FAQs on everything Caladiums

When your bulbs arrive, it is important to open the boxes right away so that the bulbs can get fresh air.  Please do not leave them closed up in their boxes.  They will create their own heat inside the boxes resulting in them sweating and possibly rotting.  

It is our goal, to ship the bulbs to you at the ideal time for planting in your area.  However, the weather is not always predictable.  If the bulbs arrive prior to your temperatures being ideal for planting, you will need to store them in a warm area, 70° F or above, until it is time to plant them.  They will need to be kept warm and ventilated.  The warmer the temperatures the better. 

Caladiums will grow in all conditions ranging from full shade to full sun.  It is true that some varieties prefer to be planted in shadier conditions because their leaves are more delicate and will sunburn easily while others are happy when planted in the shade or full sun.  We have noted the ideal sun tolerance for each variety here on the website to assist you in choosing the perfect varieties for your plantings.   The varieties listed as “full sun” will perform well when planted in full sun conditions because they have a heartier leaf.  These “full sun” varieties will also perform well in shade and partial sun conditions.  If you are planning your planting for a shady area, you are free to choose any variety of caladium, as all of them will perform well in the shade.

Planting white and light-colored caladiums in areas of deep shade will beautifully illuminate and brighten those dark areas of your landscaping.

Caladiums originated in the Amazon and are tropical summer bulbs.  For outdoor planting, bulbs should be planted when all chance of frost has passed, the night temperatures are 65° F or above and the soil is warm to the touch.  Please remember that caladium bulbs are summer bulbs, not spring bulbs.  Planting your bulbs too early, when the night and day temperatures are not warm enough, will result in a longer period of dormancy as well as small leaves with slow, stunted, erratic growth.  Severe cold damage could cause the bulbs to rot.  The warmer the temperatures of your days and nights, the more quickly you will see growth.

Caladium bulbs have a top and a bottom.  The top is usually more “hairy” and rounded with the eyes where your leaves will emerge.  The bottom is typically more flat and bald.  If you are unable to determine which side is the top, do not fret, the bulbs will grow fine even if you plant them upside down.

Happiness Farms Caladium bulbs top and bottom views
Happiness Farms Caladium bulbs top and bottom views

If you start your bulbs in pots, these pots could be planted or sunk right into your landscaping. This will allow you to easily harvest the bulbs in their pots when fall arrives. After the first cold spell knocks back the leaves, you will be able to pull up the entire pot and store it in a warm area, above 65° F, for the winter. The pots may be stacked and put out of sight, out of mind until you bring them out the next summer and start watering them again. The same storage tactic may be used for any containerized caladium plantings.

Yes, you need to plant all of your bulbs the summer you receive them. They need a growing season and a period of dormancy each year in order to be viable and healthy for planting the following season. Caladiums naturally go into dormancy in the winter months, even in warm climates.

No, caladiums bulbs do not multiply and will not spread and take over your garden. It is natural for your caladium bulbs to get smaller each year rather than larger. The life span of a caladium bulb is typically around 3 years. Usually, your 2nd and 3rd years of growth will be sparser than your 1st year. For this reason, we recommend supplementing your plantings with a few additional bulbs each year to maintain that full look you first had.

We do have those lucky customers that must have the perfect growing conditions for their caladiums, because they report that their bulbs have been beautiful for 5 years or more. We hope you will be one of those lucky customers!

Caladium leaves are great in floral arrangements. A few hours or the day before you want to use them, cut the stems near the ground and put them in a container of water. Allow them to stay in the water for a few hours or overnight. Some of them may go into a wilt. This is why we recommend cutting them early. After a few hours, they will perk back up and be ready for arranging. Use them with other foliage or by themselves. They will stay beautiful for up to 3 weeks.

**Caladium leaves will not do well if stored in a cooler as part of an arrangement. They don’t like to be cold. If you are including them with other flowers that need to be stored cold prior to use or delivery, just add the caladium leaves at the last minute. Click on this link to our blog on Floral Arrangements (with pictures)

Caladium bulbs should be planted with the eyes up, “hair to the air”, with approximately 1 ½” – 2” of soil on top of them because the roots emerge from the top of the bulbs.  Caladiums will grow well in all soil types; however well drained high peat soil is optimal.  If you feel your soil is not ideal, you can incorporate some good potting soil, leaf mold or peat moss into your own soil prior to planting.

Landscape Planting:  The chart below gives our recommended bulb spacing if you wish to have a nice full planting or full border with a mass of continuous color.  For a large bed, we recommend that you plant your bulbs in rows at the distances indicated below and “zig zag” the bulbs to optimize their leaf coverage.

Bulb SizeDiameter
Planting Distance

#1
1 ½” – 2 ½”6″ – 8″ apart
Jumbo
2 ½” – 3 ½”
10″ – 12″ apart

If you prefer your planting to reveal clumps of color rather than a mass of color, or you wish to plant them among other foliage, plant 3-4 #1 sized bulbs or 1-2 Jumbo sized bulbs in each area.  These clumps should give you nice sized pops of color in your landscaping.

Helpful hint for planting around trees:  It is natural for us to want to plant caladiums around large beautiful trees.  Often these trees are surrounded by lots of roots and not much soil.  In this instance, lay the bulbs on the ground around the tree in the spacing you prefer and then place soil on top of the bulbs.  Remember to make sure there is 1 ½” – 2” of soil over them.

