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Caladiums - The Ultimate Growing Guide from Proven Winners®

How to grow vibrant and versatile Heart to Heart Caladiums 

Contributors: Susan Martin
caladium window box
Above recipe - Endless Color

♥ What do I do with caladiums at the end of the season?

Do you love the tropical look of bold leaves in vibrant colors? Are you struggling to find something unique for your shade garden? Ready to add life to your windowsill with a few new houseplants?

Buy caladium plants - Order online and have them shipped right to your door

Heart to Heart Caladiums are the answer!

These lush tropical plants are the perfect way to bring that “vacation vibe” to your deck or patio containers, garden beds and even your living room. Though caladiums traditionally thrive in lower light conditions, newer, more sun tolerant varieties can be grown alongside your favorite Proven Winners annuals like ColorBlaze® coleus, Sunpatiens® impatiens and Sweet Caroline sweet potato vines.

Heart to Heart Caladiums make unique and bold “thrillers” in container recipes paired with shorter, mounded to trailing plants. A container filled with lush caladiums is an amazing sight to behold. They’re also stunning when planted en masse in garden beds. See all of our caladium recipes


Depending on the look you’re going for and what kind of lighting conditions you are able to provide, you can choose from Fancy Leaf or Strap Leaf varieties.

Fancy Leaf Caladiums tend to have heart-shaped leaves with their stem (petiole) attached near the middle of the leaf and an upright habit. They are generally more shade tolerant, but some cultivars can handle quite a bit of sun. Fancy leaf types tend to be a bit more sensitive to cold, so if you’re planning to bring them indoors for winter, do so before the temperatures drop below 60°F.
Strap Leaf Caladiums have narrower, arrow-shaped leaves with their stem (petiole) attached near the edge of the leaf and a mounded habit. They are generally more sun tolerant but also grow well in shade. Strap leaf types tend to be a bit more cold tolerant, so if you’re planning to bring them indoors for winter, you have a bit more time than with the fancy leaf types.


When to plant?

Wait to plant caladium bulbs and live plants outdoors until air temperatures are consistently at least 60°F. If you’re planning to plant them in the ground, wait until the soil temperature is at least 65°F. If you move them outside too early, the cool temperatures will greatly slow down their growth and delay their flourishing in your garden. It’s better to enjoy them indoors as a houseplant until it’s nice and warm outside.

Where to plant?

Caladiums grow beautifully in containers and in landscapes that have well-drained soil. If you garden in heavy clay, you’ll want to grow your caladiums in containers or raised beds. Fill your patio pots, window boxes and hanging baskets with the low maintenance, all-season color that caladiums provide.

How much sun?

All types of caladiums grow well in part shade (4-6 hours of sun). However, some varieties can tolerate full sun (6+ hours) in most parts of the country and others can tolerate full shade (<4 hours).

Caladium varieties that can grow in both sun and shade include:

Caladiums that prefer partial shade to full shade include:

You’ll know your caladiums are getting too much sun if you start to see holes with brown edges appear on the leaves between the veins. We call this “melting”. If this happens, simply move them to a shadier spot.

Some sun will help to draw out brighter colors on your caladium’s leaves. If they look dull, move them to a spot with a bit more sun.

When growing sun-tolerant varieties in the south, remember that they will require more water. It's best to irrigate in the early morning to prevent sunburn.

How much heat?

Caladiums are tropical plants that love the heat, even in southern climates. Their most active growth occurs during the warmest part of the season. That's why it is important to wait to put them outside until the air temperatures are consistently at least 60°F and the soil temperature is at least 65°F. Caladiums can get stunted or may even stop growing completely if they are moved outside when it is too cool.

How much water?

When you first plant your caladiums, they’ll enjoy moist—not soggy—soil. The more sun they are growing in, the more quickly the soil will dry out, so you’ll want to keep an eye on them until they are established. Once they are rooted in and flourishing in your garden, they will only need average amounts of water. As is true with most garden plants, early morning is the best time to water caladiums.

Do I need to fertilize?

Caladiums don’t need as much fertilizer to stay happy compared to “hungry” flowers like petunias. When you plant them, mix some Proven Winners Premium continuous-release plant food into the soil (follow package instructions for rates). Follow up with our water-soluble plant food once per month. Though they may occasionally produce a flowerlike bud called a spathe, caladiums are grown for their colorful foliage.

Are caladiums pest and disease resistant?

Caladiums are generally considered to be quite pest and disease resistant. Generally, any problems you see are the result of overwatering which can cause the bulbs to rot, too much sun or too much fertilizer. Caladiums are considered to be moderately resistant to deer and rabbit browsing, though they may eat the foliage if there is no other suitable food source nearby.


