Caladium (Bicolor-Hybrids)

Caladiums have belonged to the basic assortment of foliage plants for years. They have only one drawback, namely that the magnificent leaves appear in spring and die back in late autumn for a period of winter rest. Inasmuch as in the wild they inhabit the banks of tropical rivers that dry out in winter the tubers should be put in a warm and dry place for the winter. However, they must not dry out altogether and thus should be stored in dry sand or peat in a warm room until spring. In late February the tubers should be put in a mixture of peat, loam and sand and watered thoroughly. When growth has started the compost must never be allowed to dry out. In summer the plants should be fed regularly. Nitrogen fertilizers should be limited in the case of cultivars that have large white patches on the leaves for otherwise these turn green.

Caladiums grown as house plants are generally hybrids obtained by crossing Caladium bicolor from the Amazon region with other species such as C. schomburgkii and C. picturatum. C. bicolor has dark blue-green leaves patterned with randomly scattered white and reddish spots between the veins. Gardening literature lists htindreds of hybrids – all of them beautiful.

The inflorescence, like that of other aroids, consists of a spadix enclosed in a spathe. The female flowers (which are separate from the male flowers) open about a week earlier than the male flowers thus preventing self-pollination. If several plants happen to flower at the same time you can try crossing them at home, simply by transferring the pollen to the female flowers of another specimen. This must be done between 11 a.m. And 4 p.m., otherwise the plant will not be fertilized. The fruit is a many-seeded berry. The seeds germinate on the surface of a peat and sand mixture in a moist and warm propagator within 14 days. Caladiums are more commonly propagated by cutting up tubers when planting them out in late winter. The cut surfaces should be dusted with charcoal.

Because they are warmth- and moisture-loving plants, caladiums are suited for growing in a paludarium or indoor plant-case, but they will also do reasonably well if placed freely in a room.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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