Caladiums, or Elephant Ear Plants, are grown for their large heart-shaped colorful leaves that are often more spectacular than many flowers. The most popular varieties grown are the “fancy-leaved” and “lance-leaved”. The leaves of a Caladium, some as long as 24 inches, have marbled or veined patterns of red, pink, white, and green. A Caladium is a tuberous rooted perennial that originally came from South America. It dies back and becomes dormant from late fall to early spring. The beautiful ornamental foliage makes the extra care required to grow and then re-grow a Caladium each year well worth it. This plant is poisonous so please keep it away from children and pets.
LIGHTING REQUIREMENTS: A Caladium requires very bright indirect light.
CARE INSTRUCTIONS WATER: The soil of a Caladium should be moist but never soggy when the plant is actively growing. As the leaves of the Caladium start to die back in the early fall and the plant goes into its resting period, gradually reduce the watering until the soil has thoroughly dried out.
FERTILIZER: Fertilize a Caladium every two weeks when it is actively growing with a water-soluble plant food high in nitrogen at 1/2 the recommended strength.
TEMPERATURE: A Caladium does well in temperatures between 70-85 degrees with as little fluctuation in temperature as possible. During the five months when a Caladium is dormant, the temperature should be cooler but never below 55 degrees.
HUMIDITY: A Caladium needs a great deal of humidity. You can increase the humidity around the plant in various ways: keep the Caladium on a bed of wet gravel or pebbles at all time; place a small humidifier near it; or group several plants near each other to create a mini greenhouse effect.
PESTS: The colorful leaves of Caladium attract mealy bug, spider mite, and Aphid infestations. Gently wash any pests off the leaves with warm soapy water.
DISEASES: Caladium are prone to fungal diseases such as Fusarium and Pythium which usually result in root rot. A bacterial disease called Xanthamonas which causes leaf spot may also may infect Caladiums. Provide good air circulation and keep the leaves dry to prevent these problems.
SOIL: A Caladium grows best in a slightly acidic fast-draining soil. Once a month water a Caladium with left-over tea or a very dilute vinegar water solution.