The Caladium flower is a representative of the flora of the hot American tropics, but for growing at home in our apartments it is good from all sides: decorative and very unpretentious. However, care should be taken in handling it – the juice of most varieties is poisonous and easily causes allergic reactions in humans. An edible species is also found among its representatives, which is used at home to obtain starch from massive rhizomes.
The people gave the plant caladium apt nickname “elephant ears”, which most accurately reflects the appearance of its leaves. And if you look at the photo of caladium flowers in tropical conditions, then the similarity will be complemented by their very impressive sizes.
General description with photo
Caladium belongs to the Aroid family. The origin of this plant is from the rainforests that grow along the shores of the Amazon in Brazil. Under natural conditions, it is a very large perennial, reaching 5 meters in height at maturity. In Brazil, the plant is valued for its high starch content, but for our homes it has a decorative value, like other tropical large plants. The plant has very beautiful multi-colored leaves with unique patterns of colored spots, curly veins, edges and unexpected contrasting transitions from one tone to another. The color palette varies in white, beige-silver, fawn, pink-raspberry tones, as well as in all variations of green.
The leaves really resemble elephant ears in shape, heart-shaped, pointed, but they can have different variations in different species – more oval, pointed or elongated. The flowers of this plant, like all members of the family, are inconspicuous and do not represent any particular decorative value. In shape, these are inflorescences in the form of cobs, covered with a pale white-greenish blanket.
Home-grown caladiums are mostly hybrids bred by breeders by crossing different natural species.
Consider the rules for planting caladium for the case when you need to do this, having a ready-made tuber.
Choosing a pot
The size of the container is important, it should be twice as large as the tuber itself. Often, two or more pieces of rhizome are planted in one pot. The calculation here will be as follows: for two tubers, a container with a diameter of 10 cm is selected, for a larger quantity, 15 cm and more in direct proportion to the amount of planting material per container.
The lower drainage layer is mandatory, for which you can choose medium-fraction materials (pebbles, broken brick, etc.). On top of it, sand is poured, preferably coarse river sand. The soil mixture is poured onto the sand in a slide and slightly moistened. After that, a depression is made in the center of the poured slide, into which a little sand is poured, and then the tuber is laid in the same way in order to immerse only a third of it. After that, everything is covered with the remaining soil.
Planting rule: to distill a large amount of greenery, the root is buried deeper, but if the goal is to obtain more planting material, the tuber is laid more superficially.
Care before root formation
The fundamental factor in this stage of growing caladium at home is good drainage and the right temperature. It should be high enough, in the region of + 24 … + 29C. It is better to cover the pot with plastic or glass, so as not to block the light and create tropical greenhouse conditions. Watering is carried out every 2-3 days, simultaneously with the ventilation of the container.
Life cycle, transplant
To properly care for this culture, you need to know its life cycles. Caladium is a seasonal plant that grows actively from the second half of spring to early fall. After that, its leaves begin to dry out and fall off. This means that a period of dormancy begins, and it is necessary to provide the necessary conditions for it. For this, secluded darkened places are well suited. You can, for example, remove the pot under the bed, or place it in a dark closet or closet. However, you should not forget about it, since it needs discreet but regular hydration.
With the onset of spring, the plant must be taken out of a secluded place, the tubers must be removed and examined. They should not have sore spots and other signs of trouble. If diseased or dead areas are found, they must be carefully cut out and the cut sites must be disinfected with charcoal or activated charcoal. Next, a transplant is performed, which should be annual.
The fresh substrate is mixed with a small amount of charcoal, and then the tubers are immersed in it based on their size (immersion is performed to a depth corresponding to their diameter). Abundant moisture is produced and the pot is placed in a darkened place again – the plant likes to wake up gradually. From above, the container is covered with a bag until the first shoots appear from the ground. After that, the shelter is immediately removed, and the pot is transferred to its usual place.
Further care of Caladium
Focusing on the tropical conditions of natural growth of the plant, the following recommendations should be adhered to.
Heat and moisture are the main conditions for flower growth, however, lighting, although it should be sufficient, is not direct. Culture does not tolerate hot midday rays categorically. In nature, the plant is located in the middle tropical tier and is provided with flickering light. It is recommended to choose either western or eastern (southwest, southeast) window sills, or near the south window behind a light transparent curtain. It does not tolerate a flower and drafts – they do not exist in places of its natural growth.
