Here in the Pacific Northwest, caladiums are considered a rather exotic houseplant that can vacation outside on the shady summer patio but are not your 'mainstream' summer annual. In fact they will rarely be found with geraniums or petunias at the local nursery, but rather remain tucked away with the indoor plants. Despite that I have been using them for years in container designs where they add bold foliage, exciting color and a tropical punch to my combinations. The only caution is that I wait until our night temperatures are at least 55' before using them outdoors. In Seattle that may not be until early June. Warmer climates can enjoy them much earlier!
A trip to the Atlanta area last summer got me excited about these foliage floozies all over again, especially as there seem to be so many varieties available down there, including sun-tolerant ones. (Read plant-envy…)
So here for your viewing pleasure is a smorgasbord of caladium-infused container designs as well as a few ideas for incorporating them into your landscape (assuming your have less slugs than I do!)
The art of repetition
A series of low shallow bowls line this pathway, each planted with caladium (probably Red Flash which tolerates both sun and shade), green and white variegated spider plant and bright green Angelina stonecrop.
The entrance at the Gibb's Gardens visitors center is truly delightful. By selecting plants that cope with either sun or shade (Surefire begonias and Red Flash caladium), the containers and landscape present a unified, cohesive display. I love the color echo between the begonia blooms and the caladium, all brightened with splashes of yellow or chartreuse.
Repeating the heart-shaped caladium leaves with the similarly shaped begonia foliage is another satisfying design element. That together with the charming color echo between the white begonia blooms, a variegated plectranthus and the white caladium creates a feminine, romantic vignette, quite different from the sultry deep pinks seen earlier.
Allowing caladium to grow through a bed of coleus also offers a whimsical little-and-large perspective:
Exciting color contrasts
Red Flash caladium is prized for its oversized, vibrant red leaves and is an old favorite for both the landscape and container. However the wide, dark-olive green margins benefit from the addition of a lighter colored companion such as the variegated ginger below.
White caladiums need a different approach. In the container below, the pink venation of the caladium is highlighted by the beefsteak plant (Perilla 'Magilla' – a coleus look-alike) while the black tropical foliage of a calathea (Calathea 'Dottie') adds bold contrast
Creating a focal point
The bold foliage of caladium can be used to add a welcome focal point to an overly-floriferous planting scheme, as can be seen in the example below
The large, white leaves also add a cooling note to the border of warm, jewel-toned flowers.
How are YOU using caladiums this year? Do share your ideas by leaving a comment below!
Growing caladiums from tubers in warmer climates:
Classic Caladiums website
Growing in zones 5-7:
Personally I just purchase fully grown plants in June! I have found that I am most successful if I keep the drip irrigation lines away from the crown of the plant to avoid over-watering but otherwise have found them easy care. Just cut off spent foliage at the base as needed.