Looking back to the start of my gardening days, it's easy to see how caladiums (Caladium hortulanum) naturally eased their way into the current exalted status they hold in my garden. Their colorful, textural foliage lasts almost all year in the Gulf Coast region, so they've become signature plants in my overall compositions.
Falling for these easy-care plants wasn't something I intended to do. My innate love for gardening coupled with a dose of beginner's luck helped me discover the simplicity of planting caladium bulbs. I had the perfect places for them - in the partial shade beneath some oak trees. And our rainy, hot and humid Gulf Coast summers provided the ideal environment. As a fledgling gardener I was inspired to see them sprout and grow with little care.
One of the signature things I do is weave caladiums among perennial beds to accentuate their curving borders. I also like to create pockets of caladiums so their bright foliage contrasts against evergreens. Each year I replant favorite varieties ('Florida Fantasy', 'Freida Hemple', 'Miss Muffett') and sometimes I try new ones. The textural foliage of caladiums provides countless possibilities for creating an exotic, tropical feel for the summer garden.
Once caladiums were thought suitable only in shade gardens. Thanks to the diligence of some innovative breeders, many new hybrids have been introduced for full sun such as 'White Wonder', 'White Delight', 'Red Ruffles', 'Candyland' and 'Starburst', among others.
When choosing the variety that will work best in a particular light, consider color, height and leaf size. Some fancy-leaf varieties, such as 'Red Flash', grow as large as elephant ears.
My local Lowe's garden center offers new varieties 'Red Ruffles', 'Raspberry Moon' and 'Candyland' in containers. Be sure to check with your Lowe's garden center and pick up some pots of caladiums to brighten your garden.
Do you have a favorite caladium?