“Elephant ears” is a “frozen” plant, the room should be warm, the thermometer should not fall below + 16C, but it is better that it is located from +20 and above. For this reason, as well as due to the intolerance of drafts, it is not recommended to take the flower pot out into the street or onto the balcony even in summer.
Watering and humidity rules
The air humidity must be kept at a high level. In dry rooms, especially if they have an air conditioner, you need to regularly spray the leaves with a spray bottle. Watering during the active growing season should be frequent and abundant (remember about drainage), especially in the heat. Lack of moisture in the soil or air will immediately affect the decorative effect of the leaves. Ideally, the plant will do great when creating a fog effect. However, you cannot overdo it with spraying, because large drops of water will dry on the leaves for a long time and leave ugly marks on them.
With the onset of autumn and with the first signs of wilting of the foliage, watering is reduced, and spraying is completely excluded. As soon as the plant is immersed in a state of dormancy, watering is also stopped. However, periodically you need to inspect the pot and do not let the soil dry out to a dry coma. At this time, it is best to moisten the soil with a spray bottle. From the moment you wake up, you should be very careful with watering, because the process proceeds gradually and the plant does not need a large amount of moisture.
Make sure that the air flow from the convector is never directed towards the caladium.
Caladium is responsive to mineral supplements containing three main elements – phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen. The recommended time for fertilization is the active growing season, once a month is enough.
To the above, you can add that the tuber can winter without soil, for this it is carefully dug up and stored in a moderately warm and moderately lit place, periodically sprinkling not to a wet state, but only to maintain life so that it does not dry out completely.
Reproduction of Caladium
There are three ways to reproduce a flower at home.
Over time, daughter nodules are formed on the rhizome, which can be separated and planted during transplantation. They are not too pronounced, like in bulbous plants, therefore, after their separation, small wounds remain on the main tuber, which must be treated with any antiseptic, which is suitable for brilliant green, wood ash or crushed activated carbon. After the trail from the branch dries up, you can carry out a transplant.
By dividing the rhizome
Only adults, very large and healthy rhizomes are suitable for this method. You should know that this is a rather risky method, since it is fraught with rotting of the entire plant. To cut the rhizome, a sharp, sterile knife or a garden pruner is taken, which is used to separate the “folds”, ie. in the narrowest places (growers say – on the “knee”). The best time for this is March, the time for forcing young shoots. All sections must be treated with charcoal. After planting in the substrate, the container is covered with a film and left alone, periodically moistening the ground and airing. Seedlings should appear in 2-3 weeks.
Each tuber cut must have at least one growth point, and it must be fresh.
You can collect the seeds yourself, or you can buy them. You should be prepared for the fact that in the first case, the color of the leaves in young plants may differ from the parent specimen, and very significantly. They are sown in a mixture of high-moor peat with leafy soil, you can add a little sand, or you can use a ready-made substrate for herbaceous indoor flowering crops. Planting time is early spring. A dozen seeds are buried in each container at the rate of about 50% germination. Further, according to the usual scheme, you need to cover the pot with polyethylene and wait for shoots, which should also appear after 2-3 weeks. It is necessary to moisten the substrate as soon as it dries.
The subtleties of growing caladium
- In no case should the leaves of this plant be wiped from dust, it is better to arrange a warm shower for it, and then make sure that there are no large drops on the leaf plates (shake off). If you wipe the leaves with a sponge or cloth, brown, ugly spots may appear on them.
- It is highly undesirable to water the tuber with a direct stream from above. You need to pour water along the edge of the container.
- You always need to work with a flower with gloves, since its juice is poisonous and easily causes allergic reactions. Keep out of the reach of children, who may be attracted by the colorful view, and pets.
- The plant is susceptible to late blight disease. It is extremely problematic to treat it, therefore it is best to take preventive measures and process it with appropriate means once a year.
- Caladium loves acidic soils.
- Keep the leaves dry.
Caladium has medicinal properties and is used by Brazilian natives in folk medicine, as well as by homeopaths in the fight against allergic diseases. However, self-medication with the help of this plant material is highly discouraged due to the fact that all its parts contain poisonous juice and require competent and extremely careful handling.