Caladiums are ‘amenable’ plants because they grow relatively quickly and prolifically — and they are very attractive and make borders and beds quite beautiful.
They are also quite easy to propagate. What else could you ask for in a plant?
How to Propagate a Caladium?
Caladiums are tuberous plants and are propagated by unearthing the root system and separating the small tubers from the main ones. These can be cut so that each piece does have a growth point, or they can be treated whole. The tubers are planted directly into damp soil. They must be about 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) below the surface and about 9-12 inches (20-30cm) apart.
How to Plant a Caladium Tuber
Prepare the pot, border, or bed by loosening the soil, digging some compost into it, and fertilizing as necessary.
Make holes that are about 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) deep and about 9-12 inches (20-30 cm) apart. Put one tuber in each hole.
Cover the tubers with the soil and tamp them down slightly. Do not compact the soil and make it too hard, because it must remain relatively loose and well-drained.
Water the tubers thoroughly, but then leave them for a few days for the water to drain away before watering again. The soil should be damp and never sopping wet, or the tubers may rot.
What Caladiums are
Caladiums are plants with attractive leaves that complement just about any other plant. They’re often used in arrangements or bouquets.
Sometimes, Caladiums produce a single flower that is similar to an arum lily. It is the leaves that provide color for the whole season, though.
Caladiums are tuberous plants, which means that they grow from a single, fleshy swollen root. Each tuber has a large central part, which is surrounded by smaller swollen buds.
A tuber can be split by removing these smaller buds. Each of these can be planted out.
Some plants, like the Caladium, do not have an intricate root system, with main roots and thinner ones that branch off. They have a thick central organ that has either one, or several growth spots.
From these, thin roots grow downwards, or shoots grow upwards, to break the surface and become stems.
In my experience, a tuber left in a dark cupboard can also begin to grow from the eyes. I do not necessarily recommend this as a method of propagating your Caladium, but it may be an interesting experiment to try.
Tubers contain a lot of stored energy, so many are grown as food (such as potatoes and yams). Some are cultivated for their beautiful flowers (such as dahlias), or their attractive leaves (such as Caladiums).
It is the energy in the tuber that feeds the Caladium as it grows.
Splitting the Tubers
A plant that grows from a tuber does not usually do well when grown from a cutting, because the tuber is the key to its growth.
Taking a cutting means taking a bit of the stem of a plant. With a Caladium, you must effectively take a piece of the tuber and then cultivate that to grow.
This can be done by ‘splitting’ the smaller pieces from the main one. These will be just about whole, except for the part that was attached to the main tuber.
You can choose to keep the small tubers whole, or you can cut them into smaller pieces. Each piece must have an eye or growth point.
Although a Caladium is usually not propagated from a cutting, a leaf can be placed in water and will develop roots.
This will only work If part of the tuber is attached to the base of the leaf, then it is more likely to grow efficiently.
When to Plant the Bulbs or Cuttings
Caladiums need well-drained soil that is kept quite moist, but they must not become water-logged, or the tubers can rot. They are also sensitive to cold soil.
Do not plant them while the ground is still frozen, because frozen soil contains a lot of ice. As the weather warms up and the ground thaws, the tubers in will be surrounded by more water than they need and will eventually rot.
Rather wait for the warmer weather to begin before planting out the tubers.
Places to Grow Caladiums
Caladiums can be grown in pots, or in borders or beds. They can be grown quite close together. Because they are tubers, though, which develop as they grow, do not plant them too close together.
Do not choose a shady spot to plant the Caladium.
Caladiums are described as being ‘foliage plants’, which grow better in particular soils. This means that you should ensure the soil in your garden is healthy and well-drained.
If you are going to plant the tubers or cuttings into pots, then pay particular attention to the soil that you use. These, and similar foliage plants, grow best in particularly rich soil, rather than ordinary soil, which may contain insects, foreign seeds, and even diseases.
Potting soil mixtures can be bought from your local nursery or garden shop. Keep the mix quite loose in the pot, so that the plant can be well-drained.
Frequently Asked Questions about How to Propagate a Caladium
Can I grow a Caladium from a cutting?
Caladiums do not have the same root system as plants that will easily sprout roots from a cutting in water. They grow from a tuberous root, which is a fat root that sits underground and is the center of all growth. However, if you do take a cutting, or a leaf, that has a little of the tuber attached, it can grow just like a cutting: in water and then in the ground.
When should I plant my Caladium tuber?
Caladiums are quite sensitive to cold, so you should only plant out the tubers in early spring. Definitely do not plant them when the ground is still frozen, because the water will cause them to rot when it thaws.
Propagating Caladiums is an ongoing process. As long as the plant remains healthy, the tuberous roots will continue to produce smaller tubers, that you can separate and plant to propagate new Caladiums.
Indeed, they’re the plant that loves giving all it’s got!
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.