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Grow Caladium Bulbs, Elephant’s Ear Outdoors

Written by WG on May 21st, 2009

Last week we discussed how best to grow caladium bulbs indoors, so this week we are going to go over some tips on how to best grow them outdoors.

How To Grow Caladium Bulbs, Elephant’s Ear – Outdoors

General Information:

Although some people may call them bulbs, Caladium bicolor (C. x hortulanum) are actually tubers that originated in South America.

Hundreds of cultivars have been developed offering heart or arrow-shaped leaves that are veined, edged, or mottled in almost endless variations of pink, red, green, white, silver, and mixed color.

Caladium leaves, which can grow up to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm) long, provide a tropical feel to any yard or garden, which can give a stunning look to decks, patios, and pool or spa areas.

Because they are from South America, caladiums do best in hot, humid climates and are hardy to grow outdoors year-round only in very warm climates like Hawaii, or a Zone 10.

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them in your yard – you most definitely can – but you will have to think of them as a summer plant.

Two Ways To Grow Caladium Outdoors

Because they are sensitive to cooler temperatures, you can grow caladium either:

1. In the ground outdoors

2. In pots outdoors

If you decide to grow them in the ground, you will have to dig them up and store them over winter, which is fast and easy to do, and worth the few minutes of time because these plants are so showy for months.

If you grow them in pots outdoors, you will need to move them indoors over the cold weather months, but more on that in a minute.

Light Requirements

Most caladium require bright shade, although a few newer varieties can tolerate some sun including:

‘Fire Chief’

‘Rose Bud’

‘Red Flash’

‘White Queen’

Basic Outdoor Requirements

Caladiums need rich soil, high humidity, and heat above 70° F (21° C) during the day and warm night temperatures of 60° F (16° C) or warmer.

To Grow Caladium In The Ground – Outdoors

Caladium tubers need warm temperatures to do well, so wait until the spring weather in your area is stable and above 70° F (21° C) consistently.

You can always start the tubers indoors about 2 months before you know the outdoor temperatures will be 70° F (21° C) or warmer.

1. Start the tubers in trays of moist peat moss or vermiculite by pressing the tubers 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) deep in the growing media. Place them with the knobby side up.

2. Keep the trays between 75° F and 85° F (24° to 29° C)

3. When leaves start to appear, transplant them into 4 inch (10 cm) peat pots that can later be set directly into the ground in your garden.

To Start Caladium Directly In The Ground

1. Plant tubers in the spring in an area that gets bright shade. Deep shade will produce weak and spindly growth.

2. Place them with the knobby side up so their tops are level with the soil surface.

3. Protect them from snails and slugs.(read our Definitive Organic Guide on How To Kill Snails and Slugs).

4. To encourage continuous production of new leaves and bright-colored foliage, give caladiums regular water, and feed lightly every two weeks throughout the growing season.

5. You can use a balanced soluble fertilizer like a 5-5-5 or a 10-10-10, but nearer the fall, use a 5-10-5 fertilizer to help the bulb store up more energy for its winter dormancy.

6. Cut back dead leaves in the fall. Where freezing weather is likely, dig the tubers out of the ground; remove most of the soil and dry the tubers for several days in a shaded, dry location.

7. Store in dry peat moss at 50° to 60° F (10° to 16° C)

To Grow Caladium In Pots – Outdoors

1. Start tubers in pots in the spring.

2. Use a soil mix made from equal parts of coarse sand, compost, and ground bark or ground peat moss.

3. Use a 5 inch (12.5 cm) pot for a 2-1/2 inch (3.75 cm) tuber, or a 7 inch (17.5 cm) pot for one to two large tubers.

4. Fill halfway with the soil mix; and stir in a few generous pinches of bulb fertilizer like a 5-10-5.

5. Add one more inch (2.5 cm) soil, place the tuber on top and cover with 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of soil.

6. Water in and keep moist until the tubers spout.

7. Give regular water and fertilizer the same way as mentioned above for growing caladium in the ground.

Problems: Low light will cause weak growth. Dry air or cool drafts can cause the leaves to yellow and die.


1. Always remove any flowers since they drain the tuber of its energy

2. Remove all dead leaves at dormancy

3. If you plant the tubers upside down, they will grow large quantities of smaller leaves which can be beautiful

4. Aphids and spider mites can be possible problems

In The Fall

At the end of summer, or after 6 to 8 months of growth, caladiums will start to look stringy and tired. That’s your cue to stop watering them, and put them in full shade to induce a dormancy period.

When the leaves die back, cut them off. You can store the tubers either loose in peat moss or vermiculite, or you can leave them in their pots.

Either way, keep them at room temperature or slightly cooler, but never cooler than 50° F (C) during the winter months. You don’t want to let them get too cold during the winter because these are tropical plants that like warm conditions.

When new shoots start to show in the spring – if you left them in their pots – start watering them again.

If you dug them up, plant them back outdoors again.


If you want a tropical plant in your yard this summer, try caladiums because they are easy to grow and are endless in their color combinations and varieties.

Plus – with the above information, you have all you need to grow them successfully!


For more Gardening Tips and Gardening Advice visit our main gardening website at Weekend Gardener Monthly Web Magazine –

Have great week!


1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Mohsin says:

    I love caladium bulbs- so thanks so much for this 🙂

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