A Near-Death Experience for Caladiums
Back in May I was congratulating myself for doing such a good job on growing 20 Caladiums from corms (which are like bulbs except that they’re different) on the back porch. You know how expensive it is to buy Caladiums in pots at the garden center? I forget exactly, but it’s expensive, especially if you want 20 of them.
During the first week of June I planted the Caladiums in containers around the Back Garden. It’s been a cool spring, but I figured it was now warm enough for them to go outside. I mean, it was June. Plus, I didn’t want to wait much longer because I was afraid that some would outgrow their containers.
But no. Upon our return from the Denver Fling, the highs in Chicago were in the 50s (about 13 C), and the Caladiums were suffering. They are tropical plants and will simply rot in cold weather. Our Caladiums were losing their leaves and I’m sure what was going on inside the pots was not pretty either.
Providentially, the weather turned warm over this past weekend and so I have crossed my fingers that our Caladiums will recover. But the Caladium scare illustrates how tricky timing can be when starting plants indoors from corms or seeds or what have you.
Take Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). By May 15 they were big enough to plant outside. May 15 is our normal frost-free date but I thought it was too cold for Mexican Sunflower, which is not a tropical plant but still likes to grow in warm soil. You would want highs of at least 70 degrees (about 21 C).
Again, I waited until the beginning of June. By this time, they were too big to stay under the grow lights. But the weather was still too cold. Normally a quick grower, the Mexican Sunflowers merely sulked. I suspect they will be smaller than normal this year and their flowers delayed.
Even so, I’ve got to say that the Mexican Sunflowers I grew from seed had stout stems and bigger leaves, much superior to the plants I used to buy at the nursery.
If I had to do it over again, I would have started both the Caladiums and the Tithonia later, so that I wouldn’t feel pressured to move them outside before the weather was ready. Of course if I do that, we will undoubtedly have an unusually warm and early spring next year. (This is the result of a scientific principle known as the General Perversity of Events.)
Some other plants – the Zinnias and Salvias – I would have started a little sooner in order to get earlier flowers. They seem to have more tolerance for our cool spring weather.
Did the weather play tricks on you when you took your cold-sensitive plants outside?