Caladium

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Caladium, Caladium bicolor

Family:  Araceae

Also known as: Angel Wings, Heart of Jesus and Elephant Ear.  Indeed, there is a lot of confusion between this plant and its closely related genera Alocasia, Colocasia and Xanthosoma

Thriving in high humidity and heat, there are a bunch – and all beautiful – of these lush, exotic plants.  As a result, every time I find a new variety “I gotta’ have it” and then off to our gardens go I searching for a place to give it a new home.  Hence, when touring the many terraces of Ola Brisa Gardens don’t be surprised when you come across numerous varieties. 

Cultivated in Europe since the late 18th Century they somewhat resemble Coleus plants. There are two, widely cultivated forms: “fancy-leaved” and “lance-leaved”.  With its more heart shaped leaves, the first is the more commonly seen types and the traditional form. The leaves of the latter are more lance-head shaped – in fact, I knew a guy in the Army like that years ago!

Members of the Araceae family, Caladiums are aroids along with Anthurium, Calla, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Monstera, Philodendron, and Pothos.  And, like the Crotons (another of my favorites) each plant’s unique and individual beauty lies in its own particular, distinctive, multi-colored leaves.

Native to the shores of the Amazon in South America, they’re tropic to the core with now well over 1000 different cultivars having been created from the original plant.  The size of the arrowish to heart-shaped leaves may vary from the smaller ones, of six inches, to the big “whoppers” of two feet in length. These thin leaves proudly present themselves in a striking array of bright colors and patterns. 

This foliage is a veritable explosion of mottled, veined and striped colors in combinations of green and white, green and red, white with red blotches or green veins and lavender spots.  These leaves of deep green, light green, white, red, pink and/or crimson are held up on long stalks that grow directly from the tuber.

Caladiums likes rich, moist, well draining soil.  If the soil is lacking in nutrients, add generous amounts of compost and manure. If kept watered (don’t let ‘em dry out) and in the right location, they’ll grow well with little care or attention.  Fertilize once a month with a general purpose fertilizer.  And they’re pretty hardy too, so you should experience few insect or disease problems – but if you do, feel free to employ appropriate insecticides or fungicides.

Most Caladiums in “captivity” grow to about sixty centimeters (24”) high and sixty centimeters (24”) wide, although I understand that dwarf varieties are now in cultivation.  They arise from corms (a thick, bulb-shaped stem or stem base that grows just below the soil surface) and can be propagated by dividing the tubers. Most varieties prefer partial to full shade, though some sun-resistant varieties are now in cultivation

So, how about their flowers?  Well, if they flower at all the blooms are inconspicuous. Just suffice it to say that Caladiums are wonderfully bright splashes on my garden’s generally green palette. Grouped together, their bright “blooming” leaves make me smile. 

 

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Caladiums grow best in bright, indirect light.

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Originally from South America and the West Indies these are great understory plants.

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The Caladium’s foliage is a veritable explosion of mottled, veined and striped colors.