How To Grow And Care For Caladiums

The color and bright leaves make Caladiums easy to love.

'Rose Glow’ Caladium
Photo: Photo by: Ralph Anderson

Caladium leaves create shapes like hearts, arrows, or lances in color combinations of red, pink, rose, white, chartreuse, and green. The brilliant foliage of this classic plant is often translucent, which makes them light up your garden. They've brightened shady spots for generations, but now you have the option of newer selections that can take some direct sun. It is best to plant caladiums after Mother's Day because the soil is warm. Soil that is too cold will rot the bulbs. Caladiums are ideal for new and experienced gardeners because they are easy to grow. Caladiums are great companions for impatiens, begonias, and ferns. However, caladiums are toxic to people and pets.

Plant Attributes

  • Common Name: Caladium, Elephant Ears, Angel Wings
  • Botanical Name: Caladium
  • Family: Araceae
  • Plant Type: Perennial, Tuber
  • Mature Size: 12–30 in. tall, 12–24 in. wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full, Partial
  • Soil Type: Well-drained, Rich
  • Soil pH: Acidic (5.5-6.5)
  • Bloom Time: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Flower Color: Red, Pink, Green, White
  • Hardiness Zones: Zones 9-13 (USDA)
  • Native Area: South America, Central America
  • Toxicity: toxic to people, toxic to pets

Caladium Care

Caladiums originated in South America, so they thrive in warm weather. They're carefree once you cover their basic needs, and the color and bright leaves make Caladiums easy to love. Caladiums are not invasive.


All caladiums love filtered sunlight and shade. These plants should receive at least six to eight hours of sunlight daily. Some newer selections, and caladiums with more narrow leaves, can take more sun.


Caladiums need well-drained soil rich in organic matter, such as mushroom compost or chopped leaves.


Always water caladiums regularly. Keep the soil slightly moist. Add mulch, such as pine straw, to help retain soil moisture and conserve water. If you have caladiums in full sun, don't let them dry out. When caladiums begin to go dormant, you can stop watering until the temperatures increase again in the spring.

Temperature and Humidity

The best humidity for caladiums resembles their native environments, such as Central and South America. Temperatures should remain high and not drop below 60°F at night.


Use a slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote Outdoor & Indoor Smart-Release Plant Food 19-6-12 or a liquid feed such as Miracle-Gro Liquid All Purpose Plant Food 12-4-8.

Types of Caladiums

  • 'Baiman': This variety has ruffled, glossy foliage in a reddish-brown shade. The mature size is smaller than other varieties, making this perfect for containers or indoor plants.
  • 'White Cranberry Star': The mature size of this variety is around 18 to 22 inches. The foliage is white with dark green veins and speckled with pink dots. This variety thrives in hot, humid environments.
  • 'Heart & Soul': Growing to about 20 inches when mature, this variety has heart-shaped, variegated leaves in green, white, pink, and red.


Remove damaged and dead leaves every two or three weeks to prune caladiums. Maintaining healthy soil and watering requirements will help keep caladium leaves bright.

Propagating Caladiums

You can dig up caladium tubers when temperatures drop to save for the following growing season. Dividing these tubers is also the best way to propagate new caladiums. Here's how:

  1. In the spring, dig up caladiums from the ground. (You can also use tubers saved from the previous year if you placed them indoors for the winter.) Dip far enough around the tuber to gently remove it from the soil without disturbing the fleshy root.
  2. Use a sharp knife to cut the tuber, leaving at least one "eye" or knob for every piece—Dry pieces for a few days to allow them to heal by developing a callus on the cut area.
  3. Plant tuber with the "eye" facing upwards in a sunny area with well-draining rich. The "eyes" should be one to two inches below the ground. Supplement the soil with rich, organic matter. Try spacing tubers one foot apart depending on the caladium variety and its expected mature size.


In the Tropical South, you can leave tubers in the ground year-round. In the rest of the South, you'll need to dig them up in early fall if you want to replant next year. Remove any remaining leaves and roots. Let tubers dry in a shaded area for a few days. Place them in dry peat moss to store and keep them in a warm spot (50°F to 60°F) until it's time to replant.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Caladiums are relatively pest and disease-free but susceptible to caterpillars and aphids. Maintaining a healthy soil, sun, and watering balance will help prevent infestations. If you notice marks or holes in the foliage, treat them with insecticidal soap. This treatment should also help avoid mealybugs, mites, thrips, and whiteflies. If only a few pests are present, try removing them by hand. Deer and rabbits occasionally graze on caladiums.

Some diseases that impact caladiums include fungal pathogens that infect the tubers, such as Rhizoctonia and Pythium species. Fungal infections like these, and blight, infect the soil and destroy the tuber.

Common Problems With Caladiums

Drooping Leaves

Occasionally, caladium leaves and stems will bend before dormancy—This is entirely normal if visible on only a few leaves. If all the leaves start to drop, it can signify that the soil is either too dry or wet. Soil that's too dry deprives the plant of nutrients, while the caladium is susceptible to root rot if it is too wet.

Leaves Turning Yellow

There are many reasons why caladium leaves turn yellow. Any change in its regular care routine (water, light exposure, temperature) can cause yellowing. Improperly managed soil can also lead to nutrient deficiency, resulting in yellowing leaves. Depending on the time of the year, caladiums might be experiencing dormancy.

Leaves Turning Brown

Like yellow leaves, an imbalance in care causes caladium leaves to turn brown. This change in leaf color means the soil is too dry, too much sunlight is burning the leaves, the environment is not humid enough, or it is over-fertilized.

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