Caladium Care: Gardening Tips For All Seasons

By: Contributors  | 
A close up of a green caladium leaf with pink hues.
Caladiums have beautiful heart-shaped leaves that are pink, white, or red on the inside; they grow rapidly and are beautiful indoors or in a garden. Nora Carol Photography / Getty Images

Caladiums, with their vibrant and diverse foliage, are a popular choice for both indoor and outdoor gardening. Known for their heart-shaped leaves, they can add a splash of color to any setting.

However, to keep these tropical beauties thriving all year round, it's essential to understand the basics of caladium care. Luckily, this article will guide you through the best practices for taking care of caladium plants in every season.


Varieties of Caladium Plants

Caladiums are celebrated for their spectacular array of varieties, each exhibiting unique patterns and colors. Among the multitude, several species stand out for their distinct characteristics.

The Caladium bicolor, commonly known as the 'Angel Wings', is renowned for its heart-shaped leaves and vibrant combinations of pink, green, and white. Another popular variety of fancy leaf caladiums is the Caladium x hortulanum, which includes the striking 'Florida Sweetheart' with its pink and green foliage and the 'Moonlight' with its creamy-white leaves.


The Caladium 'Florida Red Ruffles' is admired for its deep red leaves and heavily ruffled edges, making it a visually dynamic choice. For those preferring subtler elegance, the Caladium 'Candidum' offers a classic look with its large, white leaves and contrasting green veins.

Whether used for creating lush, tropical landscapes or as striking accents in containers, the diverse varieties of caladium plants offer endless possibilities for beautification and enjoyment.


Spring: Awakening and Planting

In early or late spring, the ideal season to plant caladiums, select a location that offers filtered sunlight and well-drained soil. For indoor planting, ensure the location receives bright, indirect light. Caladiums prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil, with a pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.0.

When planting, bury the caladium bulbs approximately 1-2 inches deep, ensuring the knobs or eye buds face upwards. Initially, it's important to keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged, which can result in root rot. After the emergence of leaves, water the caladiums whenever the top inch of the soil surface feels dry.


Summer: Growth and Maintenance

During summer, caladiums flourish in warm and humid environments. Outdoor plants should be placed in partial shade, while indoor plants require bright, indirect light. Warm temperatures are a must, but too much direct sunlight can damage your plants.

It's vital to maintain consistent soil moisture levels and high humidity around the plants, which can be achieved through misting or using a humidifier. To support their robust growing season, apply a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every four to six weeks.


Fall: Preparing for Dormancy

As early fall approaches and temperatures begin to drop, reduce the watering frequency. This reduction signals the plant to prepare for dormancy. When the foliage starts to yellow and die back, decrease watering even further and cease fertilization.

In regions with cold temperatures, it's necessary to dig up the bulbs before the first frost. After allowing them to dry for a few days, store them in a cool, dry place throughout the winter.


Winter: Dormancy Period

During winter, store caladium bulbs in a dry, cool area with temperatures around 50-60°F (10-15°C), avoiding any areas with freezing temperatures or excessive heat. Periodically inspect the stored bulbs for signs of rot or damage, discarding any that are not healthy.

This dormancy period is crucial for the bulbs to rejuvenate and prepare for the upcoming growing season. By taking the right precautions, you can have fresh bulbs come springtime!


Year-Round Caladium Care

To maintain healthy caladiums year-round, it's important to manage common pests such as aphids and spider mites. Regular inspections and treatments with appropriate organic or chemical controls are necessary. Leaf care is also crucial; gently wipe the leaves with a damp cloth to remove dust and promote efficient photosynthesis, avoiding leaf shine products that can block the pores.

For potted caladiums, repotting every couple of years or when they appear overcrowded is beneficial, providing fresh soil and more space for growth. Lastly, rotate your caladiums periodically to ensure even growth on all sides, particularly for those kept indoors. This rotation is especially important for indoor caladiums to ensure that all sides of the plant receive adequate light. Otherwise, those lime green leaves might not grow evenly.


By adhering to these care instructions throughout the year, your caladiums will remain vibrant and healthy, adding a burst of color to your garden or indoor space in every season.

Spring and Summer Caladium Tips for Potted Tubers

You can buy caladiums as potted plants or as dormant tubers. Keep these gardening tips in mind as you grow your tropical plants:

  • Cut larger caladium tubers into several pieces with a few eye buds in each. If you cut out the largest, center bud, you'll get more leaves [source: The Gardener's Network].
  • Plant the tubers outside in spring. You can plant them indoors in planters four to six weeks before the last frost is expected. If you plant them indoors, they will need transplanting. However you plant them, always plant tubers with the eyes face-up.
  • Place your indoor caladiums where they'll get lots of light.
  • Grow caladiums in acidic soil that's moist and well drained.
  • Water your caladium often, but beware of excess water.
  • Spray your indoor caladium to imitate the moist air of a greenhouse [source: Plant Care].
  • Fertilize your outdoor caladiums once a month. Your indoor caladiums only need a liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks. [source: The Gardener's Network]
  • Add mulch to help maintain moisture [source: Phipps].
  • Place your caladiums in a partially shaded location. Although they grow larger in direct sun, the caladium's coloring is best in part shade.


Fall and Winter Caladium Tips for Larger Tubers

Since they're perennials, you'll have to move your caladiums inside in the fall after their foliage yellows and begins to wilt. While they can be grown indoors, keep the following care tips in mind:

  1. Let the caladiums dry out for a few weeks after digging them up.
  2. Store the tubers in spaghnum moss or dry soil, in a dry, dark space that's at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius).
  3. Replant them in springtime.[source: The Gardener's Network]

If you'd like to replant your caladiums indoors, it's advisable to give them a rest period of at least a month before replanting [source: Roger's Gardens]. Remember, the caladium plant may be poisonous so keep it away from pets and children. Also, contact with cadmium sap may irritate your skin [source: Britannica].


Plant Caladiums In Your Home or Garden Beds

Caladiums are a gorgeous and dynamic addition to any garden or home. By understanding their seasonal needs and providing the right care, you can enjoy their stunning foliage throughout the year.

Each variety may have slightly different needs, so it's always good to research the specific needs of your chosen type. With these tips, you're well on your way to becoming a successful caladium gardener, enjoying their vibrant beauty in all seasons.


This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.