In most parts of the United States, Caladiums (Caladium X hortulanum) must be planted in spring and dug up in autumn to be stored over the winter. Here in central Florida (Zone 9-A), they can be left in the ground, but should be heavily mulched. Caladiums usually begin to emerge from the ground in mid-to-late May. In warmer than usual weather, they can appear as early as mid-to-late April.
For instant color and a look of fullness to your planting beds, full-grown potted caladiums are available at most any garden center. They are more expensive when purchased this way, but for instant gratification, they can’t be beat.
So, you’d prefer to buy bulbs instead of potted caladiums?
Caladiums are not cheap, and buying bags of bulbs is certainly a good way to extend your gardening budget. They will emerge from the ground as little spears that quickly open to reveal their gorgeous multi-colored leaves. Depending on the type you choose, the daily temperature, and when they are planted, it can take anywhere from two weeks to a month before you see them emerge. Then you should have beautiful foliage until cold weather comes again. Below is info on planting tips for bulbs.
When to Plant?
In colder climates, caladium plants or their bulbs can be planted anytime after nighttime temperatures remain above 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Deep to Plant?
The bulbs should be no more than 2 inches below the surface of the soil. They will actually sprout roots and send up their first leaves while lying on the ground, but will not survive summer heat without being planted. I learned this when I accidentally left a bulb on the ground, thinking I had planted all of them. Opps!
Which Side is Up?
Look for little “eyes” similar to those seen on a begonia bulb or a potato that has sprouted. That is the side that goes up. If you don’t see any eyes, just put it in the ground. Unlike some bulbs, it will take care of itself and perform very well for you.
Sun or Shade?
Some caladiums can take more sun than others. All need shade from the harsh afternoon sun. Follow the instructions on the label of the type you choose for your garden.