Recently, I was asked by one of my students, “What is your favourite plant and why?”.
Without hesitation, I eagerly answered: Caladiums! Yes, it’s not a popular answer but caladiums, to me, are the most versatile and beautiful plants for many reasons.
Caladiums are tropical perennials native to tropical forests in South and Central America that have pronounced wet and dry seasons. There are thousands of named cultivars of this species in addition to hybrids.
Caladiums are easily grown as bulbs or as houseplants but be careful you don’t confuse them with other plants, such as Alocasia, Colocasia and Xanthosoma.
The two main types of caladiums are the fancy-leaved types, which have large, heart-shaped, or semi-heart-shaped leaves on long petioles (12 to 30 inches tall), while the strap- or lance-leaved types, with their shorter and narrower, ruffle-edged leaves on short petioles, are more compact (usually less than 12 inches tall).
The lance-leaved types (derived from Caladium Picturantum) have more leaves per tuber than fancy-leaved types. My favourite type of caladium is the caladium bicolour also known as the ‘Heart of Jesus’. It is grown as a houseplant for its large heart or lance-shaped leaves with striking green, white, pink, and red blotching.
Some varieties of caladium are toxic, such as Caladium Bicolor which contains calcium oxalate crystals, making all parts of the plant poisonous to humans, livestock, and pets.
Sap coming in contact with the skin may cause skin irritation. If a pet consumes caladium, they can experience vomiting, drooling, pawing at mouth or face, and decreased appetite.
Growing and propagating caladiums is quite simple. They require moist rich soil, daily watering and fertilising every six weeks with an all-purpose fertiliser such as 12:24:12. To propagate a caladium you can simply take a cutting of the plant and place into a soil mixture, it’s that easy!
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