Gardening Bright and colourful caladiums are low maintenance foliage plants

“I remember, they were called Beeding Hearts when we were in school, in the Bangalore of the ‘80's,” said Prema Rajan, of the red, white, pink and green Caladium (family Araceae) growing in her garden.

“Sounds like the name of a Gaulish village from Asterix comics,” says Priyanka Rai a much younger resident, when asked about the plant. “Is it a kind of money-plant?”

Originally a South American plant, there are over 1,000 cultivars of the plant commonly known as Elephant Ears, for the shape of its leaf. Caladiums are foliage plants and grow easily in pots, even on a terrace.

Bright and colourful, the plant lends colour and beauty without too much effort even indoors. Now with the rains, plant lovers are happy as their Caladium corms (tubers) have stirred and sprung back to life.

Talking to Margaret the administrator in the Association of People with Disability (APD) nursery in Jeevan Bheema Nagar, she shows us the two varieties most widely cultivated, which are the fancy-leaved variety, in red, pink, green and white and the dwarf variety in green and white, which a lot of people also like buying to keep indoors. Once the season is over and it is time to repot your Caladiums, you can share extra corms with friends to mix and match the plants you have and increase your collection.

“I love Caladiums. They look best when grouped together or are colourfully matched. They give a very rich and exotic look to the garden. Caladiums do not like direct sunlight but are happy with shade and a little light. Too much watering destroys them so one has to be careful,” says Priya Mascarenhas, businesswoman and award winning gardener. “They also look great in stand alone pots, as indoor plants in brass buckets.”

Most caladium plants grow to about 24 inches high, when planted in gardens so make ideal foliage plants and lend colour to their surroundings.

C.B. Ram Kumar, founder and managing director of the Our Native Village Health Retreat in Hessarghatta says, “I believe in edible landscaping, not just useless ornamental plants. Even in a small patch of land, if you want to grow something, grow something useful. That is where the caladium can be used to extract a homeopathic drug and so it is both useful and beautiful.”

You don't need the proverbial green thumb to grow caladiums. Anyone can and you can buy them in a variety of colours and sizes, from most nurseries for less than 100/- a full grown plant.