So you want really bright, gaudy leaves? Caladiums are among several related plants called elephant ears due to the large, heart-shaped leaves. Nurseries always used to sell caladiums as tubers in springtime to be planted in shade for summer color. Over time, sales of anything in bulb form have declined to the point that many have stopped carrying them that way. Now you can find them growing in 4-inch pots in early summer.
Like coleus, these give a lot of colorful bang for the buck. The flowers, which are inconsequential, just look like miniature calla lilies (caladiums and callas are in the same plant family). And like coleus, they can be grown as houseplants in a bright window. But their real impact is outdoors, and the colorful leaves show off even in fairly heavy shade.
Vibrant leaf of caladium on a bed of chartreuse Ipomoea, providing strong color and contrast in a shade garden. Don Shor/Courtesy photo