This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
For some years the culture and keeping of Caladiums were considered difficult; their preservation during winter was of the nature of an experiment. Now these hindrances have vanished, and even amateurs may undertake their culture with good prospects of success.
During last summer (1880) and one or two previous summers, several experiments were tried in this vicinity as to their eligibility as bedding plants, which have resulted very favorably.
At Patterson Park, Baltimore, Md., the caladiums were taken, already sprouted, from under the stage of the greenhouse and placed in flower beds, which were directly under the full rays of the sun. They were not shaded in any way, and at first, lost their leaves, but soon put forth others and grew luxuriantly during the summer, though a particularly trying one to vegetation, owing to a long drought. They were not watered constantly, but very thoroughly when they needed it.
The soil of the Park is a hard clay, very compact, and was not specially prepared for these plants. More than a dozen varieties were tried. One large bed of caladiums contained a C. escu-lentum in the centre, which made a handsome appearance. Caladiums have been used in this park for bedding purposes for the last three summers. The park, it might be well to add, is in the vicinity of a large body of water, and the atmosphere consequently moist even in sum. mer, which is generally very hot in this vicinity. In the fall, when the leaves began to fade, these caladiums were taken up, put into dry earth, and set away in a warm place.
R. J. Halliday, florist, of Baltimore, recommends the starting of caladiums in pots early in January in rich soil - three-fourths loam, balance manure and leaf mold, adding sand if the soil is heavy; no drainage required. Separate the large tubers from the small, previous to potting, putting the small ones into powdered charcoal to preserve them till ready to use. Plant out in this locality about the middle or last of May, according to the warmth of the season. Choose a rainy or a cloudy day for the purpose, and keep the plants shaded for a few days. Though the leaves may be faded by the sun at first, the next growth will bear it better. If care is taken to shade them well for a week they can be put into a sunny bed. Rather a sandy soil is best; add sand if the soil is heavy. Water till sure the water has reached the roots, and then leave to the rain. If many leaves have been produced before setting out, cut off some in the proportion of four out of six leaves. It is better for the health of the plants to put them into the rain while in the pots before setting in the beds.
If wanted very large and luxuriant, pile manure about the plants.
Take them up in the fall before frost touches them. Keep in charcoal or sand for the winter, and set in a very warm place. Do not let them be dormant too long before potting or they will rot. As soon as they show, signs of growth they should be separated and potted.
T. Fairly, florist, of Baltimore, says, keep ca-ladiums in dry earth or sand during winter and in a warm,dry place. They would do well in a warm closet, if convenient, and may be put all together in a pot or box. Pot them in February. When, in the fall, their leaves begin to fade take them up.
Mr. Fairly had a number of caladiums in his front yard during the summer which made excellent show. These were shaded in the morning, but in the afternoon were exposed to the hottest of summer suns - the place being extraordinarily hot - thus showing that they can bear more direct sunlight than is generally supposed.
A lady amateur of this city cultivates the caladium, and says she finds no difficulty in keeping or cultivating it. In winter they are kept on top of a wardrobe, in a room sufficiently warm to sit in. Each root is placed in a six-inch pot containing very dry, dusty earth, and covered with the same. About April 1st, they are potted for growing. As for her, they generally start into growth at that time.
A gentleman amateur, whose experience we heard, kept his in an upper room on a mantle warmed by the chimney.
If caladiums can be used regularly as bedding plants as these experiences would imply, the lawn, the small yard and the garden may all be enriched and varied by their fine colors and graceful appearance.