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Summer caladiums

July 7, 2017
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Summer has arrived in all its glory of heat, humidity and rain. What is the gardener to do?

A diligent gardener can now sit back and view the rewards of spring digging and planting. A part-time gardener just goes north to keep cool and intends to spruce things up when returning.

Some gardeners just need something to plant, right now. It is not hard to find a colorful assortment of large leaf plants to bring summer color and easy care to the garden. The plant needed is the heat tolerate bulbs of caladiums.

These plants from the jack-in-the-pulpit family actually grow from an underground tuber, but growers say the public likes the word "bulb." Maybe it sounds like less work. I am saying heat tolerant, not sun tolerant. Think shade - some deep shade, most light shade and once a while, a variety that will tolerate some sun.

There are over 40 varieties and an amazing variety of colors and patterns. A white variety is gorgeous with large leaves, which actually glow in the shade. Their names, such as Florida Fantasy, Florida Whitewater, Pink Clouds, Miss Muffet and so on, are intriguing, however, once you see the brilliant colors of greens and reds, white with splashes and/or dots of fuchsias, greens with bright spidery reds, it will be hard to make a choice.

Luckily, they are easy to plant and the bulbs come in size numbers. Small number, smaller leaves. Larger numbers will be larger leaves. Remember, you will not see each bulb in color, however, packages of bulb will have a card attached so you will know what you are buying. A price around $5 for a bag of several bulbs is not bad. You will be able to buy mixed colors or single, depending what is available when you are shopping.

Bulbs should be planted about 2 inches deep in some nice organic soil, but they are not particular, except to not be in wet soil. You can plant in soil or pots. Rows or circles. You do need to plant them little hairs and tiny spikes side up.

They are beautiful everywhere. Feed them something organic and water it in. See the instructions.

A very good place to shop this month is at the annual caladium festival in Lake Placid, Fla. Growers in Lake Placid have been doing their thing since the 1940s. There are 14 farms with 1,200 acres of plants. The festival this year is July 28-30, a nice long weekend.

Lake Placid is a 2-hour drive on 27 North, from the Fort Myers area. No twists and turns. The small community of about 2,000 is right on 27 and the event is held in the shady Stuart Park.

Caladiums are all over town. A big bus will take visitors down the road to the caladium fields and visitors will be amazed at the acres of colored plants growing right out in the open like a field of wheat.

The event also has food - try the strawberry shortcake and the other goodies. Parking is not organized but it is all over the grounds, so be patient.

There are arts and crafts and a free video of the history and growing of caladiums.

You can find more information about the festival on the Internet. Just type in "caladium festival."

Meanwhile watch out for mosquitoes. I had to squash a big, black skeeter off my leg on the Fourth. He must have been an orphan. He was the only one that showed up. Maybe the farmers' fireworks scared them off. I was out in the northeast Cape.

Suntan lotion, skeeter spray and water - summer specials!

Happy gardening till we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is Past President of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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