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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.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Caladiums As Far As The Eye Can See

It's so simple, affordable, and practical to place an order online and request specific varieties, sizes, and the number of caladium bulbs desired. They'll be delivered to your doorstep in a matter of days ready to go in the ground. Then they'll produce many months of lush, tropical foliage to brighten any summer garden.

This process has been common practice here for many years. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows my obsession and fascination with caladiums which I've written about and photographed here extensively.

As the Florida humidity kicks up a thousand notches and summer's heat is never-ceasing caladiums decide it's there time to shine. Could there possibly be a better foliage plant for Florida?

My obvious answer is decidely no.
So you can imagine my exhileration when I was invited to meet the good people that manage and produce these wonderful beauties at Classic Caladiums.

Nitrogen fixing cover crop where crop rotation is implemented.

Good, honest, friendly folks who spent two of their valuable days to walk me through the production warehouse and farm where the caladiums are grown. Caladium bliss for little ole me!

My initial trip was in mid-November(2010)when the foliage was just beginning to wilt from that record-breaking dry and hot October we had in Central Florida. It was almost time for harvest which takes place in January/February.

You may already know that deep in the heart of Central Florida resides the caladium capital of the world. Approximately 1500 acres of caladium production with mostly family-owned farms are located in the muck-rich fields of Lake Placid, FL.

All production and farming is not equal.

  • Most of the growers in Florida are second and third generation producers of 98% of the global bulb production.

  • Most caladium varieties are 40 to 100 years old.

  • They are reproduced by splitting bulbs and pieces of bulbs over and over again after each harvest each year.

  • What this aging stock produces are bulbs infected with dozens of pathogens and viral disease organisms that have not been cleaned up in all these years. The result is stock that is undependable and declining in quality and production.

    These are important facts to note even for the home gardener. The President and CEO of Classic Caladiums, Dr. Bob Hartman, has modernized and transformed the world of caladiums by introducing the innovative method of tissue culture or cloning to caladium production.

    This revolutionary breeding process is not new as it has been practiced in the flower growers industry for years. Dr. Hartman is an expert in this field with years of experience in tissue culture as an alternative production of good clean stock for crop production.

    He began his work with this method as a PhD student while at the University of Florida. This reliable process takes years initially from the science lab to production in the harvest fields.

    Why do you and I as consumers need to know this? Ultimately tissue culture rejuvenates antique varieties and makes them like new which Dr. Hartman explained to me is like you and me getting to start over genetically "as babies". Hmmm... I wouldn't mind some new baby skin and hair and renewing my aging process, would you? For caladiums it means improvement in branching, color, stem count, and temperature tolerance.
    Unlike the muck-soil farms in Lake Placid, Classic Caladiums, founded in 2000, is growing disease-free certified caladium stock in Florida's sandy soil on raised beds covered with plastic sheeting and irrigated with drip lines in Avon Park, FL.

    Not only has the tissue culture process brought some our old favorites like Candidum back to its original vigor free from diseases, but Dr. Hartman has developed and introduced brand new varieties with all-new colors, patterns, and habits. There are some really pretty and unusual new varieties.
    The production facilities at Classic Caladiums were an eye-opener for this ordinary home gardener who happens to be in awe of caladiums.

    Massive and organized and temperature controlled and machines and people-power and meticulous record-keeping for each step of the process to bring those glorious bulbs from the fields to my front door.

    What Dr. Hartman has accomplished through tissue culture and rejuvenation of this much under-utilized tropical plant will benefit home gardeners for years to come. It will hopefully increase the market for caladiums as quality, clean varieties are more and more available improving the industry standards and raising awareness of this beautifully performing plant.

    Classic Caladiums is selling quality,healthy bulbs. Thank you to them for two wonderful days of learning and inspiration. Meems

    Don't forget to go over to their Facebook page and LIKE them.
    Full disclosure ***Dr. Bob Hartman and Mike Woods have generously provided me with numerous caladium bulbs to test in my garden. I was not asked or required to write about them. I believe in what they are doing to improve the caladium industry and I LOVE caladiums so much I am honored if I have any small part in promoting the industry and specifically Classic Caladiums.


    1. Amazing what science can do now. I will think of this post as I plant some caladiums in my window box this year.

    2. Fascinating and Fun stuff here Meems...Thank you for sharing about the Caladium Farms, I do know how much you love them....makes my 54 bulbs sound like a drop in the bucket...

    3. Wow! what a gorgeous sight all those red caladiums, very fascinating! Im also a fan of caladiums though I have only the red/green/white variety. I never knew they have such farms to produce bulbs of caladium! Great post!