Planting in Pots and Containers:   Caladiums are beautiful in pots, hanging baskets and containers.  As in landscaping, you will need to have 1 ½” – 2” of soil over the bulbs.  The soil depth below the bulb will not need to be deep as the roots emerge from the top of the bulbs.  The chart below shows our recommendation for the number of bulbs to plant in various container sizes.

Pot SizeNumber of Bulbs
6″3 #1 or 1 Jumbo
8″4 #1 or 2 Jumbo
10″5 #1 or 2-3 Jumbo
12″6 #1 or 3 Jumbo

Starting Pots Indoors:  For areas in the north where summer temperatures arrive later in the year, you may wish to start your caladiums indoors in pots and then move them outside once the temperatures have warmed up.  The pots should be kept in a very warm area 70° F or above to encourage them to come out of dormancy.  The warmer the temperatures you are able to provide, the more quickly they will grow.  Once the leaves emerge, make sure they are in an area that gets optimal sunlight until the temperatures are right to move them outdoors. 

As indoor plants, caladiums will tend to grow long “leggy” stems as they reach toward sunlight.  For this reason, we do not recommend them as ideal indoor plants.  However, we have lots of customers who are happy with their indoor results.

Helpful hint for those who plant in pots and containers:  If you start your bulbs in pots, these pots could be planted or sunk right into your landscaping.  This will allow you to easily harvest the bulbs in their pots when fall arrives.  After the first cold spell knocks back the leaves, you will be able to pull up the entire pot and store it in a warm area, above 65° F, for the winter. The pots could be stacked and put out of sight, out of mind until you bring them out the next summer and start watering them again.  The same storage tactic can be used for any containerized caladium plantings.

Water sparingly at first to prevent deterioration.  Once the leaves emerge, water freely taking care not to allow them to sit in saturated soil.   They do not like to be in soggy soil.   Typically, watering every couple of days will be ideal.   Since the leaf mass is so large, it is usually apparent when the plant requires water, because the leaves begin to look droopy. 

We recommend watering your caladiums in the early morning or evenings to prevent the leaves from sun burning.  Water droplets on the leaves during the hot part of the day could be magnified by the sun’s light and essentially burn holes in the leaves. 

Caladiums are not “heavy feeders” and do not require a lot of fertilizer.  If you wish, you can fertilize at the time of planting with a balanced fertilizer such as 6-6-6 or 8-8-8 or a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote or Nutricote.  Miracle-Gro also works well.  Do not fertilize too often, as this can result in the discoloration of your leaves or the possibility of holes in the leaves.  The ideal soil Ph is 5.5 – 6.5.

We recommend giving your caladiums a second fertilization late in the summer after you have started cutting off the “tired looking” and dead leaves.  This will often encourage a second healthy growth of leaves before the fall dormancy.

We do not recommend the use of manure as fertilizer for caladiums.  The ammoniacal form of nitrogen that results from the degradation of the manure can increase the plants’ sensitivity to certain soil diseases, such as Fusarium.

Bulb Sizes

Each order is graded by hand, hand-counted, and hand packed by experienced staff who have been with our family business for decades. We only pack the highest quality caladium bulbs.

We primarily offer quality #1 sized bulbs to our retail customers and sell Jumbo-sized caladiums if available. All our caladiums are of high quality, sized bulbs. Number 1 sized caladiums range from 1 ½” to 2 ½” in diameter. Jumbo-sized bulbs range from 2 ½” – 3 ½” in diameter. Jumbo-sized caladiums are typically in short supply and sell out rapidly.

Caladium bulbs are much like potatoes in the respect that they produce leaves wherever there is an eye. The larger bulb surface of Jumbo bulbs allows them to have more eyes. The greater number of eyes, the greater the number of leaves per bulb. Jumbo bulbs do not necessarily give you larger leaves or taller plants. The variety you choose will determine how large your leaves will be and how tall the plant will get, not the bulb size.

* If your miss the Jumbo specials, don’t let this worry you. Planting 2 #1 sized bulbs will give you the same beautiful display as 1 Jumbo sized bulb.

Happiness Farms Caladium Bulbs Sizes
Happiness Farms Caladium Bulbs Sizes
Happiness Farms Caladiums Leaf Size
Happiness Farms Caladiums Leaf Size

Click on this link for our blog on bulb sizes for additional information

Winter Storage:

At the end of the summer and early fall, when your night temperatures start to cool, caladium plant leaves will start to whither and dry up as they prepare to go into dormancy for the winter.  In areas outside of Florida, you will need to dig up caladium bulbs prior to the first frost.  Allow the leaves to remain intact when you dig them.  Dry the bulbs in a warm ventilated area and then remove the dry dead foliage.  Store the caladium bulbs in a tray, onion sack, paper bag or open box in a ventilated area above 65° F.  Do not close them up in a plastic tub or plastic bag or store them in the refrigerator. 

In Florida and other areas where there is no chance of the ground freezing, you can leave the bulbs in the ground until next summer.  Heavy mulching over the bulbs will help insulate them from the cool winter nights. We also have a blog on Winterizing your Bulbs with even more details on storing your caladium bulbs.