Caladiums also called elephant’s ears or mother-in-law plants, are popular because they are both colorful and hardy.
Since they originated in South America, they prefer warm temperatures and suffer in cold weather. If kept outside, the bulbs need to be buried about two inches deep.
They need to be dug up again to winter indoors once temperatures dip to below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Deep to Plant Caladium Bulbs?
Whether caladiums are planted indoors in pots or outside, caladium bulbs should be planted two inches deep (5cm). Start growing caladiums indoors if you plan to keep them outside. They cannot survive the cold and need to be dug up again to spend the winter indoors. Caladium bulbs need 2-12 weeks to germinate, depending on the soil’s temperature.
How to Plant Caladium Bulbs in Pots
Wear gloves when handling caladium bulbs. Select a pot that gives the bulb at least one inch of soil all around it.
Fill the pot halfway with peat moss or soil-based with peat moss, at least three inches deep. Place the bulb bumpy side up in the soil.
Bulbs take longer to germinate when they are planted bumpy side down. Add a little bone meal for fertilizer or use a slow-release fertilizer.
Keep the soil well-watered, making sure not to oversaturate the soil. Too much water kills the roots.
Soil that is slightly moist all the time is best. Caladiums grow quickest in temperatures over 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you do not have a spot in your home that is this warm, get a fluorescent grow lamp. Keep the pot about a foot under the lamp.
You can also use a seed-heating mat set to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Caladiums can start to grow as little as two weeks after planting if the conditions are right and the soil is at the right temperature.
Keep the young plants indoors until after the last hard frost or wait until June to transfer them outside. Fertilize every week.
How to Plant Caladiums Outside
Choose a shady spot for your caladiums. If they are out in the full sun, they will develop sunburn spots.
Remove the bulbs from the pots and place the bulbs in warm water for an hour. Then plant them two inches deep in an even mixture of soil and peat moss.
Plant smaller bulbs about six to eight inches apart. Any bulb over two and a half inches long needs to be planted twelve to eighteen inches apart.
If they are too close, the plants will be prone to diseases and the bulbs could die.
If you want to grow smaller caladiums, then you need to de-eye the bulb. There is usually one bud larger than all the others on a bulb.
It will be surrounded by smaller buds. Stick the point of a sterile knife about a quarter of an inch into the largest bud.
This leaves the smaller buds to grow smaller plants. The buds may not look like they are growing, but will grow faster after the largest bud is de-eyed.
Place a layer of mulch about two or three inches deep around the young caladium so the soil around it stays moist, but not soaking wet.
Keep checking the soil and mulch around the plant during the summer so that it does not dry out.
Caladiums also need a steady diet of 8-8-8-8 fertilizer about once a week. Give two tablespoons of fertilizer per square foot.
Keeping Caladium Bulbs Over the Winter
When temperatures start to drop and the foliage of the caladium dies, it’s time to dig the bulbs up and keep them indoors for the winter. They enter a state of dormancy until caladiums are ready for replanting by spring.
Here are tips from Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station on storing bulbs during the winter.
Fill mesh bags with peat moss or cottonseed hulls. Remove any leaves or roots on the bulbs.
Dry the caladium bulbs in a warm spot for a few days. Place the bulbs in mesh bags so that the bulbs are well-ventilated.
Store in a place that does not get below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. They need at least two months to rest before they can start germinating again.
If you live in the South or where it rarely gets below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, bulbs can survive in the soil over the traditional winter months by adding a layer of mulch about three to six inches deep over the soil.
Make sure the soil doesn’t dry out. Spray with water on a mist setting to keep your caladiums moist but not saturated.
Warning about Caladium Bulbs and Plants
All parts of caladiums are poisonous, including the bulbs. Eating any part of the caladium can either kill or make you sick at the very least.
The plants and bulbs are also poisonous to small children, dogs, cats, rabbits, and horses. Store bulbs away from pets or small children, both of which like to explore the world with their mouths.
Caladiums and bulbs have been known to cause itchy rashes in people with sensitive skin. Wear gloves when you handle the bulbs or working with the plants.
Always wash your hands after working with caladium bulbs and plants. Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, when wearing gloves and before washing your hands.
Frequently Asked Questions About How Deep to Plant Caladium Bulbs
When Is It Best to Dig Up Caladium Bulbs?
It’s important to dig up caladium bulbs if they are kept outside before temperatures plunge. Dig them up when the leaves start turning and temperatures go below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Which Way to Plant Caladium Bulbs?
Most caladium bulbs have a bumpy side and a smooth side. Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station recommends that caladium bulbs be planted with a bumpy side facing up. The plants will grow faster this way.
How Far Apart to Bury Caladium Bulbs?
Bigger bulbs, or bulbs larger than two and a half inches long, need to be placed about one to one and a half feet apart. Smaller bulbs, about one to two and a half inches long, can be planted six to eight inches apart.
The Least You Need to Know
You need to keep your Caladium bulbs in warm temperatures. It’s best to start growing caladiums indoors about April.
Bury the bulbs in soil with peat moss about two inches deep. If you want to keep them outside, transfer them about June when the temperature of the soil is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dig them up at the beginning of fall to let them winter indoors.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.