If fantastic foliage is what you’re looking for, caladium bulbs are nothing if not striking. Offering large variegated leaves in a selection of pinks, reds, whites and greens, this tender perennial (also known as ‘angel wings’ or ‘elephant ears’) is a great choice for brightening up shady areas of the garden. Alternatively, it makes a gorgeous house plant. Here are some top tips to help you grow colourful caladiums.
Where do caladiums come from?
Caladiums are native to South and Central America, where they grow in the dappled shade of forest clearings and on the river banks. Long cultivated as an ornamental in the UK and renowned for their lovely foliage and shade-loving habit, they make great houseplants which you can move outside during the summer. They’re perfect for jazzing up a shady border or corner of the patio.
How to grow caladiums indoors
To grow caladiums indoors, take a container at least 15 cm deep and big enough for the bulb itself, plus enough extra space for the roots to develop.
- Fill the container with a mix of multi-purpose compost and vermiculite – caladiums like fertile, well-drained soil.
- Make a small hole in the compost 5 to 8 cm deep and plant your caladium bulb with the pointy end facing upwards. If you’re unclear about which is the right way up, it’s fine to plant the bulb on its side before covering it with compost and patting it down lightly.
- Place your container in a spot benefitting from good light but not direct sunlight.
- Water regularly, keeping the soil moist but never waterlogged – take care to avoid overwatering.
- Add a liquid fertiliser once a month to keep the foliage colourful
- Once the leaves have died back, clear them away and store your plant in its pot at a temperature of 13 – 16C, ready for the next season.
How to plant caladiums outside
Although caladiums are often grown indoors as a houseplant, they also work well as an outdoor plant during the summer. You can either plant your bulbs in a shady border or simply move your pots onto your patio or terrace. As long as your plants are in partial shade, they’ll thrive. To plant your caladium bulbs outside, here’s what you need to do:
- Before you plant caladium outdoors, ensure any danger of frost has passed and the soil has had time to warm in the spring sunshine. When you’re happy that the conditions are favourable, dig some rich compost into the soil to get it ready for your bulbs.
- Choose a sheltered location with at least partial shade.
- Dig a hole 5 to 8cms deep, place the bulb in the hole and cover it with soil.
- Water regularly to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.
- If you grow your caladiums in patio containers, remember to feed them with liquid fertiliser once a month to promote growth.
Do remember that caladium bulbs are tender – once they’ve finished their summer display and the leaves have withered, dig the tubers up well before the first frost and store them away at 13 – 16C, ready to plant again next year.
Caladium bulbs really do make lovely indoor plants and work well in partial and fully shaded outdoor areas too. Looking for more inspiration for darker corners of your garden? You’ll find an excellent list of plants to grow in partial shade on our website.
Lead image: Caladium Sweetheart from Suttons/©Visions BV, Netherlands