Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Raise Your Rake

Anyone else work outside these past two days
while the temperature reached almost 70 degrees? 

While shopping this morning for paint, I picked up some caladiums.  Caladiums aren't the cheapest tender bulb to have in our Zone 5 gardens.  It may be why I don't see many in local gardens. 

The "how to" portion:

Plant after all danger of frost is past and the ground has warmed.  They are native to the Amazon and the hotter the temps (both day and night) the faster they germinate and grow.  Either start inside, buy sets, or wait until June. 

With most all bulbs, the ground should be well drained.  The other side of the coin is they like it moist.  Meaning:  Water often but don't let them sit in water.

The bigger the bulb, the bigger the leaves.

Fertilize every six weeks and they do much better if planted in fertile soil.  "Miracle Grow" may cause the colors to change - not the best idea.  Some varieties change color as they mature.

Most Caladiums like some shade especially if it's a hot site or if you live in the South.  I typically plant them in shade although not total dark.  The deeper the shade, the more green the leaf shows.  Highly acid soil will cause the leaves to be darker in color.  If planted in too much sun, the leaves will get sun spots.

All parts of the plant are poisonous. 

Dig up before first frost and store like cannas and glads.

And then the beauty of it all:  Caladiums varieties are strap, dwarf, fancy leaf.

Fancy:  Large heart-shaped leaves. Height 18" to 22." Most prefer filtered shade or afternoon shade with morning sun. Some varieties are tolerant of sun all day.

Strap or Lance:  Elongated heart and narrower shaped leaves. Height 12" to 14." Uses: hanging baskets, borders, plantings in front of fancy type. All varieties are tolerant of all day sun.

Dwarf:  Leaves are heart-shaped like Fancy, but smaller. Height 15" to 17." The light requirements are similar to Fancy. Miss Muffet and Gingerland are unique speckled varieties. Fantasy and Moonlight are sun tolerant. 

Typically, they are referred to as "reds", "pinks", "whites" and "mixed".

Today, most large commercial growers are in central Florida.  Lake Placid FL has an annual Caladium Festival each August.   

Use them in planters, hanging baskets, around trees, as an edge, and tucked in between perennials.  The cut leaves will keep a week in vases.  Make a point to try some this year.  Most nurseries (local and catalog) carry several varieties potted.  Big box stores are already carrying the bulbs and will later carry plants. 

And today as you raise your rake in joy for warm weather - scope out sites for a few caladiums this year.      


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