What to know about the fiery blooms of this week’s hummingbird-friendly California native

California fuchsia Epilobium canum (Photo by Joshua Siskin)

There are certain plants of such opulence that mere words will never do them justice. One of these plants is Caladium. The leaves are shaped like elephant ears, roughly speaking, and are adorned with spectacular markings in symmetrical patterns of red, white, and pink, often accompanied by colored splotches or random dots splashed on for good measure.

The etymological origin of Caladium is “kaladi,” a Malay word for the true yam, a bulb-like corm of the taro plant which is a staple in the diet of millions living in Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific; it has black skin and white flesh with a texture chewier than that of a potato. (On Thanksgiving, what we call a yam is just a large sweet potato with orange flesh; it has no botanical kinship with the true yam.)

Caladium (Caladium bicolor) is a close relative of the taro plant (Colocasia esculentum). However, there is a significant difference between them. While taro yams are poisonous when raw, they lose their toxicity when cooked. On the other hand, Caladium’s tuber, commonly referred to as a bulb, from which its famous leaves grow, is poisonous regardless of how it is treated and should never be eaten.

Coleus. (Photo by Joshua Siskin)

African mask Alocasia x amazonica. (Photo by Joshua Siskin)

Taro Colocasia esculenta. (Photo by Joshua Siskin)

Caladiums in Orange in midsummer. (Photo courtesy of John Klima)

California fuchsia Epilobium canum (Photo by Joshua Siskin)

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I was reminded of Caladiums upon receiving an email from John Klima, who grows them to perfection in Orange. “Planting time is after the middle of April,” he wrote. “Night temperatures should be above 65 degrees to get them growing. If you plant them early they will just sit there and run the risk of rotting in wet soil.

“I order from companies all based in Florida: Florida Boys, Caladiums for Less, Caladiums Direct, and Classic Caladiums to mention a few. In my experience, it’s good to order early starting around the first of the year. Many varieties sell out fast. They start to ship out to the SoCal area around April 1st. I have learned to order #1 size and larger (i.e. Jumbo, Mammoth) as they make for a faster and larger display.

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“Last year, my plants came into full growth around June 1 and lasted until the Santa Ana winds kicked up in mid-October. I have been amazed at how prolific and beautiful these plants are. I have been an avid gardener all my life, but have not seen them grown to much of an extent in our area. Can’t figure it out. An interesting side note is that I gave my sister-in-law some and, growing in pots, they are loving her shaded patio in Tucson.

“As for location, they require shade or filtered sun. They love the heat but can’t take full sun. I grow them in containers on a patio on the south side of my house. There …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News

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