    4. I think you captured the whole caladium story well. I look forward to seeing them in your beautiful garden.

    5. Thanks for the great tour! I'm with you on Caladium Love! Planting some today, in fact!

    6. Whoa! Those are some caladiums! Great background story of these reliable summer bulbs.

    7. Whoa, that would be one AWESOME field trip! Did you say they're in Avon Park? That's right down the road from me. I'm guessin', though, they don't have a store front. I live in an area with a good bit of nursery production fields and large greenhouses, but so little in the way of good retail nurseries. Ugh. Fortunately, every now and then, I find some nice caladium bulbs somewhere.

    8. Thanks for the insight, Meems. I had no idea the caladium industry was so in need of revival.
      Can you find their bulbs in stores, or do they only do wholesale? I'd like to support them.

    9. Meems, I did not think I could find another inch in my garden to plant anymore caladiums until I read your blog today and I have placed an order for more caladiums. Thank you I think. Happy gardening Janis

    10. You are a terrible influence on my bank account, Meems! Following your first caladium post, I went to their website and ordered two kinds of caladiums. I can't even remember what I ordered now. LOL. But I scheduled them to arrive next week, so I will be knee-high in some kind of caladiums soon! I agree -- they are show-stoppers in the summer, especially planted in masses.

    11. WOnderful! I loved going on this adventure with you -- it sounds like my idea of heaven! Great informative post!

    12. Wow, what a fun place to visit!!! Wish I could have tagged along with you. Caladiums are just hard to beat for summer annual color in the shade. I have about 1500 on order right now...for me and clients :-) Happy to do my part to support the industry :-)

    13. Lisa,
      I always love seeing your caladiums in your pretty window box. Soon, Lisa, soon.

      Those fields were thrilling... your 54 bulbs will make a lovely drift in your garden.

      Caladiums are native to tropical rain forests... most came from the Amazon basin in Brazil. Enjoy your reds/greens/whites... I'm sure they are beautiful.

      It is a class organization and they are doing such fine work. I can't wait to see my caladiums sprouting up in flares of glorious foliage either! Lots of new varieties.

    14. moM,
      Our soil has warmed up so fast this year that the caladiums will sprout fairly quickly. When the nights stay warm they will really come out in rapid succession. Thank you for visiting.

      Isn't is an amazing sight! You know me...I loved getting the details of these fabulous bulbs. It was so much fun and educational.

      My first trip over I drove right through Fort Meade. There isn't a store front but I'm sure they would sell to you at the admin offices (SR 64, Avon Park). They actually have a display of bulb choices at the front desk. Tell them you know me (virtually) ~~ they are very gracious folks. It is interesting that most of the agricultural production around you ships to good garden centers in more populated areas.

    15. Daisy,
      The majority of their business is wholesale/globally. The retail side is available online. The bulbs for sale in garden centers/big box don't usually have good information available as to where they originated. You may be getting Classic Caladiums or you may not. If you want to be sure you are getting Classic Caladiums it is best to order from their website.

      Oh, you have room. Believe me. It is one of the beauties of caladiums. They can pop up in between so many plants and perk up any spot in your garden. I'm so glad you wanted more and I know you will be happy with them. :-)

      I am a terrible influence on MY bank account, too, if it makes you feel any better. :-) I can't wait to see which variety you picked out. They are going to make your beautiful garden really shine this summer. You've got me really excited to see where you put them.

      Thanks for coming along. I'm pretty convinced heaven will have fields of caladiums to gasp over. :-)

      That's a lot of bulbs! I would surely swoon like I did when I walked into Classic Caldiums' warehouse with crates full of glorious energy just waiting to go in the ground and sprout! I look forward to the show in YOUR garden this summer.

    16. Meems: What a wonderful trip you had! I am looking forward to seeing new caladium foliage on your blog this summer. Hmmm, now I am going to visit their website to order some... Thanks!

    17. Add me to the list of people whose bank account is about to suffer!

      Which cover crop is used? It looked a bit like sunn hemp. I will be using that to improve the soil (Everglades muck) delivered to me instead of quality soil.

      -- Penny

    18. Love caladiums and planning several paintings of some soon, I once forgot where I put them in my garden so they surprise me year after year. but this year I will add to make the art!

    19. gotta love the nitrogen fixing cover crops... very cool.

    20. I love caladiums, too. My favorite is Aaron. They match the color of my house! I'm always sad when they start to fade, but last year they all seemed last longer. Maybe it was that persistent heat. Thanks, Meems, for a great post. Now I'm off to Classic Caladiums.

    21. Ami,
      It really was an experience of a lifetime.

      I don't recall... it is beautiful for acres.

      Sounds lovely... the paintings and your garden.

      I agree.

      I love Aaron, too. But White Wing has become my new favorite white. Although Classic has a new variety I'm trying this year. White Wonder. Can't wait to see it sprouted.


    Have a blessed day,

    September 2010

    Back Garden: October 2010

    Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

    Tropical Pathway