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It is very important to unpack your bulbs immediately. Caladium bulbs produce moisture. They must be exposed to the atmosphere or they will rot. Spread bulbs thinly on trays. Store in a warm room with good air circulation until ready to plant. (65 to 85 ° F). For long-term storage, 70° is optimal. Once tubers are cold injured, the damage is irreversible. The extent of the cold injury depends not only upon the temperature but also on the duration of the low-temperature exposure.
Caladiums have proven to be excellent bedding plants for shade and partial shade locations. Although plants develop more intense leaf color in partial shade, they will grow and survive in full sun if provided adequate water. In addition, some cultivars perform BEST in full sun locations. The major requirement, once plants are established, is an adequate supply of water as caladiums will not perform well under dry conditions. Soils high in organic matter are usually excellent. Whatever the soil type, it should have a high water-holding capacity and yet have good drainage. The soil should be tilled to a depth of at least 6 inches before planting, and the soil should be moist. BEFORE planting tubers, the soil temperature should be at least 65° F. If caladiums are planted in deep shade the green will tend to dominate and the true color will not develop as well.
The pH is IMPORTANT. Caladiums do best in slightly acid soil, 5.5 to 6.5 pH. If your azaleas grow well, so will caladiums. I like to add some bone meal or other sources of phosphorus. It seems to help the plants form a stronger root system and have stronger stems. Dolomite should be used to adjust the pH to the proper range. Your local agricultural agent can help you determine your pH and determine the proper application. Some poorer soils may require a little peat moss – some soils with a lot of clay may require some sand to promote adequate drainage.
Many people think the larger the tuber the larger or better the plant. Tuber size determines how many leaves you will get. When I use bone meal, I can’t tell the difference between a plant that came from a Jumbo tuber or from 2 or 3 smaller tubers planted close together. Tubers should be planted so that 1 to 1-1/2 inches of soil cover the tubers. The spacing of the tubers depends upon the size of the tuber planted and how full you want the effect to be. Generally speaking, for a full appearance, plant two #1 bulbs 2" to 4" apart, then space these planting 12" to 18" apart. Plant Jumbos 12" to 18" apart. Plant outside when ALL danger of frost is past, and after the temperature warms up to about 70 degrees, CONSISTENTLY. Caladiums may also be grown in pots, indoors or out. By the way, the leaves are beautiful and long-lasting in floral arrangements.
For a bushier potted plant (shorter and with slightly smaller leaves) remove the terminal, or center, bud. This is called "scooping" or de-eyeing. A good gardeners’ handbook can give you specific directions.
Tubers will produce under most "usual" spring conditions in almost all of the contiguous United States. Problems can be incurred when:
Planting too early - LATER is okay.
Planting too deep.
Too far apart – too close together.
Any of the above can result in an undesirable effect.
Under the PROPER conditions, you will have foliage within 5-8 weeks.
Moisten soil well when planting tubers. Soil should be kept SLIGHTLY moist until sprouting occurs. Usually, the initial watering at planting time is enough until the first sprouts appear. After sprouting, water often and well. Caladiums have a high water requirement. Caladiums, if allowed to wilt, may not only lose leaves but also go dormant and lose foliage color.
When planting mix in some ordinary lawn and garden fertilizer, such as 6-6-6 or 8-8-8, according to package directions. Plants grown in warmer climates and in sandy soils will require higher fertilizer levels than plants grown in cooler climates or in organic soils and may need supplemental applications throughout the growing season. BE CAREFUL – over-fertilized plants tend to produce too much chlorophyll and color will not develop properly.
The color develops as the plant matures, so the initial color you see may not be the true color. Pinch off any blooms that may appear – it is the leaves that are of interest in the caladium plant.
Caladiums have a natural dormant period beginning sometime in autumn. The leaves will begin to die back, and this is the time to dig them. In any case, they should be dug before the first frost! Do not remove live foliage – it will nourish the tuber. Dry in the sun (ie: spread out on sidewalk) for several days until they are well dried to the touch. It is best to bring them in at night so they do not pick up the night dampness. Pack in peat moss or similar dry material (or place in a porous sack – onion bag etc.) and store in a well-ventilated area at about 70° F. (Range 65 – 85 degrees). Keep them WARM and DRY with plenty of air circulation.
NEVER refrigerate caladiums. Remember – they are tubers – NOT bulbs.
Even in warm climates, it is recommended that caladiums be dug and stored this way, as leaves will tend to grow smaller year after year if tubers remain in the ground. Plant in spring when the weather warms up. Tubers held for many weeks may begin to sprout. This is normal and will not hurt the bulb growth when again planted.
We appreciate your business. If you have a specific problem you might consider calling your local agricultural agent first, as your agent would be more familiar with soil conditions, temperature, pH, etc. in your area! Feel free to call us if you have unanswered questions.