When people see my prized caladium bulbs sprouting fresh green leaves and stems after the winter, they are always puzzled that I seem to manage such predictable growth each year.
They often ask me, “How long does it take for caladium bulbs to sprout?”
How Long For Caladium Bulbs To Sprout?
The short answer is that it takes between 2 to 12 weeks for caladium bulbs to sprout. This time is heavily dependent on temperature, the moisture content of the soil, and whether they are potted or planted in soil. If incorrectly planted, this will also prolong the sprouting time.
The Right Conditions For Planting Caladium Bulbs
The first time I ordered caladium bulbs online, I was somewhat disappointed. These brown knobbly tubers didn’t look like much, and needless to say, my first sprouting wasn’t much of a success.
However, I’m not a quitter, and I began to research just how to ensure my next lot of caladium tubers did sprout and grow into tropical bliss.
The Right Season
I found that the best time to plant caladium bulbs is in the late spring when there isn’t even the tiniest chance of snow or frost.
Caladium bulbs can’t sprout if the temperature drops during the night, which is why checking your temperatures for at least a week or more before planting is important.
The Right Temperature
Once temperatures are consistently above 65℉ at night (18 degrees Celsius), I know it’s getting warm enough to plant my caladium bulbs. However, I still prefer to be cautious, and I usually start by potting my caladium bulbs and keep the pots inside if it looks like a cooler night.
If I choose to plant them outside, I check the soil temperature for a few days. You can simply take a roasting thermometer and stick it into the soil.
After five minutes, you have your reading, which should be 65-70℉ (18-24 degrees Celsius),.
When the soil is cold, any tubers you planted will remain dormant, or if they have contact with water, they can begin to rot. Be sure to only plant in warm soil and water sparingly.
The Right Planting Mix
I prefer a potting mix that is well-draining, like the kind used for annuals, to ensure the bulbs grow well. If I plant in the garden, I mix the soil with fertilizer at a ratio of 1 to 3.
One part being a fertilizer. I also add a bit of bone meal at the bottom part of the planting area to nourish the roots.
For better growth and early sprouting, I prefer a slightly more acidic potting mix. Caladium bulbs sprout better at a pH of 5.5 to 6.5.
The Right Humidity
When you plant your caladium bulbs, you want to ensure they have sufficient moisture to grow without them being drowned. Water the soil well and ensure efficient humidity to avoid drying the soil quickly.
I have tried a pebble tray humidifier to help keep my caladium bulbs happy, but I have also had great success by simply wrapping the pot in plastic, creating a little heated dome for humidifying action.
How To Plant Caladium Bulbs For Quick Sprouting
Once the potting mix is ready in a well-draining pot or the soil has been prepared in your garden bed, you can examine your caladium bulb.
When holding it in your hand, you will notice it has a flatter end and knobbly bits on the other side. Place the bulb in the container or in the planting hole in the ground with the flat side facing downward.
The knobbly bits are the planting nodes that will sprout first, so you want them facing upward to ensure the bulb sprouts sooner.
If you are unsure, or you have a particularly twisty bulb, you can place the bulb on its side so it can sprout towards the light.
Ensure you plant the bulbs no more than two inches into the soil as any deeper will delay the sprouting process.
This also allows the bulbs to be in the uppermost layer of soil that is usually warmest, which encourages sprouting. Water when the soil seems dried out, and maintain a steady humidity level.
Frequently Asked Questions about How Long it Takes for Caladium Bulbs to Sprout
How do you prepare the soil for caladium bulbs?
Caladium bulbs sprout best when planted about two inches deep. This allows heat to reach them and they are close enough to encourage the sprouting process. If you are in a cooler climate, you can add mulching to ensure the soil stays damp and encourage heat retention. Fertilize sparingly beyond the initial mix and add bone meal to help encourage root growth. You can also add a dash of Epsom salts for a magnesium boost to the tubers as they grow. Simply dissolve some in the water you will be giving, but take care not to overdo it.
Should I soak caladium bulbs before planting?
It isn’t necessary to soak caladium bulbs in water before planting. Instead, ensure they have sufficient heat and humidity. Water sparingly to promote growth and limit the chances of your bulbs rotting.
Why are my caladium bulbs not sprouting?
If the soil temperature is too cold or there’s too much soil moisture, your bulbs will not sprout. In extreme colds, the bulbs can suffer cell death, and in soggy conditions, the chances of rot increase. Bulbs that are planted too deeply will also struggle to sprout as they will be too far from their heat source (the sun) and too deep to get that heat boost they need to grow.
What happens when caladium bulbs are planted upside down?
I’ve definitely had a few bulbs that accidentally ended up being planted “face-down” before. They will still grow, but it takes them an extra week or two as their sprouts need to navigate further to grow around the bulb towards the sun.
The Final Sprouting
I enjoy planting my caladium bulbs after a long winter. There’s something magical about placing the tubers in the soil, closing them with mulching, and whispering, “Grow, baby, grow.”
You can also ensure sprouting success by following my simple guide: Make sure there’s sufficient heat, the soil is damp, and at the right pH.
Use fertilizer sparingly and add some bone meal to produce great caladiums.
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.