Grow Caladium Plants for Shade Garden Interest

Updated: May 02, 2024

Whether you choose caladium varieties with cool white leaves or brilliant reds and pinks, their foliage adds a real pop to your shade gardens.

Caladium Care and Growing Tips

Caladiums Shade GardensJill Staake

  • Common name: Caladium or angel wings
  • Scientific name: Caladium bicolor
  • Hardiness zones: 9 to 10, annual elsewhere
  • Light needs: Partial sun to partial shade
  • Size: 1 to 2 feet high and wide
  • Soil: Must have well-draining soil or the tubers will rot

When you’re choosing new plants for your garden, chances are it’s usually flowers that catch your eye. But fascinating foliage can be a real asset to your garden too, and tropical caladiums are a terrific example. Their large leaves come in shades of white, pink, red, and combinations of all three. Caladium leaves can be heart-shaped or longer like spears, some with fancy ruffled edges. Best of all, they’re ideal in shade gardens, often the most difficult setting for plants to thrive.

Caladium Tubers

Caladiums Shade GardensJill Staake

Caladiums (Caladium bicolor) are a tropical tuber (though they’re often sold as “bulbs”), native to South America and commonly known as Angel Wings. They thrive in moist humid environments, putting out their large long-lasting leaves quickly when warm wet weather arrives. They rarely flower, instead spreading underground like other tubers, though they aren’t usually considered aggressive.

Grow tropical plants for a lush outdoor oasis.

Caladium Varieties to Grow

Pwheart To Heart Va Va Violet caladiumwww.provenwinners.com
Heart to Heart ‘Va Va Violet’ caladium

In the wild, caladiums vary widely, and horticulturalists have taken advantage of that to produce a variety of cultivars. Dozens of types are available, all well-suited to shade gardens.

I’m particularly fond of the mainly white varieties, as they look particularly lovely in dappled shade. My personal favorites are ‘Moonlight’ and ‘White Delight.’

But if color is what you’re looking for, you’ll find reds and pinks like the Heart to Heart series, ”Freida Hemple’ or ‘Desert Sunset’. Some newer varieties are even able to withstand full sun.

Overwintering Caladiums

fancy-leaved caladiumArkomH/Shutterstock
Fancy-leaved type

If you live in gardening zones 9 to 10, plant your caladiums in full to part shade and allow them to grow naturally. They’ll go dormant during the dryer winter season, and spring back to life when the rains of summer begin. In cooler areas, lift the tubers in the early fall, after the foliage begins to yellow and die. Allow them to dry out in a warm location for a few weeks, remove any remaining foliage, and store in dry peat moss until the soil warms up the following spring.

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