It is an electric moment to be shaken from musing over the usual offerings at a local garden center by a plant I’ve never heard of before. It’s like hiking in familiar woods and having the compass needle go haywire. In this case, the plant tag combined the words “succulent,” “African” and “hosta” — I had to have it.
One of the breakout stars of the University of Florida caladium program, with a romantic combination of translucent-rose background, deep-rose veins, a dainty green edge and a slight seersucker texture. Smaller leaves (6 to 12 inches) on shorter plants make this cultivar ideal for containers and small gardens.
Perfectly named, this recent introduction with its lively mosaic of bright white and deep green is a result of crossing ‘Aaron’ (which is white with green veins) and the popular ‘White Christmas’ (which is nearly solid white with a thin green edge).
A bold lance-leaved form in rich, saturated red rimmed with green, ‘Red Ruffles’ forms a compact mound of numerous, 1-foot wavy-edged leaves. Another University of Florida cultivar emerging from the Gulf Coast Research Center in Wimauma, bred to be tougher than its frilly good looks would belie, tolerating more sun and lower temperatures than most caladiums.
The front-runner of a growing group of caladiums bred in Thailand, distinguished by smaller, thicker textured, almost waxy foliage. Like stained glass, ‘Thai Beauty’ has stunning pink, almost-translucent leaves with markings of green and vanilla. Reaches 8 to 15 inches tall.
One of the overachiever offspring from the prolific caladium-breeding program at the University of Florida. Traditionally white has been a favorite caladium color, and this one stays fresh and crisp looking longer than other white cultivars, and has larger leaves (to 2 feet).
A fancy-leaved form with a central pattern, aptly named a burst, not found in many caladiums, ‘Rosebud’ is hot pink at the heart, with pink veins piercing through a spattering of white and into the dark-green edging. Forms a lush mound 2 feet tall of foot-long leaves. A good choice for containers or tucked into the shade garden. And watch for an amped-up version of ‘Rosebud’ called ‘Summer Rose’, with brighter colors and reddish-purple petioles, on the market this spring.
One of the lance-leaved caladiums, which have smaller, more-pointed leaves than the fancy types. ‘Gingerland’ is a jazzy display of cranberry-red spatters on a creamy white background and a green rim. Categorized as a dwarf caladium, with its 6- to 12-inch leaves, this one is perfect for edging beds or in containers paired with ferns and impatiens.