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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

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.

Click to enlarge any photo**
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.

Click to englarge any photo**

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.


  1. Caladiums remind me of you. The other day when I was at Lowe's they had some and I decided to buy them. I realized it would not be a wise purchase as I stood there trying to decide which color to get. The backyard gets full morning sun and the front yard gets full afternoon sun. Oh well, I still think of you every time I see one...there just won't be any at my house!

  2. Beauitful landscape---I know how much work it was--but I'm sure you enjoy it. BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!


  3. That White Wing is stunning! I wish I could get my hands on some for the shade under my cashew trees...
    I think Scarlet Pimpernel is the one I found growing wild and transferred to my garden. Am I right? (I had posted a photo in my last post) When I clicked that photo there was not much red on the leaf. Now it has spread to the center as well as on the veins.
    There are many other caladiums which I find popping up in unexpected places where no gardener has been before. Maybe they're all discards gone native.

  4. mjm,
    I wouldn't count caladiums out for your newly acquired home. The full morning sun would be welcomed by most varieties if irrigated properly. My sister is growing some I gave her and she is only 45 minutes south of you. Hmmm... maybe you should try them for fun in a pot with some really good soil.

    Welcome and thank you. Gardening takes time and consistency to achieve the 'feel' we want don't you think? I tell myself it isn't work ~~~ it is my therapy for sanity (some might argue it isn't working). LOL

    You may be right about your caladium... although your veins are quite defined... as opposed to the vein color bleeding into the edges. But it is highly likely a Scarlet Pimpernel.

    Oh, how I would love to share the White Wing with you. What are the laws about that sort of thing anyway? It always amuses me when you remind me caladiums pop up out of nowhere in your garden (and grow wild for you to transplant). I don't think we can blame the birds for that one... wonder who/what originally planted them????

  5. Your caladiums are as beautiful as any tulip display and last a lot longer. I'm sitting here drooling over the masses of them. I have two large urns filled with them.

  6. I just love caladiums and when they are planted in drifts as you plant them they are even more spectacular. I have a few in my window box. They are very expensive here. I would love to do a drift of them someplace in my garden. Maybe next year...Isn't that often a gardeners lament.?

  7. Caladiums are not among my favorite plants... But I am ready to change my mind. What beauties you have there! Thank you!

  8. Meems,

    I just love seeing your caladium creations! They are so colorful, so lush, so pretty and... I could go on and on and still not have enough words for them! :-)


  9. Sigh--how gorgeous. Thar's jes' somethin' so cooling and refeshin' about caladiums durin' the summer heat--a cool palette fer the scorched days.

  10. Meems you have outdone yourself this time! Your garden is picturesque! The caladiums are outstanding! I had grown some with bulbs from Florida and they were beautiful. They died back and never returned and I wondered why. I love the curly leaf varieties and the whites with the hint of green. We have a local wild one that will come back every year. One with red and green perhaps similar to Sunita's I also love the miniature white. Have a wonderful weekend.

    hugs to you

  11. Wow Meems, you have such a large variety. They all looks so pretty. I really like the almost all white leaf ones.

  12. Meems-
    Absolutely stunning planting and fantastic photography to boot!! Thank you for sharing all of your caladiums with us! Fran

  13. Gorgeous Caladiums, Meems. I love them --and tried to plant some about 3 yrs. ago. It's too cold up here in the winter --so they didn't do well. I changed to Hostas --which are not nearly as pretty, but they work for us.

    Have a great weekend.

  14. My word I am stunned by the beauty of your caladiums. I knew there were many varieties, but this post is opening my eyes. I don't generally indulge in caladiums because they are treated as an annual here in the Ozarks and unless they get a lot of shade they just burn up during August. But I have always sort of drooled at them as I walked by them at the nurseries.

    thank you so much for sharing the beauty, and if I had all those caladiums I don't suppose I would miss flowers much.

  15. Donna,
    I am so happy to hear you've embraced caladiums in urns. They do really well in containers. I hardly have a container that I don't pop a few bulbs into for an accent.

