The Caladiums

CAL Mix 0003
Two contrasting Caladiums: ‘Strapleaf Miss Muffet’ and ‘Strapleaf Red Ruffles’

We grow Caladiums for two major reasons. First is their ability to brighten up dark corners with flashes of red, white, or green and interesting patterns of red, white, and/or pink. Every property seems to have at least one of these dark spots, and the unexpected color catches your eye as you come across it. This example is Caladium’s most famous trait.

Our second reason for growing Caladium is its tropical look, like a small forest of elephant ears when we plant several in a stand. In a way, this is performance art in the garden because the plants tremble and shimmy with the smallest breeze. Actually, the look is more versatile than it appears because in the Midwest Caladiums can move into partial and light shade, and some cultivars can handle a lot of sun.

CAL Sizzle 05
‘Sizzle’ nestled among a bed of Begonia ‘Super Olympia White’


Caladiums originally grew in the jungle, in the deep shade underneath taller trees. As a result, all Caladiums can handle low-light situations, such as an interior of a corporate lobby, the north side of tall buildings, or wide areas with a dense number of trees. For these settings we recommend varieties with strong colors to their leaves, such as ‘Moonlight’ (our whitest white), ‘Fannie Munson’ (our reddest red), or ‘Carolyn Whorton’ (a heavy dose of pink in two tones). 

CAL Carolyn Whorton
‘Carolyn Whorton’ has two tones of pink—dark veins and light speckles

However, the plants evolved under a tropical sun, which is intense. In the Ohio River Valley we are halfway up the globe so our sunlight isn’t as harsh. As a result, most Caladiums can handle a lot of sun in our area without a problem. As long as they get a good chunk of shade during the day, they are good to go.

CAL White Queen 0004
A stand of ‘White Queen’ at Field Day


In fact, we can say from personal experience that a number of Caladiums can handle full Cincinnati sun. We’ve been growing Caladiums for over a decade, so we have a short list of cultivars that we can move into most any garden. If you run up against a Caladium you don’t recognize, a rough rule-of-thumb is the leaf thickness. Those with thicker, more substantial leaves fare better than the ones with thin and delicate foliage.

  • ‘Aaron’
  • ‘Carolyn Whorton’
  • ‘Frog in a Blender’
  • ‘Strapleaf Gingerland’
  • ‘Strapleaf Miss Muffet’
  • ‘Strapleaf Pink Gem’
  • ‘Strapleaf Red Ruffles’
  • ‘Red Flash’
  • ‘White Queen’

CAL Moonlight 02
Ghostly ‘Moonlight’—a pale creamy green with light, delicate veins


Caladium offers a tropical look in miniature because it resembles its larger cousins, Alocasia and Colocasia. These plants make natural companions for each other since the huge elephant leaves of one provide shade to the tiny elephant ears of the other.

We also like to combine Caladium with other low-growing staples like Begonias or Impatiens, using the unusual patterns as punctuation points through the design. Smaller Caladiums nestle among the flowers, whereas taller ones shake their leaves above the bed.

CAL Strapleaf Gingerland 09
‘Strapleaf Gingerland’ shows a much thinner leaf

Shaking is the third technique we like to use. As we mentioned above, in a stand Caladium turns into a type of performance art with the wind as a co-creator. A patch of Caladium rustles, shakes, and turns its leaves as small breezes blow through a location. One plant by itself is not an impressive specimen, but a little forest of Caladium does the trick. In garden beds we find that five to seven pots, planted about 10 inches apart, are sufficient.

CAL Aaron 09
We recommend ‘Aaron’ for sun plantings

When designing with Caladiums remember that these are walk-by plants, best viewed up close along a walkway, at the edge of a shady bed, or lining a path among the shade trees and shrubs.

In container work, Caladium grows well in baskets, troughs, boxes, and planters. Thin-leaf varieties are especially good in smaller containers since they don’t overgrow the pot. Soil temperatures are usually hotter in summer containers, which suits the plants just fine. If you are asked about wintering them over, they go dormant but they need to be protected in a garage or basement. Caladium is not hardy in our area.

CAL Spring Fling 09
‘Spring Fling’ is one of the reddest Caladiums we sell


Once the heat kicks in these plants take off, so deploy them as a summer treat rather than to greet the spring. They love hot and humid summers, a climate we’re familiar with around here. Caladiums don’t grow until soil temperatures reach around 65°F—they sulk if the soil is too cool. For reference, this is about the same temperature we aim for when planting tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants in the vegetable garden. 

CAL White Queen 011
‘White Queen’ next to Begonia ‘Whopper’

Please note: these plants require a decent bed. Caladiums are not pioneer plants in any sense of the word, so they expect the good soil and regular water routine found in most landscaping beds. For the home garden, those dark spots by the garage or back door often have neglected soil that needs improvement first.

You can see Caladium success with your own eyes. If you find spindly plants, they are probably starving due to lean soil or soggy puddles. Standing water rots out the roots, leading to a similar result.


Caladiums come in two leaf shapes: a larger heart shape and a smaller, more slender strap style. As a general rule, the rounder leaves are on larger plants, growing about 24 inches tall, whereas the strap leaf style grows lower at 12 inches tall—about half the height of the rounded varieties.


  • ‘Candidum’ (a little more cream in the white with green veins)
  • ‘Candidum Junior’ (a dwarf white with green veins)
  • ‘Moonlight’ (pure white)—NEW
  • ‘White Wing’ (white with green edges)—NEW
  • ‘White Queen’ (white with red stain)
  • ‘White Christmas’ (white with green veins)

CAL Red Ruffles 02
‘Strapleaf Red Ruffles’ has small leaves with tight ruffles


  • ‘Fannie Munson’ (bright red with green speckling at margins)
  • ‘Freida Hemple’ (red with green margin blending in, looks like a smaller leaf)
  • ‘Royal Flush’ (red with heavy green margin, thicker-looking leaves)
  • ‘Sizzle’ (red with dark red veins)—NEW
  • ‘Spring Fling’ (red with black veins)
  • ‘Stapleaf Red Ruffles’ (heavily ruffled lance-shaped leaf of dark red with green margins)

CAL Frog In A Blender 09
‘Frog in a Blender’—whoever thought up this name needs an award


  • ‘Frog in a Blender’ (variegated)
  • ‘Red Flash’ (light speckles with red veins)
  • ‘Strapleaf Gingerland’ (lance-shaped leaf with red spots across creamy veins)
  • ‘Strapleaf Miss Muffet’ (lance-shaped leaf of light green with red freckles)

CAL Brandywine 01
‘Brandywine’ has intricate tracings across the leaf


 For some Caladiums, the pattern is more important than a specific color.

  • ‘Brandywine’ (heavy red webbing)
  • ‘Carolyn Whorton’ (pink splotches with heavy red veins)
  • ‘Pink Beauty’ (two tones of light pink splotches)
  • ‘Seafoam Pink’ (pink splotches gathered in the center)
  • ‘Strapleaf Pink Gem’ (ruffled lance-shaped leaf of light pink with heavy red veins)

CAL Candidum Junior 09
A stand of ‘Candidum Junior’