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Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Caladium Bulbs for Florida Summer Color
It was discovered many years ago that Florida shade can be a challenging place to design with color. Flowers, in general, can be fickle and demanding at best in this humidity.
There are many alternatives to blooms offering us splashes of highlights and spots of color using foliage. With varied textures, forms, and hues of light and dark contrasts we've chosen other available resources to lend a lush, tropical effect here.
Above: Shiny dark leaves of bromeliads hugging the base of the roughly-barked oak trees is a favorite combination. And tucked in between the Lilyturf, Liriope muscari variegata border is a jammed-packed layer of White Queen caladiums. Even further in the background are the yellow and green leaves of Variegated Schefflera, arboricola shrubs and Purple Queen, Tradescantia pallida spilling over a barrier wall. No flowers except for randomly scattered self-sown impatiens.
Don't get me wrong. I LOVE flowers. The Agapanthus towering over the caladiums beneath them should be one of the seven wonders as far as I'm concerned. If only there were more choices of such hardy sorts that are happy in shade or sun. They are a rare breed for certain.
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You can find Caladium plants in all the nurseries as well as big box stores right now in our area. Buying them that way could get costly unless you are looking for only a few.
Around here hundreds of them go into the ground each year so it proves to be more cost effective to purchase them in bulk. Typically I order my bulbs in February but don't have them shipped to me until the end of May.
After all these years of experimenting with many different varieties my (almost conclusive LOL) favorite is the dwarf strap leaf Miss Muffet. It probably has something to do with my desicive affection for chartreuse. The speckled magenta splashes and center vein are just the right combination surrounded by that perfect shade of lime green.
I find it is quite effective to plant caladiums in large groupings of the same kind but sometimes they are mixed in with other varieties. In this case some past choices of Fanny Munson and Carolyn Wharton are continuing to pop out of the ground each spring. They make their way in between the Xanadu, Pentas and the Oakleaf Hydrangea tucked up under the Saw Palmettos in the front garden.
A concentration of White Wing caladiums at the feet of variegated Shell Ginger, Alpinia zerumbet are a stand out especially in the morning and evening light.
The tall and extra large white leaves are June Bride. Since they get a bit too large for my liking the choice had been made not to add any more of them. There are several that keep coming back each year and we don't mind.
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One of the best benefits of planting caladium bulbs in this climate is the fact they can be left in the ground all year. Most of them will return every spring for many years over.
I don't really follow the planting rules or recommendations. All my bulbs are planted very closely together and never in a straight line.
Caladiums will last all summer long and even into the fall season given the right conditions. They require no fertilizing either. In fact, fertilizer can alter their coloring in some cases.
Caladiums are just so easy to take care of that sometimes it feels like I'm cheating when it comes to my summer Florida garden.
This year I added Red Flash behind the ribbon of Agapanthus and Miss Muffets in the center island. I am happy with their height being a little taller than the Miss Muffet and the leaf face is a little broader than most varieties. AND if you're looking for a caladium that is sun tolerant Red Flash is one that will do well in sunny places as well as partial shade.
Scarlet Pimpernel is green with a deep red center and veins. I've noticed the green varies with the amount of sunshine given this variety. They are so hardy I have some that have returned for over ten years.
The only pink variety at Hoe and Shovel is Rosebud. It was a substitute for a first choice Caladiums 4 Less ran out of this year. They refunded my money and sent me this alternative. All of my bulbs come from them or Caladium World. Both grow all their bulbs in Lake Placid, Florida.
The Rosebuds have worked out quite nicely tucked in with the pink pentas and the pink coneflowers over in the 'wildflower' flower garden. My wildflower attempts haven't been too successful... but that's for another post.
In a climate where tulips and alliums are not an option, caladiums have superior performance qualities for long lasting affects and durable summer foliage. They were listed as one of the six plants I can't live without that Steve Bender of Southern Living hosted in April.
While you're at it check out Gardening Gone Wild's July Design Workshop for some great photos of garden designing with bulbs.