Note: These are my opinions and experiences, I am no expert and I have not been paid or incentivised to share my thoughts and reviews of any sellers, products or people mentioned in this post.
2020, like for many, sparked a new joy of indoor houseplants for me.Previously I dabbled with growing my own vegetables, herbs, collect succulents and cacti, and more recently more tricky tropical leafy plants.
The thing that really inspires me is mixing and matching leaves and leaf colours and shapes around my house. So rewind to Spring 2020 and Caladiums started to pop up everywhere on my social media. I had never seen anything like it before. Leaves as big as heads, in vibrant or completely understated colours, grown as bushy houseplants, really adding an exotic flair to any room.
As I love the process of growing something, I did not just want to buy a grown plant (let’s be honest I was way too slow to actually manage to secure a grown plant, these sold like hot cakes!) I cannot remember how I found them, probably out of despair, but I discovered you could buy bulbs from Farmer Gracy and I bought a Florida Moonlight and a Carolyn Whorton. They couldn’t be more opposite looking plants.
While nerve wrecking I really enjoyed growing them from bulbs. I might talk about how I did that in the spring next year to document my process but this article helped me loads.
Now for overwintering. Caladiums can survive winter especially with extra mulching in hardiness zones USDA 9 and H3 in the UK. The Royal Horticultural Society has a hardiness zones guide here. But I have not tried this, even though I am technically around that hardiness zone near the coastline. Maybe next year.
Caladium’s are perennials, which just means they can last for many years. When their environment becomes less ideal, meaning they get less light and it is getting colder, they start to die back and become dormant. If you had them outdoors, you need to either dig them up before the first frost or if they were in pots bring them indoors. (Or check your hardiness zone and mulch them and wait for them to come back in the spring).
But overall you actually don’t have to do a lot for over wintering, if you don’t want to. You could just enjoy the smaller leaves until they stop coming up. Once the plant appears to be dormant, change your watering to only water them very sparingly, you want to avoid the tuber sitting in water and rotting and move the pot out of the way. I suggest getting a water meter to monitor the moisture in the pot. But I have heard you could also use wooden stick, and if it comes out clean without earth stuck to it, the soil is dry.
If you leave the tuber in the soil, I would also move the pot to a darker place with consistent low temperature. I would not move it outside but somewhere where the temp is no lower than 12 degrees celsius. Caladiums are sensitive to frost, so avoid leaving them outside in the winter unless you have very mild winters. Somewhere like a garage might be ideal or a shed – providing it doesn’t get too cold.
The other option is to remove the tuber and store it, which takes up less space and frees up a pot for another plant. To do this, cut back any leaves, and dig up the tuber.
Now remove any leftover stems and leave the tuber to dry for 5-7 days. I place it on normal kitchen roll or newspaper and leave it out of the sun on my shelves in the living room. Once dry you can brush off any soil and store the tuber.
For this you could use newspaper, woodchips or sawdust or just again kitchen roll. I like the tuber being slightly elevated to have good airflow around it. You can use a cardboard box or paper bag to store them in. I then place this in my under the stairs cupboard which is dark and cool and most importantly dry, but doesn’t get below 15 degrees, but you could also put them in a garage or shed.
And that’s it. In spring you can replant the tubers again and enjoy another season of stunning foliage. How do you overwinter your Caladiums?