Beginner’s Guide: How to Care for Your Caladium

Caladium (Caladium bicolor) or Elephant Ears, are beautiful houseplants with arrow-shaped leaves that come in many combinations of pink, white, red, and green with veins of contrasting colors. However, the showy foliage is short-lived, lasting from Spring to Fall and then the leaves fall off and the plant will go into dormancy in the winter. As a result, Caladiums are often considered temporary houseplants. However, it is actually a perennial and with proper winter care, it will grow back year after year. Beware that Caladiums are toxic to pets and humans so keep them away from pets and small children. Here is a beginner’s guide on how to care for your Caladium indoors. 


Caladium Houseplant Care at a Glance

Scientific NameCaladium bicolor
LightLow Light
Daytime Temperature75 to 85 F (24-30C)
Night Time Temperature65 to 75F (18-24C)
WaterHigh Water
HumidityHigh Humidity
PottingWell-draining, organic, all-purpose potting mix
FertilizerFertilize every 2 weeks 
Toxic to Pets and HumansToxic
Caladium Houseplant Care at a Glance


Caladium: Sun or Shade?

Caladium has low light requirements. It is will grow well at a north-facing window. Your Elephant Ears will also do well in an east-facing window with filtered light. Avoid placing your Caladium in direct sunlight. The rule of thumb for Caladium light requirements is the wider the leaves, the more shade your Caladium will need.


How Often Should You Water Your Caladium?

Your Caladium has high water requirements. Water your Caladium when the soil feels dry. The best way to tell when it is time to water your Caladium is to feel the soil. Stick your finger in the soil 0.5 inches deep. If it feels dry, it’s time to water your Caladium. 

How Do You Make Sure There is Proper Drainage for Your Caladium?

Good drainage is important, you don’t want your Caladium to sit in soggy soil. Make sure there are drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. After watering your Caladium and you see water draining out of the pot’s drainage holes, make sure you empty out the accumulated water in the saucer. Don’t let your Caladium’s pot sit in this puddle of water. It will cause root rot! 

Do You Need to Mist Your Caladium?

Your Caladium is a tropical houseplant that likes humid conditions. You should increase indoor humidity. Mist your Caladium several times a week. Add humidity to indoor air with an air humidifier. 


What Type of Potting Mix is Best for Your Caladium?

Your Caladium needs a well-draining, organic all-purpose potting mix. 

How Do You Know When To Repot Your Caladium?

Repot your Caladium once a year. In the Fall, after the leaves die back, keep your Caladium in a cool location. It needs a cold period during dormancy. Preferably, keep it in a cool, dry room with a temperature of 55 F. Your basement is a good spot. Then repot your Caladium in the Spring while it is still dormant before active growth begins. Remove the dormant tubers, throw away the old potting mix and repot with fresh potting mix. If you are moving your Caladium to a larger container, move it to a container that is 4 inches in diameter larger than its current pot.


Do You Need to Fertilize Your Caladium?

Fertilize your Caladium every two weeks during the growing season. 

What Fertilizer Should You Use on Your Caladium?

Use liquid or powder, organic fertilizer with a higher ratio of nitrogen on your Caladium. 


How Do You Propagate Your Caladium?

Caladium Plant is easy to propagate. You can propagate your Caladium plant by dividing the dormant tubers. Below are steps on how to propagate Caladium Plant by dividing its tubers.

1. Dig Up your Caladium Plant in the Fall when the leaves die back

Carefully, dig up your Caladium so you can lift out the entire plant. Be careful, don’t damage the tubers.

2. Divide the Caladium Tubers

With a sharp knife, carefully divide up the Caladium tubers. Let the tubers dry for a week or two. Then wrap the tubers in dry peat moss and store in over winter.

3. Plant the Caladium tubers in a New Pot in the Spring

Plant each Caladium tuber into a new pot. Don’t plant the tubers too close together. Ideally, plant each one in its own pot. Water the new plant immediately after planting. Then water every 2-3 days until the roots are established.

4. Place New Caladium Plant in a Spot with Bright Indirect Sun

Place your new Caladium plant in a spot with bright indirect sunlight. Don’t put it in direct sunlight. Keep your Caladium plant in a spot that is warm and humid.

Common Problems of Caladium Care

The most common problems that affect Caladium are leaf spot fungus, aphids, and leaves turning brown.

Caladium Problem: Tip of Leaves of Your Caladium Turning Brown

Problem: The tips of the leaves of your Caladium plant are turning brown. 

Cause: When the tips of the leaves of your Caladium turn brown that is a result of not enough water or humidity. The tips of the leaves are turning brown because they are dying. 

Solution: Water your Caladium and increase humidity by watering your Caladium. Just make sure to let your Caladium completely air dry so it does not suffer from root rot. Another reason for the brown leaf tips is the tap water you use may have too many chemicals. Try watering with distilled water or rainwater to see if that resolves the issue.

Caladium Problem: Black and Brown Spots on the Leaves of Your Caladium

Problem: There are roundish black and brown spots on the leaves of your Caladium. 

Cause: This could be a sign of leaf spot fungus infection. Leaf spot fungus is contagious because the fungus spores can travel in the air to infect other plants in the room. 

Solution: When you see these black and brown spots on the leaves of your Caladium, immediately cut off the infected leaves and throw them away. You can also spray your Caladium with a homemade baking soda spray to prevent new infections. To make the baking soda spray, simply mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 quart of water and put it in a spray bottle. Don’t overspray since it can get in the soil. The key is to remove the infected leaves and that should hopefully stop the spread.

Caladium Problem: Lots of tiny green, grey, and brown insects under the leaves of Your Caladium

Problem: You see a lot of tiny green, gray, and brown insects all over the underside of the leaves of your Caladium. There are also sticky clear residues on leaves and stems. Plus the tips of the stems have curled up and look deformed. 


Cause: Aphids could be the problem but you should make sure by taking a close look at the insects. There should be 2 tubes on the backside of the insects. Use a magnifying glass to identify aphids. 

Solution: Aphids are common in houseplants. You can get rid of aphids by washing the aphids off with water or soapy water. You can also use rubbing alcohol. Or spray your Caladium plant with insecticidal soap and horticultural oil to get rid of the aphids.

Check out our article on how to make your own homemade pesticides using baby shampoo: How to Make Horticultural Oil and How to Make Insecticidal Soap

Cleaning Caladium Houseplant

What’s the best way to clean the leaves of your Caladium?

Dust accumulates on your Caladium leaves over time. The layer of dust decreases the plant’s ability to photosynthesize. Periodically wiping down the leaves of your Caladium with a damp cloth will help keep your plant healthy. You can also use a duster or dry duster cloth to wipe off the layer of dust on the leaves.  

Caladium: Common Names 

Caladium is also called Elephant Ears, Angel Wings, and Heart of Jesus.

Caladium: Size

Caladium Your Caladium is a houseplant that can grow 12-30 inches tall. Lance-shaped Caladiums are smaller and are usually smaller than 12 inches.

Caladium: Toxic to Pets?

Caladiums are toxic to humans and pets. Don’t let children or pets chew on the leaves of the Caladium plant because it contains calcium oxalate crystals. The crystals can cause vomiting and difficulty breathing. It can also result in swelling of lips, tongue, and mouth and excessive drooling. If you see any of these symptoms and suspect ingestion of Caladium plants, call poison control immediately! Also, call your doctor or vet once you start seeing adverse reactions in children and pets.

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