Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Summer Impact With Caladiums
Late summer in the garden means caladiums, Caladium x hortulanum are the main attraction at Hoe and Shovel.
These bright-leaved ornamental plants are becoming increasingly popular and are finally being used in more designs and all sorts of landscaping situations.
Folks are finding out how easily they grow and what little care they take whether planted in the ground or in containers. Making their first appearances beginning in spring they (can) last through November in many instances. That equals a fairly short dormant period.
They are versatile plants, to say the least, requiring no fertilization and being susceptible to no pesky pest problems. [The Eastern Lubbers will chew on them but they are rude like that with no manners for ordinary rules whatsoever.]
In this climate it is not necessary to pull the tubers or bulbs out of the ground in winter. Our soil doesn't freeze even if the surface temps dip below freezing.
Leaving them in the ground when dormant means I lose some to my own (digging) habits and some could possibly rot and some are dug up by armadillos that habitually root around in the soil. But for the most part caladiums can be counted on to return each year.
Even so, it is my habit to purchase hundreds additionally each spring. Buying bulbs is much more economical than purchasing the already forced plants you find for sale in the garden centers.
Most gardeners I know tend to be in a hurry to get their caladium bulbs in the ground as soon as spring arrives. And that is certainly okay.
But I tend to wait until very late spring and even into the weeks of summer to plant my new bulbs.
This year I planted some as late as last week. They come up out of the ground very fast this time of year.
Waiting until later in the season to plant gives the returning caladiums a chance to emerge from the ground once the soil temps warm fully. At that point, I can better see which areas need to be filled in to add the most impact.
Speaking of impact, my usual method is to plant en masse with like-varieties. But mixing them is certainly an option for an all together different appeal. It is a matter of preference.
Caladiums are available in a diverse range of leaf colors, shapes, and sizes.
White Queen and Florida Fantasy are among the most widely used here as their preferred white leaf with deep magenta veining shows up well in the shady parts of the garden.
Although it should be noted that White Queen can emerge from the ground more green, pink, or red. Fertilizer or soil conditions or maturity can attribute to these factors.
Florida Fantasy, however, is a true white leaf with deep magenta veining.
Backlit, the green veining is pronounced in the White Queen. This variety is also sun tolerant. Some people have the mistaken idea caladiums can only be grown in the shade.
Oh, and all the impatiens you see mixed in are self-seeded. They grow like weeds in the shady garden. But that's another story.
You can probably tell by now how easily caladiums adapt to almost any design and setting in the garden.
And for this lover of foliage they have become my all-time-favorite plant for surviving our humidity and for supplying summertime color and impact. Everywhere.
They blend as well with exotic bromeliads as they do with native firebush, Hamelia patens squeezed-in curvaciously between borders and the foundation plants we enjoy all year long. Offering big doses of tropical lushness they become companions to just about any and every other plant in all areas of the front and back gardens.
I've not found them to require extra water even in the hottest months. Rainfall is sufficient for them. I can't remember ever having to give them extra irrigation.
They do prefer a highly organic soil that has both good moisture holding capacity as well as good drainage.
Container gardens are perfect for adding a pop of color with my favorite bulbs. And there's hardly a container here that doesn't display either a taller variety for the thriller or a shorter variety for filler.
Then there is red!
Florida Cardinal red.
So brilliantly red.
Red Flash. Both red varieties growing well in sunny spots or shade.
There is a technique called de-eying for a fuller, more compact plant which I have not tried. But here is a good article on the process if anyone is interested.
And for more on growing caladiums from the University of Florida Research Center go here.
More Florida Fantasy mixed in with varieties of 'whites' in the front gardens.
In the deepest part of the tropical pathway, where the dappled sun only shines well in the mornings, an all 'white' variety is tucked underneath the colocasias to draw the eye beyond the larger, dark leaves.
A 'mix of whites' curving out in front of White Queen.
Caladiums have become the signature plant at Hoe and Shovel because I adore their uniquely patterned leaves while the considerable beauty of them inspires me thoroughly.
I hope you love them too! They will surely add joy to your gardens as they have mine if you give them a try!
If you'd like to see more images (yes, there are more) of caladiums in my garden follow this link to view the entire album in Picasa.