Caladium Planting Guide

Flowers are stunning . . . while they’re in bloom. Flashy foliage plants look fabulous day in and day out. No weekends or evening off. Seasoned gardeners know this trick and use foliage plants generously for big color. Here’s your opportunity to do the same.

And as with most other bulbs, size matters; ours are the big 3” tubers, the largest ones available from growers. Why bother? Because these produce larger plants - more breezy color and more impact. If you’re going to take the time and make the space for fun garden additions, why settle for under-performing little stuff?

Choosing a Site

Caladiums grow well in light ranges from full sun to bright shade. Light needs vary with cultivar; choose a variety that is well suited to the available light in your selected site. Well suited to a variety of garden tasks, caladiums are excellent for edgings (short types), back of border framing (tall types), hanging baskets (small to medium height) and mixed containers (size to work with your pot and design). In other words, there’s lots of flexibility. For bedding and edging, select a location where the soil drains well. Puddles that persist after a rainstorm are indicators of less than ideal drainage.

Soil Preparation

Caladiums prefer moist but not soggy soil. Average garden soil or a commercial potting mix will work well. As with most bulbs, planting in well drained soil is important to avoid water puddling and rotting the bulbs. For beds, mulching after the bulbs have sprouted helps keep the soil cooler and reduces watering needs.

When to Plant Caladiums

Plant outdoors when frost danger has past and your soil has warmed to about 65 degrees. Caladiums are tropical plants and really don’t appreciate cold soil or cold nighttime temperatures. Cool soil and/or cool night time temperatures will delay sprouting. 

Or plant your caladiums indoors to get a jump on the season and move them outside when the weather has warmed. Caladiums typically take 2-5 weeks to sprout, with timing heavily influenced by soil temperature. For best results, plant upon receipt to keep bulbs from drying out.

How to Plant Caladium Bulbs

Examine the bulbs, looking for the side with the knobs. These are where the eyes are located and where new sprouts will develop. You’ll want to plant with the knobby side facing up. Loosen the soil to a depth of 4-6”, tuck the bulbs in and cover with 1" to 1.5” of soil. Water well to settle the soil around the bulbs.

Caladium Bulb Spacing

In the garden, space your plants so they have enough room to grow without crowding. Allow about 12-15" of space for larger caladiums, and 8-10" for small varieties.

During the Growing Season

Caladiums require little care during the growing season. Trim off any damaged leaves to keep the plants looking their best. Snip the occasional leaf to add pop to a flower arrangement. Make sure the soil is consistently moist (not soggy!)

Saving Bulbs at Season’s End

Caladium bulbs can be lifted, overwintered indoors and saved for next year. As temperatures cool and the season winds down, your caladiums will prepare for dormancy. Their leaves will yellow. This usually occurs between September and December depending on your climate. When you see this, stop watering.

In the Deep South (south of the I-10 corridor) bulbs can be left in the ground if protected with a heavy layer (3-6”) of mulch. In spring, pull mulch back when sprouts appear.

Elsewhere, lift bulbs after the leaves have yellowed and let them dry on newspaper for a week. Trim off the foliage and store the bulbs in peat in a warm (60+ degrees), well ventilated area. Note the variety; we always think we’ll remember . . . and don’t. Replant come spring and enjoy for another season.

More info here on How to Choose, Use and Care for Caladiums

Insider Tips

  1. For early garden pizzazz, start your caladiums indoors. Follow the planting instructions above, using pots or trays to get your bulbs started.
  2. Caladiums planted in full sun generally require more water. Monitor your plants and provide more water if you see wilting.
  3. Individual growing conditions may influence height, leaf size and color. Lower light sites typically produce taller plants with larger leaves.
  4. By mid summer, when your caladiums are full and lovely, cut a leaf here and there to add color and texture to flower arrangements.
shop caladiums
shop caladiums

Success Snapshot

Light: Partial shade, partial sun or full sun, depending on variety

Soil: Fertile and well drained

Depth: Cover with 1½-2” of soil

Water: Average moisture

Uses: Baskets, containers and edgings

Tip: Mulch to reduce watering needs

GUIDE: Caladium Planting Guide

They Start Out Looking Like This: