When I was a kid, I loved caladiums. They had big leaves, bright color, and a really tropical texture that felt very Jurassic Park to me. After a few years, these shade-loving plants didn't seem quite as cool any more. The leaves would get torn up every time we had a summer storm pass through (which seemed like every other week) and they were never particularly full and lush. And, since I lived in northern Minnesota, the season really wasn't all that long.
Caladiums pretty much fell off my radar after that. I occasionally used them in shaded container garden combos (with plants such as impatiens and wishbone flower) and wrote about them when I did plant stories about shade gardening.
Things changed, though, when I moved down to Miami. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that plant breeders had made some big advances in caladiums. The varieties we were trialling here at Costa Farms had a fuller look and thicker leaves that did a great job holding up to rough weather. And there were some wonderful color combinations I'd not seen before. Perhaps most surprising, though, was that we had caladiums that grew in full sun.
Suddenly, caladiums became a lot more interesting to me. They're no longer just shade-loving plants for beds, borders, and mixed-container gardens. Today's caladiums work in a lot more situations. For example, compact varieties are excellent choices for window boxes. Stunners on their own, you can combine them with flowers for an even more flamboyant look. And hanging baskets, too. I wouldn't have thought of a caladium for a hanging basket, but the effect is fantastic (especially if you pair them with a trailing plant, such as vinca or sweet potato vine).
And because sun-tolerant varieties thrive in shade, too, you can use caladiums in some of those awkward landscaping situations like where you want an even look across the front of your house, but one side is sun and one is shade. So if you're planning your garden for next year, don't forget about colorful caladiums for shade or sun.