    Yes, next year is something to look ahead and add those gardening want-to's to... you could always order the bulbs and they wouldn't be as expensive.

    I can understand your feelings about them. Some people don't like them at all. If I had to dig out all these bulbs every winter I wouldn't like them either.

    They are just so easy and my garden seems to be very compatible for them. I appreciate your compliments.

    A nice way of putting it... we have had some scorchers this week! Caladiums don't seem to mind the heat... I have to thank them for their cooperation during these humid months.

  16. These plants are really beautiful and always look cheery. I still don't know how mine in all-day direct sun are surviving in this heat.

    You are the "Caladium Queen",


  17. I love caladiums too. Yours are beautiful as always. I am really enjoying the white caladiums this year.

  18. Meems, It's been years since I tried to grow them! They weren't at all happy here, but then I think they deserve to be in containers and not this clay soil!

    They are gorgeous in your garden...those drifts are the making of them. The one or two most of us try just doesn't do them justice! ...I like the all of the same color with a pop of contrast that you do so well.

    When my garden grows up it want to have design sense like yours!


  19. Dear Helen,
    Is it possible your caladiums rotted in the ground? OR... perhaps you dug them out mistakenly when planting something else on top of them. I do that all the time. When they aren't blooming I will be tempted to fill in the spaces and end up burying them too deeply with my digging around or digging them up all together. That's why I have to buy more each year.
    Hope you're enjoying your weekend. Hugs**

    Hocking Hills,
    Thank you and like you, I am partial to all white of just about anything. There are several places in the garden I have groupings of all white caladiums. I didn't feature all of them. White makes such a nice contrast in a 'tropicalesque green garden'.

    You are kind to drop by and have a look. I appreciate GGW gathering folks up to participate in the monthly workshops.

    Oh, I LOVE hostas, too. Probably because they don't grow well here so I am always coveting them. You could grow caladiums in pots in the summer time. You'd have to lift them out for winter but just think you could re-pot them back up every summer.

    I can understand your hesitation. I wouldn't plant them in such large quantities if they were considered annuals. Here it is a matter of coming up with alternative ways to produce colorful vignettes in the summertime. I'm a big fan of foliage color anyway so the caladiums fit right into that model. Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment.

  20. Jake,
    As long as you are providing proper irrigation there are some varieties that will tolerate full sun. It's good to hear first hand someone who is braving those conditions succesfully.

    White seems to be either loved ... or not. They really show up nicely wherever they are placed with a darker background.

    Oh Gail,
    You make me chuckle about your garden growing up... and isn't it funny that I ADORE your garden style. [BTW- I think buds are actually forming on my Susans I moved out front. I don't think wildflowers like my garden and I looooong for them to like it here.]

    It's too bad we missed our meet-up when I was in TN last fall... I had a little gift of Miss Muffets for you to try... in your containers. I think they ended up in Marmee's pots... only because she didn't want them to go to waste. :-(
    Next time we'll make it happen... you are going to get some hand-delivered caladium bulbs from Hoe and Shovel!

  21. This was so helpful, Meems. Like mjm I have lot's of sun but there are those pockets of shade that I want some color in that caladiums would do nicely. Your pictures, recommendations and links are, as always, the best. Thank you.

  22. Hi Meems~~ Your gardens are so beautiful! [Do you get tired of hearing that? :)]

    How nice that Caladiums are hardy and don't need to be lifted. You've got them placed so well around their neighbors. You're right. Who needs flowers with foliage like this?

  23. i am enjoying my caladuims in my containers so gives me an idea to add more next year.
    i was wondering when and if i take them out for overwintering? this is my first success up here with them so i am not quite sure.
    i love seeing all the different ones you have planted. i really like the little white ones at the feet of the ginger.
    what does dwarf strap leaf mean? of course you know i love the miss muffet which is what i have exclusively this year, thanks to you.

  24. Hi Meems....I love your Caladiums...the colours are amazing and the way that you have planted makes such a statement.

