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Caladium Bicolor

The most popular Caladium cultivars are: Aaron, Carolyn Whorton, Candidum, Candidum Jr., Gingerland, Florida Sweetheart, Marie Moir, Florida Moonlight, Kathleen, Miss Muffet, Frieda Hemple, Pink Symphony, Spring Fling,  Hearts Desire, Fannie Munson, Florida Sweetheart, June Bride, Pink Beauty, Pink gem, Pink Symphony, Red Flash, Red Frill, Rosebud, White Christmas, White Queen, White Wing. 

All of these have the same care requirements.

Table of Contents

Description

Caladiums are perennial foliage plants that rarely flower and are known for their colorful heart-shaped leaves. They all have relatively similar care and can be very easy to care for once you know what you’re doing. You can grow them both indoor and outdoor, but they will go dormant in the winter months. To show you how to grow the healthiest Caladium possible, this post will show you how to take care of Caladium Bicolor, including sunlight, water, and soil requirements. Caladium Bicolor is the most popular of the Caladiums because it has over 1000 different cultivars. Most Caladiums sold commercially are Caladium Bicolor. This is great for us collectors because it means that nearly all of the caladiums we acquire will have the same care requirements!

Their brightly colored heart-shaped foliage is the primary identifier of caladiums. In addition, they tend to have patterns and speckles. Unfortunately, Caladium Bicolor has so many different styles that it can sometimes be challenging to identify it by coloring. The best way to know if you have a Caladium Bicolor is to look at photos of different cultivars until you see the one you have or familiarize yourself with their signature shape and splotchy look.

Caladiums were first found in 1773 by the Madiera River in Western Brazil. The first specimen collected was the Caladium bicolor, which had random red and white spots. They are found throughout South America, including the Amazon Rainforest. The first hybrids were created by Louis Van Houtte and Alfred Blue in the 1860s. In fact, two of their hybrids, “Triomphe del ’Exposition’” and ‘Candidum’ are still being sold and grown today. In 1893, Adolph Leitze brought his hybrids to the World Fair in Chicago, IL, which introduced Caladiums to the United States. In 1910 Henry Nehrling and Theodore L. Mead began breeding caladiums in Florida, where they became significant growers and even created many of the species we know today. Some of their creations are ‘Fannie Munson,’ ‘John Peed,’ ‘Arno Nehrling’, and ‘Fannie Munson.’ Most recently, the University of Florida has been responsible for newer varieties. Today, almost all caladium growing is done in central Florida, specifically Lake Placid, FL.

The rarity of Caladium Bicolor is once again highly dependent on the cultivar. Most Caladium Bicolor are in the price range of $10-20. However, some cultivars such as Crimson Red can go for as much as $40 a bulb. Most Caladiums are sold by the bulb instead of as a fully grown plant.

Care Instructions

Care Level

Caladiums are relatively easy to take care of with the right knowledge. The main reason they can be difficult is their need for very high humidity. The humidity that they require is tough to maintain in a home.

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Temperature

Caladiums are lovers of heat. In fact, if the temperature is below 70 degrees, they will not produce tubers.

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Toxicity

Caladiums are toxic to both animals and humans and should not be ingested in any amount.

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Water

Water your Caladiums when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. Caladiums like to be watered often, especially if not kept in very humid environments. However, you can slow your watering during the winter months and stop completely when they go dormant. This process should last through the fall, winter, and early spring.

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Fertilizer

Caladiums are nitrogen sensitive and do not appreciate normal houseplant fertilizers that tend to be high in nitrogen. Caladiums also dislike liquid fertilizers as they can be easily burnt. An NPK ratio of 14-14-14 is ideal for a slow-release fertilizer. 

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Sunlight

Caladiums can easily be burnt by direct sunlight. If kept outside, make sure that they are in the shade. If kept inside, keep them in a northern or eastern facing window as midday sun will scorch their leaves.

