‘Sweet Carolina,’ Love at First Sight

August 30, 2016 pots 002

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A new Caladium on the market, ‘Sweet Carolina,’ has already found its way into my gardener’s heart.

This recent introduction, bred in 2002 by Dr. