Caladiums are a unique and beautiful addition to the garden. Known for their heart-shaped, colorful leaves (instead of flowers), they’re a great way to add splashes of color with a tropical leafy feel. These ornamental plants come in many varieties and colors, with the most popular being bright pink or red.
We’ve had a lot of success growing these beautiful plants on our patio in pots and in various spots in the garden. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that doesn’t have frost, you can grow caladium year-round outdoors.
Today, I’ll talk all about how to care for caladiums in pots. Most of this advice is applicable for in-ground caladiums as well!
- How to start caladium indoors to grow in pots
- Starting caladium indoors (step by step)
- Moving caladium outdoors in pots
- Do caladium in pots like sun or shade?
- How often to water caladium plants in pots
- Overwintering caladium tubers
- Overwintering caladium (step by step)
- Keeping caladium as a potted houseplant
- Caladium pests and problems
- Caring for caladium plants in pots (simple tips):
How to start caladium indoors to grow in pots
Because we live in zone 6, we like to start our caladium indoors. This allows us to have huge, beautiful, colorful plants that really put on a nice display in the summer months. Some people refer to caladiums as ‘Elephant Ears‘. You can purchase caladium tubers online or in most garden stores. After unpacking them, make sure they are firm (not soft or soggy), and free of mold or rot.
Planting the caladium indoors is simple. You’ll want to plant the tubers about one inch deep with the round side facing upward. Feel around the tuber for a “nub.” – this is the top! If you’re really unsure which way is up, plant the tubers on their side. They will find the light and straight themselves out.
Plant the tubers in a good (lightly moistened) soil mix, or use a mixture of half perlite and half peat. We prefer to start one tuber per 4-inch pot, about 1 inch below the surface. If you’re planting many tubers, you can save space and plant in one large tray, spacing them about an inch apart.
You’ll want to ensure your soil mixture is not too wet as this can cause the tubers to rot. At this point, use plastic to cover your container and place them in a warm spot. After you see roots emerge, transfer them to a 4-inch pot. Or, if you started in a 4-inch pot, once you see the sprouts, give the caladium a good source of light to start growing!
Don’t start your tubers too early, as you risk them rotting. Here in zone 6, we start our caladium around March. Once they sprout, we place them under grow lights alongside our other plants. If you do not have a grow light setup, you can still start your caladium indoors (though you may not get as a large of a plant).
Starting caladium indoors (step by step)
- Purchase your tubers and ensure they are not soggy, moldy, or soft. They should be dry and firm to the touch.
- Prepare your soil mix or mixture of half perlite and half peat. Lightly moisten it (you do not want it soaking wet).
- Plant the tubers one inch deep in a large tray (spaced at least one inch apart), or plant them right into 4-inch pots and place them somewhere warm with good light.
- When the tubers show roots, transfer them to their 4-inch pots and wait for sprouts. Or, skip this step if you planted them right in their 4-inch pots.
- Do not bring them outside until night temperatures are at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Moving caladium outdoors in pots
Do not transfer your caladium outdoors until the danger of frost has passed. We prefer to wait until temperatures reach around 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night, then we know it is safe. We like to plant our caladium in large pots that we can move around the yard. You can plant multiple plants in one pot for a unique and colorful show of leaves. Place them in a spot that is warm and bright to give them a good start.
If you’re planting your caladium outdoors into the ground, be sure you give them at least a foot on each side of the plant. These plants (like many) prefer well-drained soil.
Do caladium in pots like sun or shade?
Caladium will grow in the shade but in order to get the intense color on their leaves, you’ll want to give them a bit of sun. We like to give our caladium plants medium filtered sun for flashy, healthy leaves. If you notice the leaves on your plant turning brown, tan, or crispy, move them to a shadier spot.
Growing tip: On hot days, you can mist the leaves to keep them happy (they like the humidity!).
How often to water caladium plants in pots
Caladium like to be kept evenly moist. Of course, you don’t want your caladium plant drowning in water. This can lead to bulb rot and prevent your plant from thriving. The exact timing of how often to water your potted caladium plant depends on your climate, how much sun your plant is getting, and how often it is raining.
Make sure your caladium is planted in a well-draining pot. The easiest way to tell if your caladium needs water is to stick your finger in the soil to see if it’s wet. You should also keep an eye on your caladiums leaves. They’ll begin to droop when they are thirsty.
Overwintering caladium tubers
The summer has ended, and there is a significant chill in the air. After a wonderful summer, there is no need to throw away your caladium. You can easily dig up and save the tubers for next season!
You’ll want to stop watering your caladium for at least 3 weeks before you dig them up. Shoot for a date 2-3 weeks before your expected frost. Here in zone 6, we dig up our caladium tubers in September. Gently prune away all the leaves and stems, and massage any excess soil from the tuber. There is no need to wash them off.
You’ll want to allow your tubers to dry out for at least a couple weeks in a warm place that gets good airflow. After the tubers have completely dried out, you can store them in vermiculite or perlite. Be sure they are in a frost-free location that does not get below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. We store ours in the basement and they do just fine.
Overwintering caladium (step by step)
- Stop watering your caladium plants 2-3 weeks before the danger of frost.
- Dig up your caladium tubers and gently prune away foliage and stems. Brush off as much excess soil as you can from the tuber (do not wash them!)
- Allow the tubers to dry out for a couple weeks in a warm place with good air circulation.
- Store the tubers in vermiculite or perlite where they are not touching each other. Some people also used sawdust or shredded paper. Place them somewhere frost-free that does not get below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keeping caladium as a potted houseplant
Caladium make beautiful houseplants! Keep in mind you’ll want to keep these plants away from your pets as they are toxic. We have found that caladium do best when kept in a spot that gets bright, indirect sunlight. If direct sunlight hits the leaves, it can cause them to burn.
When watering your caladium houseplant, be sure to give it a good drink and then allow the soil to dry out before watering again. These plants dislike to sit in soggy soil. These plants also like a decent amount of humidity, so supplementing with a humidifier is recommended.
It’s important to remember that, even indoors, caladiums need a proper “rest period”. This means that you’ll want to give them less water and allow the leaves to die back in the fall/winter. This is when the plant will store energy, getting ready for their next growing season.
Caladium pests and problems
While not common, it is possible that a pest or critter will take a liking to your caladium plant. Keep an eye out for ragged leaves, holes, or other signs of damage. If you see insect damage, it may be the workings of slugs, snails or aphids. If you’re growing caladium as a houseplant indoors, you may also suffer with fungus gnats.
The other common problem that occurs with caladium is tuber rot. This is usually caused by overwatering or storing the tubers in too moist or humid of an environment. Be sure to store your tubers in a dry location.
Over-watering, over-fertilizing, or exposure to too much sunlight will also negatively affect your caladium plants.
Caring for caladium plants in pots (simple tips):
We consider caladium an easy plant to grow and care for. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your plant:
- Give them a good source of light. While they do grow in the shade, plant them in filtered sun for the best results.
- Keep them evenly moist – they like humidity so feel free to mist the leaves on hot days. Do not allow the soil to get sopping wet (especially in containers) as they will rot. Any caladium you plant in a container should have adequate drainage.
- Allow them to dry out completely before storing them for the winter.
- Be sure to store them in a frost-free location over the winter.
- Caladium are considered heavy feeders. Fertilize every 3 weeks during the summer to promote growth.
Caladium are beautiful plants that add color and life to any garden. They are relatively easy to care for and put on an impressive show during the summer months. Caladium are also easy to overwinter, so you can enjoy them year after year. If you’re looking for a plant that will make your garden stand out, you really can’t go wrong with any variety of this plant!