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Propogation

Caladiums propagate through division. Caladiums produce tubers just like Alocasia and Colocasia do, but they will only grow them went the temperature is above 70 degrees. A great time to check for these tubers is when you are repotting your plant. You can simply remove them and repot them, or split those tubers into pieces that each have at least one growth point, then allow the pieces to dry out for a few days to let them callous over before planting them. Growth points look like the “eyes” you find on potatoes. You can also leave the plant alone, and the tubers will eventually grow into a baby plant in the same pot and divide them then.

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Humidity

Give Caladiums the highest amount of humidity that is possible. As usual, we do not recommend pebble trays or misting as this has been proven to do nothing to raise humidity. The only true ways to raise humidity are to keep the plant in a bathroom where the shower is run daily, keep it outside in a hot tropical environment (Florida, Hawaii, etc.), or use a humidifier. We find that these grow the best in terrariums and greenhouse with high humidity and heat.

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Soil

A well-draining soil is necessary to avoid root rot. Most commercial growers grow caladiums in a medium consisting completely of peat or coir. While this does seem to do the trick, household plants will most likely not have the same humidity as a plant grown in a greenhouse, so if you cannot provide a terrarium or greenhouse, we recommend making a mix of equal parts coir, perlite, and potting mix. Caladiums prefer soil pH between 6 and 6.5.

Read more about making your own potting medium here!

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Botany

Region: Caladium Bicolor is native to Tropical South America and the Caribbean.  This region is generally considered a humid equatorial climate with varying dry seasons.

Life cycle: Caladium Bicolor are herbaceous shrubs that grow from tuberous rhizomes.  They are also monocots, indicating that they first grow with a single seed leaf.  Caladium Bicolor are erect and self-heading.

General: Caladiums are perennials and have a dormant period. Once a year, their foliage will completely die back. Unlike Alocasia, this usually cannot be avoided even indoors. Caladiums need this dormant period to grow their colorful foliage in the spring. Keeping them indoors can extend their active growing time but will not stop them from going dormant. You can, however, keep your Caladium for the next season if you leave it alone and only water it once a month until the spring.

Botanical Description

Roots: Caladium Bicolor have fibrous root systems with no modifications.

Stem: Caladium Bicolor have herbaceous, green, round stems.  Under the earth, these stems are modified to become tuberous rhizomes, the primary means of propagation.

Leaves:  Caladium Bicolor leaves are large, thin, and leathery with entire leaf margin. They are sagittate with 2 oval-shaped lobes at the leaf base. The leaf stalk is brownish and either erect or slightly curved. Stalks may be covered in soft, short hairs or rough. Leaves come in a massive variety of colors depending on the cultivar.

Flowers: Caladium Bicolor flowers are whitish and unisexual.  They resemble calla lily flowers. The inflorescence consists of a green, rod-like spadix and white, petal-like spathe that surrounds the spadix like a hood.

 

Supplies We Recommend

Osmocote Smart-Release Plant Food
This plant food is ideal for caladiums as it slow release and has a 14-14-14 ratio that professional growers recommend.

 

Let’s talk about Caladium potting medium:

Pro Coco Coir Brick
This coco brick can be used with a 70:30 ratio to perlite. Don’t forget to add fertilizer as this coco doesn’t contain any fertilizer. Commercial soil bags usually do contain some slow-release fertilizer or some compost. This mix contains none, so you must add it yourself. This is actually an excellent thing because most houseplant soil mixes contain a fertilizer that is too high in nitrogen for caladiums. 

Horticultural Grade Premium Perlite
It would be best if you mixed this with the coir. 70% coir and 30% perlite should do the trick.

 

 

 

If you’re using our potting mix regimen/mixture, you don’t need to add anything except fertilizer to the base we recommended. Add the fertilzier recommended above. Our post about potting media is really detailed and should tell you anything you need to know. We also provide a mixture that can be adapted for almost all of your houseplants. You can read that post here.

 

 

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