Gossip in the Garden

Harmony in the Garden's Chattier Side

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I’m a caladium convert

Designer-Deborah SilverI’ll admit it – I’ve never given much thought to caladiums, perhaps subconsciously dismissing them as an uninspired, old-fashioned stalwart. But having trialled several dozen this year (thanks to the good folks at Classic Caladiums) I can proudly say I was dead wrong – there’s nothing uninspired with these plants.  I’m officially hooked!

Similar to coleus in that they come in a psychedelic array of color combinations, caladiums somehow have more of an air of elegance about them. And when planted closely together in a container, they’re simultaneously light and delicate while making quite a visual impact.

'Candyland'

One of the reasons why I’m now a caladium fan is its ability to create magical color echo combinations.  Take the above ‘Candyland’, for example.  On its own, the narrow heart-shaped leaves streaked with light pink are pretty enough, but when paired with a nandina – look out!  The nandina’s mainly green early-summer foliage help to complement the green in the caladium leaves.  But once cooler temperatures arrive, and the nandina’s foliage begins to turn shades of red, pink and maroon the resulting color echoes are nothing short of magical.

'White Star'

 

Another favorite of mine is ‘White Star’.  The ethereal quality of the ghostly white foliage, tinged with just a tiny splash of pink in the center of the leaf, is elegant and understated.  But what I love so much is the slightly undulating shape of the foliage that gives this plant a sense of motion (even on the stillest of days) adding a visually dynamic element to a simple container.

tubersIn my zone 9 garden, the caladiums grew much easier in contai

ners rather than planted directly in the soil.  This doesn’t really surprise me since despite regular amendments to my clay-based soil, it’ll never be the nutrient rich, fast draining soil caladiums crave.   Combine that with our drought-like summer conditions and the poor moisture-loving caladiums have an uphill battle.

The simple solution is to plant them  in a container (with really good soil) in a semi-shady spot and give them somewhat regular watering.  Do that and you’ll be rewarded with months and months of gorgeous color.

When it comes time to overwinter them, unless you live in the tropical south you’ll have to dig them up in early fall, let the tubers dry for a few days and place them in a dry area to store.  I’m hoping mine will overwinter without any problems if I leave them in their container, safely snuggled up against a fence for protection.  We’ll see….

Designer - Deborah SilverIn addition to planting caladiums in pots, I wanted to show you a few other ways you can incorporate caladiums into your garden.

Caladiums are natural companion plants for impatiens, begonias and ferns, and as such are an excellent choice for window boxes. One of my favorite landscape designers is Michigan-based Deborah Silver.  Deborah is The Queen when it comes to creating the most jaw-dropping window boxes, many of which feature caladiums. She writes about gardening (and caladiums) in her lovely blog, Dirt Simple.  These are just a few of her gorgeous creations.Designer-Deborah SilverDesigner-Deborah Silver

Designer-Jenny PetersonAnother of my favorite landscape designers who gardens in a vastly different climate is Austin-based Jenny Peterson.  I would never dream that caladiums could thrive in Austin’s hot temperatures, but look how Jenny has used them – bordering the swimming pool!  And the reflection they cast – absolutely dreamy.

With a mind-boggling array of colors, sizes and foliage shapes, surely there’s a caladium just right for your garden.  I have no doubt I’ll be placing another order this spring – I’d love to know what some of your favorite varieties are and how you use them in the garden.

16 Responses to I’m a caladium convert

    • I tell you Sharon, I’m with you. I’ve never been all that interested in them, but after seeing how great they are in their containers, in the shade, with hardly any TLC from me I’m growing them every year! They’re a nice, lush looking counterpart to a lot of other standard plants that do well in the shade.

    • I’ve heard them called that too, Diane. No matter what you call them, though, they sure are beautiful! Mine are still going strong in their containers. I just love them!

  1. Those are really beautiful plants! Now if I only had some shade and the presence of mind to go out and water them more often. Not. LOL I am a lazy gardener indeed I guess that is why I like succulents. But they sure are gorgeous and I love those window boxes!

    • Hi Candy – well, yes, you’re right. They’re definitely a tad higher maintenance than the succulents in your garden but if you ever want a little splash of something else they might be good in a container on your patio? Where you’re more likely to appreciate them (and notice if they’re crying out for water)? Hope to see you soon at Succulent Extravaganza!!!

  2. One of those plants I’ve never gotten around to trying. Maybe some day. The white ones are particularly elegant, pink ones, not so much.

    • I’d probably agree with you re: the pink ones. Though I definitely love the ones by the pool – I could look at those colors all day long. While floating in the pool, of course…

  3. I am new to reading your Gossip and am enjoying it immensely. I now reside in Orange County California but lived in Houston Texas for a few years where caladiums are very popular as bedding plants. I never tired of them and wondered why Californians did not plant them more often. One of my favorites is Miss Muffet. This is a smaller variety but tucks nicely into spots where accent is needed.

    • Hi Marilyn, I’m so glad you’re enjoying my blog! I lived in Orange County for a few years (Laguna Beach) and have such fond memories of the warm evenings (something that I miss here, living in Northern CA). I think caladiums are becoming more and more popular as I’ve recently heard from 3 designers ‘oh yeah – I was JUST thinking about planting them…’ What’s old is new again, right? Thanks for the Miss Muffet recommendation, too. It’s another fantastic one that would help in creating some dynamic color combinations!

  4. thank you for introducing me to a plant I knew nothing about. I will give them a try for sure. They are beautiful!

  5. Caladiums were one of the very first things I ever grew right after I got married in 1975. I planted a strip of blood red ones along our screened back porch and to this day remember how seeing those exotic (to a Midwesterner!) leaves made me feel like I somehow knew what I was doing. Ha! I’ll always use caladiums and like you, love the white ones as much as the deeper colored ones. ‘Aaron’ has been a favorite, and ‘Gingerland’ is just cool. Love this post!

    • Thanks for the story, Kylee! I googled ‘Gingerland’ and you’re right – it IS just plain cool! Next year I’m going to pot up a giant batch of the blood red ones like in the photo near Jenny’s pool. Those colors are so rich and would look so gorgeous in the fall, wouldn’t they?

  6. I love caladiums, Rebecca! They look great in shady containers with impatiens, begonias, ivy and lysimachia. I just pack ’em in pretty tightly, too, so they look nice and full from the start. Great post and good info, my friend. <3