including:
and the tried and true Carolyn Whorton.
Both take part shade (4-6 hours of morning sun) to shade in your garden.
Lively Root’s white variations include Luminescent White Moonlight (a great one for the moonlight garden-that's when everything in the garden has white blooms or white variegated leaves), this one also needs part shade to shady spots.
Then we have options such as Candyland with pink specks on the green margin leaves.
and "Rare white ombre Mount Everest." The red vein at the top and pink splashes throughout this one pops next to the green edges. We love it!
And if you have a sunny spot that gets 6-8 hours of sun in your garden, use these! They are sun-tolerant! So, you can plant them with your large alocasias and calocasias as a lower growing plant to compliment them in a container planting.
Variations of red include:
Crimson Red Flash, (part-shade to shade, early morning sun, no afternoon 2-4 hrs.)
Green Border Red Ruffles... (full sun (6-8 hrs.) to shade (2-4 hrs.)
all of these are spectacular and add so much color! Of these three, remember, you can only plant Red ruffles in full sun to shade.
Then, we have a chartreuse variety called Miss Offbeat! The chartreuse against the pinkish-red veining and flecks stands out pretty in a garden mixed with some new guinea impatiens. And bonus, they are sun tolerant too!
You can plant them either in full sun to shade, just remember to keep them well watered in full sun because they will dry out faster.
So, you can see why these are on the top of our "must-have" list.
Last but not least, we have Celebration, and it does look like a fireworks display in red, white with green edges! Hey, add this one for your 4th of July or holiday celebrations throughout the summertime! Stick some flags in the pot with them, and you'll have decorations covered!
Planting Directions for Caladiums
You'll want to treat this plant as a tropical annual in Zones 3-8, planting after the spring's last frost date. We have a blog on our website that discusses planting zone so you can figure out what zone you’re in. That will determine when it’s safe to plant your bulbs. Another way to determine when its time is to find that little gadget in your kitchen called a meat thermometer!
Don’t tell Mom you’re using it and especially not for this or if she catches you, just tell her you’re making something gorgeous! So, go outside and stick it in the ground and wait five minutes and while you’re out there, weed. Make yourself useful! You’ll be glad you did later. If the soil registers 70°F, then the soil is ready to plant your bulbs! If you don’t have a thermometer. No worries. Just wait until the outside daytime temps are consistently into the 70s for at least 2-3 weeks so the soil has time to warm up. If not, your caladiums are just going to sit there…then you’re going to overwater them and they’ll rot before they have a chance to burst forth out of the ground.
Then take note of the hours of sun you get in the garden and at what times of the day. To determine this accurately you need to figure out where you want to plant your bulbs. Then set a timer and watch every half hour in that spot starting when the sun comes up to dusk how many hours in all it’s getting.
Full sun is 6-8 hours (parking lot baking sun).
Part sun is 4-6 hours of sun (afternoon sun)
Part shade is 4-6 hours of morning sun is less hot (afternoon shade)
Shade is 2-4 hours of morning sun (cool of the day)
And depending on the variety you choose will determine how much sun it can take.
Indoors vs. Outdoors
Only plant these in pots for indoors if you have a green-house or where the humidity is exceptionally high. These need lots of humidity (90-100% sauna-like) to really thrive well inside. They need a bright, indirect lighted spot. And remember these go dormant in the fall and winter months. So, the leaves will eventually fade and dry up.
Annuals or Perennials
After talking to the grower, he recommended purchasing new bulbs each year because as each new year passes, the bulb loses vigor and doesn’t perform as well with less leaves and smaller growth. So, it’s up to you. Some people try to save them, but we consider them annuals and toss them when the first frost kills them back in planting zones lower than 9.
These caladiums grow from 18-24 inches tall. And a bonus is you have the color without the deadheading of spent flowers. They can produce a flower, but it's quite inconspicuous, and we recommend to cut it out, so it doesn't go to seed and deplete growth on the plant.
Shade Caladiums color up and brighten the garden with a burst of color where many flowering plants won't grow.
Expect on the #1 size bulb to get about 10-15 leaves and the Jumbos about 15-30. You can stagger them in a checkerboard pattern in the garden if you want a showy display.
Planting outside in the garden
For the #1s plant them about 1’ apart. For the Jumbos, plant 18-24” apart.
If planting outside, mix in about 1/3 compost to the native soil for good drainage. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to dig a hole 2-3 times deeper and wider than the bulb's length/width. In heavy soil, like clay, you can go two times the length but always amend if you have clay soil. So, if your bulb is 2" high, then you'll dig down 6" deep and wide. Take the native soil and mix in the compost. At this point, you can add in a balanced mix for bulbs and mix it all like batter. If you're planting a grouping, measure about 18-24" between each bulb to give them room to fill out and air circulation.
Put the bottom of the bulb (the flat end) down into the soil. Position the eyes facing towards the sky and cover it with the soil mixture. Then water well.
You'll want to apply an organic bulb fertilizer at the time of planting that contains bone meal into the root area at the base and then a 3-1-2 liquid fertilizer during the growing season to keep their foliage and tubers healthy.
Keep them consistently moist but not soggy, and use our 3 in 1 soil meter (to check before watering.
Just a side note:
Let’s talk about the eyes or buds on your bulbs. You’ll notice they look a little gnarly and have these tips.
These are terminal buds on the bulbs, which is where the dominant shoots sprout. Some gardeners like to remove these by de-eyeing them. The reason to do this is to prevent apical dominance, so they become bushier and more uniform in their leaf production. It's like getting more bang for your buck! (This is one of the many tricks we have up our garden gloves!)
You would normally perform surgery and remove about 1/8th to 1/4" of the protruding buds with a small knife and leave a little divot. The results will be a fuller plant, giving you a showier display in the garden or container.
But! No face masks or sharp instruments required! We already have that handled for you which is why these are premium bulbs. We take all the precarious work out of it for you so you can just take them, plant them and watch them grow.
If you’re planting them into a container, you’ll do it a little different. Put a screen in the bottom of the pot to hold in the soil from clogging up the hole, so it drains well. Use our regular Black Gold, well-draining potting mix and position the bulbs inside your container. You can use a quart container and plant the #1 jumbo size bulb in it. In a container, you’ll only plant it down 1-2” deep below the soil line of the container. Then water it thoroughly with tepid water until you see water coming out the drainage holes. And water with a shower end so you don’t divot the soil in one place.
To create humidity, you can add some plastic to the container to retain humidity and encourage sprouting faster.
(add clear jumbo plastic bag or shower cap or cellophane)
It will take approximate 2-3 weeks for the shoots to appear, then remove the clear plastic. You can keep this in a warm place inside your house near a brightly lit window (southern exposure or a combo). If you time this right, you can transplant these into the ground about the time it’s ready to plant to give you a 2-3 week head start. We wouldn’t recommend trying to hold them any longer than that since they need such high humidity to thrive.
Again, you’ll want to apply the 3-1-2 fertilizer monthly during the growing season (That first number is for nitrogen which will help your leaf growth).
We hope you’re looking forward to spring and planting these gorgeous foliage plants. If you’ve never planted these, this will be something you look forward to every year. Send us a picture of your caladiums on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #livelyroot so we can see where you are displaying yours!
If you have any questions about your plant, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask in the comments below.