Grow Caladiums in Sun

Tropical Caladiums love filtered sun and shade in hot regions, but most varieties will do quite well with some sun in cooler climates

Caladiums by Midwest Gardening.jpg

Colorful caladiums need to be grown in cooler shady areas of zones 9 and 10.  In the cold climates of the north and Midwest caladiums are more tolerant of sun that is less direct.  Nonetheless, too much sun can burn your beautiful caladiums.   With a good understanding of what a caladium needs and a few tips you can determine how much sun caladiums can tolerate in your conditions.

Remember that caladiums are a tropical plant that enjoys warm, rich, moist soil in part to full shade.  You will want to meet as many of the caladiums preferred conditions as possible for it to thrive.  Certain zone conditions are dramatically different in the North and Midwest and you can sometimes use those differences to work in your favor.

  • The sun is never as direct in the Midwest as in the South.  So a Caladium that is typically grown in intense sunlight and heat conditions must have full shade in hot zones during the heat of the day.  At no time in the Northern and Midwest regions will a Caladium be exposed to such intense sunlight.  The most tender of Caladiums will still prefer morning sunlight and at least dappled shade through midday.
  • Caladiums love rich moist soil, make sure you are providing those soil conditions if you are exposing them to more sun than they prefer.  Water regularly to keep soil consistently moist without getting soggy.  Keep mulch 2 to 3 inches deep to help retain the moisture.
  • Your plants need to stay strong and healthy to hold up against extra sun, so feed them regularly.  Use a couple tablespoons of granular fertilizer per square foot every few weeks.
  • Caladiums grown in more sun than they prefer will generally produce smaller leaves, but they will often be more saturated with color.  The plant overall will be more compact and produce full foliage with more sun.  See photo comparison below.
  • Interestingly, tubers planted in full sun often emerge a bit later than when planted in shade.

Tips to successfully grow Caladiums in sun:  

  • Rather than plant bedding plants, plant dormant tubers once the soil warms.  This will allow your Caladiums to more easily adapt to your conditions and grow strong, but they will not sprout until exposed to prolonged heat.  A transplant will experience shock that weakens the plant initially. 
  • Don't plant too close together, although do remember that the foliage may bI e smaller than in warmer regions.  Space the plants well enough that good air circulation will help keep the foliage dry.
  • Early spring leaves will be more delicate than leaves produced a little later in the season.  Fortunately our early spring sun is very indirect and should not be too damaging to the young leaves.  But don't panic if you see a bit of scald, and make sure they get enough moisture.
  • Water on the leaves in midday sun can cause burn, so be sure to water very early so the foliage dries before exposed to direct midday sun.  Before 6 am is not too early!

I planted identical planters with two varieties of caladium.  One planter received dappled morning sun, some direct sun midday and dappled late day sun.  The other planter received much less sun, primarily dappled late day sun.  The plants reacted just as expected.

Caladiums in sun by Midwest Gardening.JPG

Caladiums in Sun

Small but intensely colorful leaves, compact and full foliage.

Caladiums in shade by Midwest Gardening.JPG

Caladiums in Shade

Large leaves with less intense color.  Fewer leaves on leggy stems

I can't help but find these identical planters fascinating!  Such a dramatic difference sun exposure makes!

Sharon DwyerComment