This section is from the book "The Florists' Manual", by William Scott. Also available from Amazon: The Florist's Manual.
A genus of most ornamental hothouse plants that are grown entirely for their beautiful leaves, which are of almost every hue. Although strictly a tropical plant, they are most useful for decorations in the months of August and September, after their growth is fully matured. They lose their beautiful leaves in the winter and must rest till the following March or April.
There are several species, of which we all remember argyrites as one of the oldest and prettiest, with its small silvery marked leaf. The almost innumerable varieties that are now cultivated are hybrids and surpass in beauty the original species. The tubers can be bought at a very reasonable price from any good commercial house.
Their cultivation is easy. The tubers can be placed in 3 or 4-inch pots in March in a temperature of 60 to 65 degrees. A little bottom heat will much help their starting. Water sparingly till they begin to root. When a few leaves are made they can be shifted on. A 6-inch pot will grow a fine specimen, but they are seen occasionally of immense size in 12-inch pots. Many will remember the dozen or more plants ex-hibited at the New York convention in 1888 from Wootton, Philadelphia. They were grand.
While growing they should have our hottest houses, a little shade, a moist atmosphere and abundance of water; the pots should be drained so that water passes freely through. Liberal treatment as to size of pot is a requirement. The soil can be a good loam, rather coarse, with a fourth of leaf-mold and rotten manure.
In October they show signs of going to rest, and water should then be withheld, but not all at once. Keep the soil moderately moist till the leaves have about gone, when you can lay the pots on their sides under a bench in a warm house. A good many fine caladium bulbs are lost from keeping them too dry in the winter and sometimes from wintering them too cold; 60 degrees is cold enough for them, and don't let the soil get dust dry; look at them every two or three weeks, and if the soil is very dry give them a watering. In starting, of course, you will shake off all the old soil. There is no heed of mentioning any of the varieties, for their names are legion and all are beautiful.