    I would love to have them here. I would think the only option would be to grow them as annuals. I do know they are mainly grown as indoor plants.

    Beautiful post......

  25. Hi Meems - I missed planting caladiums this year so only had a very small bed that re-grew from last year's planting. It's already to hot for them here and those have just melted. Thanks for sharing yours with us - I love all the different varieties you grow AND how thickly they're planted.

  26. Your caladiums are dazzling with their array of colors and patterns. I hadn't realized how varied they are.
    They make for very splashy bits of color. Now I am intrigued ... I may want a wave of caladiums in my own garden.
    The thing I planted most recently here in California is two blueberry bushes. Now I dream of blueberries next year, and even more the next.

  27. I am braving the conditions only by accident. See, I didn't know what the bulbs were and just planted them. It is a beutiful accident though. The Caladiums in that spot are growing like crzy, I love them.


  28. Okay, its official I just want to set up a pup tent and live in your garden. I can live off the new veggie bed and will weed for water potty privileges. :-)--Randy

  29. Susan,
    Thank you. If you don't have any caladiums I'm sure you would be happy with the bright spots they will add to your garden. I suggest you try a few first to see how easy they are --- you will soon be hooked... and maybe even addicted like someone else I know... yikes...

    Ummmm... let's see... I think the answer is no, who could hear that too often after all the love and attention given to attempt beauty in the garden. I'm so glad you share your love for beauty and appreciation for the effort with me.

    It is so exciting your transferred caladiums are working out well for you. Those very same bulbs were growing on my front walkway last year and now they are planted in your containers... too fun. Strap leaf is a variety of caladium named for its smaller leaf (I think). You can read all about the varied cultivars at the links I provided... they are dozens of cultivars to choose from.

    I'm thinking you could try a few bulbs if you were so inclined to stick them in some existing containers outdoors in the summer. Even in your wildlife sanctuary I think they would add a nice texture and color. If not, you are always welcome to enjoy them here. It's always a pleasure for you to drop by.

    Mary Beth,
    I find it interesting you say it is too hot there for them. They seem to do well here in the heat of summer... I think our heat may be a little more humid? than yours. And caladiums seem to do really well in humus rich soil. In any case I'm glad to know yours returned for you.

    Yummy blueberries! Hope they work out well for you. And if you get adventurous with caladiums do let me know! Thanks for visiting.

    It's nice when an accident turns out to be a good one. Now you know and maybe you never would have tried them there otherwise. I'm glad for you to get to enjoy these beautiful plants.

    Hey, in exchange for weeding (and maybe building a few things for me) I'd even cook for you! You're too funny today.

  30. Your beautiful drifts of caladium remind me of the Lurie Garden where the designer planted a "river" of perennial salvia; both have the same breathtaking effect. I have only a few in my shade garden, but I do love the pop of color they add. I went shopping for two, but ended up with four because I couldn't make up my mind:) Needless to say, I don't have drifts, because I want one of each type!

  31. I must put them on the list and experiment more with them in my own garden in 2010. Shade is a difficult place for good color. Great post!

  32. Rose,
    Wow... what a nice comparison... that salvia was so stunning! I know just how you feel... trying to make up your mind. I do the same thing every year when it comes time to order bulbs. I'm glad you are trying some out. Maybe if you decide you like one in particular you might decide to plant more of the same and create your own drift.

    Would love to hear if they work for you up there in your part of the south.

  33. What a treat, Meems! Hardly anyone up here in PA uses caladiums, and they'd be such a lovely addition to the usual impatiens and hostas in summer shade gardens. I love your combination of 'Rosebud' and pink pentas. Thanks for sharing your favorites for the GGW Design Workshop this month!

  34. Just noticed your new pictures on your front page. They look awesome to say the least.


  35. Nan,
    I can kind of see why no one would think of caladiums with all the other marvelous choices of plants that grow well in PA. Thanks for stopping by... always a pleasure to join in the GGW adventures.

    You are kind to notice and to say so. Thank YOU.


Have a blessed day,

September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

Tropical Pathway