You might enjoy growing caladiums from bulbs rather than buying actively growing plants if you like the experience of growing plants from seeds or roots, and you're not looking for instant impact.


Bulb Sizes: Choose Jumbo size bulbs to get larger, fuller plants faster. Choose #1 size bulbs if your growing season is long and they will have plenty of time to mature. The sizes of caladium bulbs vary naturally by variety, so not every jumbo sized bulb you receive will look the same. Generally, Jumbo size bulbs are about 2.5 to 3.5" in diameter, while #1 size bulbs range from 1.5 to 2.5". 
Planting Time: It is important to wait to plant caladiums outside until the air temperatures are consistently at least 60°F and the soil temperature is at least 65°F. If it is too early to plant when your bulbs arrive, open the box to allow the bulbs to breathe and store in a well-ventilated area above 65°F.
Painted Bulbs: To make them a cinch to plant, all of the bulbs we sell are painted white on the top. You should see the white paint as you are sinking them into the soil--this indicates you are planting them right side up.
Bulb Planting Depth: Sink the bulbs about 1.5 to 2" below the soil surface when planting. This will allow enough room for their roots to grow and won't delay the emergence of the new leaves. 
Bulb Planting Spacing: Plant your #1 size size caladium bulbs about 8-10" apart, or two bulbs per square foot. If you are using the larger Jumbo size bulbs, you'll need one per square foot. Spacing them closer together will create a denser planting, especially in areas where the growing season is shorter and they are being grown as annuals. 
Bulb Growth Rate: Fancy leaf caladiums tend to sprout a little faster than strap leaf varieties. You could start to see foliage emerge from your caladium bulbs in as little as 3 weeks after planting if you start them in the warmer part of the season once the soil temperature rises above 65°F. When starting them in the spring, expect to see foliage in about 6-8 weeks, depending on the variety. After 9 weeks, the plants should be fully leafed out for the season.




In most parts of the country, caladiums are grown as annual plants. They are enjoyed from spring to fall, and then discarded, similar to how you might grow petunias.

Generally, we do not recommend storing bulbs for the winter and replanting the following spring. That’s because, other than in southern Florida, stored bulbs do not perform as well as fresh bulbs because there aren’t enough growing days to accumulate the carbohydrates (energy) necessary for storage and subsequent sprouting the following spring. If you don’t plan to try and save them, simply leave them in the ground and let them disintegrate.

ZONES 10-11

If you live in zone 10 or 11 where the ground does not freeze, caladiums will be perennial for you and can be left in the ground over the winter. At the end of the growing season, their foliage will naturally go dormant and can be removed once it is all brown. Adding a thick layer of mulch over them for winter will help to insulate the ground and protect the bulbs. They will naturally re-emerge in spring.

Storing Caladium Bulbs

If you live in zones 2-9 and still wish to try and save your caladium bulbs over the winter, here are some guidelines to follow.

  1. Wait until your fall temperatures are consistently falling below 60°F, then dig up your caladium bulbs with their leaves still attached.
  2. Knock the bulk of the soil off of the bulbs, then set them in a dry, ventilated space for a week or so while they dry.
  3. Once the leaves shrivel up, cut them off about 1” above the top of the bulb.
  4. When the bulbs feel dry to the touch, they are ready to be stored. Keep them in a warm (60°F+) well-ventilated area over the winter.
  5. Replant outside the following spring when the soil temperature reaches 65°F and nighttime air temperatures are consistently above 60°F. Planting too early will stunt the bulbs and can cause them to rot.

Keeping Caladiums Growing as Houseplants

Potted caladiums can be moved indoors in early fall and kept actively growing as a houseplant for a month or so until they will naturally enter a resting period. They will need bright light and humidity indoors to thrive. Set the pot on a saucer filled with pebbles and water to keep the humidity up around the plant.

Related: 12 Ways to Enjoy Plants Indoors

When the leaves begin to fall over, you’ll know the plant is ready to go back to sleep for the winter. At that point, stop watering and allow the plants to naturally dry out, removing the shriveled leaves as they go dormant.

Once all the leaves are spent, the bulbs can either be stored in the dry soil in the container or removed and stored in the manner described above. In the spring, when the nighttime air temperatures are consistently above 60°F, the plants can be moved back outdoors.

Buy Proven Winners plants: 

Find a local garden center

Order caladiums online

Want to learn more about caladiums?

12 Container Recipes for Heart to Heart Caladiums

Are you a grower? Here are tips for caladium greenhouse production

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