Caladiums are tuber-rooted tropical perennials grown for their large and showy leaves. Caladiums have no stems; the leaves are borne on long leaf stems that arise directly from the underground tuber. The caladium inflorescence (flower) is normally about 9 inches long with a greenish white spadix and spathee (the fleshy upright spike and "bloom"). The many cultivars of caladium were developed from the wild Caladium bicolor that grows naturally in tropical South American forests that have pronounced wet and dry seasons. Outdoors, caladiums should be planted in well drained, humus rich soil with a slightly acid pH. Successful gardeners dig the tubers in autumn and store in a cool 55-60F, dry place until replanting 4-5 months later in spring. Caladiums need lots of water during their growing season. Water them 2 or 3 times a week. They do poorly in dry climates. The dormant tubers, however, must be kept dry. Caladiums are propagated by division of the tubers. Tubers should be cut into pieces with at least two buds each in spring, at the end of the dormant period just before they are replanted. Caladiums also can be grown from seed, but these may or may not produce plants like the parent.
The leaves have a large variety of shapes, sizes and color mixture variations. At least one thousand named Caladium cultivars exist, mostly with lance or heart shaped leaves. The majority you today are hybridized forms and are grown in Florida where there are farms that grow nothing other than caladiums.
Caladium rubicundrum - rare evergreen species with 20-30" leaves. See "Caladium festival in Lake Placid" .