Caladium is a genus of plants of the family Araceae. They are often known by the common name elephant ear (which they share with the closely related genera Alocasia, Colocasia, and Xanthosoma), Heart of Jesus, and Angel Wings. There are over 1000 named cultivars of Caladium bicolor from the original South American plant.
The genus Caladium includes seven species, which are indigenous to Brazil and to neighboring areas of South America and Central America. They grow in open areas of the forest and on the banks of creeks and go dormant during the dry season. The wild plants grow to 40-90 cm tall, with leaves mostly 15-45 cm long and broad.
Every August, a festival is held in Lake Placid, Florida, home to a majority of the world's caladium fields. A popular activity is a tour of the fields of caladiums, the product of local growers. Every July since 2003, Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee, Florida, has presented the Florida Caladium Showcase, the largest indoor and outdoor display of the plants, including new varieties.
Cultivation and uses
Several species are grown as ornamental plants for their large, arrowhead-shaped leaves marked in varying patterns in white, pink, and red (somewhat resembling the unrelated coleus) and have been in cultivation in Europe since the late 1700s. The two forms most widely cultivated are called "fancy-leaved" and "lance-leaved". The former is the more commonly seen and is the traditional caladium of cultivation; the leaves are more heart-shaped. The latter has more lance-head-shaped leaves. Most Caladiums in cultivation grow to about 60 cm high and 60 cm wide, although dwarf varieties are now in cultivation.
Numerous cultivars have been selected, most of them (over 120) derived from C. bicolor. The lance-leaved varieties are also derived from C. schomburgkii.
Caladiums grow from corms and can be propagated by dividing the tubers. They are hardy only to USDA plant hardiness zone 10; in colder areas, they are typically grown as tender bulbs or as houseplants.
During their growing season, they need a great deal of water and should not be allowed to dry out. Most varieties prefer partial to full shade, although sun-resistant varieties are now in cultivation. Approximately 98% of all caladium bulbs are from Lake Placid, FL
In temperate areas, they should be lifted before the first frost. The corms are dried and stored for the winter when temperatures fall to 18°C, and stored moderately dry (not bone-dry) over the winter at temperatures between 13 °C and 16 °C.
All parts of the plant are poisonous. They should not be ingested and may irritate sensitive skin.
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