Each fall part of our research fields are full of beautiful caladiums. Caladium is a genus of flowering plants in the family Araceae. These plants are ideal for all sorts of landscape. They thrive in shady areas and are very low maintenance. The GCREC breeding program has developed several varieties that can be grown in sunny landscapes as well. Caladiums are drought and disease resistant and attract few pests. Traditional colors include shades of green and deep red to light pink. There are over 1000 named cultivars of caladium which originates from South America. Our caladium breeding program has developed over 20 different varieties and you can find them sprinkled throughout landscapes all over Florida and in many southern states. A few years ago, in fact, during a visit to Graceland in Memphis, I found several UF/IFAS GCREC varieties growing at the popular tourist attraction in a various flower beds.
Most caladium growers hail from Lake Placid, Florida, which is considered the Caladium Capital of the World. Caladiums have been grown in the Lake Placid area since the early 1940s. The last full weekend in August each year, Lake Placid hosts a Caladium Festival to celebrate the crop. Caladium displays are featured downtown and in nearby subdivisions. A delightful tourist attraction for those who like to travel off the beaten path. There are bus rides through vast caladium fields as well as booths with every type of caladium-inspired craft you can imagine.
This year’s GCREC field day provided growers the opportunity to rate some new and established varieties for future propagation. With a group of about 20 visitors, Dr. Jack Rechcigl, Center Director and Dr. Zhanao Deng, Professor/Caladium Breeding, led the group to the field. Dozens of varieties were available for the group to examine and participants were asked to grade the plants on color, density, size and other attributes that make this plant an attractive landscape plant. The group returned to the center for lunch and a chance to network with each other and researchers.
For more about our Caladium Breeding Program, visit our website at gcrec.ifas.ufl.edu/ornamentals.