The caladium is most commonly known for being the elephant ear plant found in most gardens. The leaves of the caladium are broad, flat, and look remarkably like an elephant’s ear. With roughly seven species, these plants can grow to be anywhere from 15 to 35 inches tall and with leaves as broad as 18 inches. The leaves come in green, white, pink, and red. Some species have both colors which give a unique coloration and pattern.
Growing Requirements for Caladiums
Caladiums like warmer environments and are typically grown indoors in colder climates. These plants do have a dormant period but during the growing season they require moist soil. They also do not like the sun as they have a tendency to dry out quickly. Full to partial shade is preferred although there are now sun resistant varieties available through private cultivators. When planted directly from the tuber, the caladium should be planted about one to two inches deep. There is directionality to these tubers and they should be planted with the knobby side facing up. If planted upside down, they will grow but will take longer to emerge from the soil.
Taking Care of Caladiums
Caladiums need to be kept moist throughout the entire growing season. Depending on the climate, they may need to be watered daily. The plant cannot be allowed to dry out and therefore needs to be thoroughly watered often. However, when stored for the winter they need to be kept moderately dry. Also a soluble fertilizer should be used every two to four weeks. The garden should be weeded as necessary to prevent overcrowding.
History and Uses of Caladiums
Ninety-eight percent of all tubers come from Lake Placid, Florida. These fields of caladiums are a popular tourist attraction and there are festivals held in honor of the plant and the economic prosperity it brings to the local growers. Every year, new varieties and the largest indoor and outdoor plants are showcased.
Each and every part of the plant is poisonous to humans and should not be ingested. Symptoms of ingested caladiums include illness and swelling of both the mouth and the throat. They are also known to cause skin irritation.
Diseases and Pests
Normal and common insects have their affect on this plant just as with any other garden plant. Insecticides can usually treat whatever problem may arise.
Fungal disease can be treated with common fungicides. If problems do persist it may be necessary to pull up the crop and try again next season.
Additional Information on Caladiums
Additional information on caladiums can be found on the following websites:
Details on growing requirements for the caladium can be found on the Iowa State University website.
NC State Extension covers Growing Caladium for the Home Landscape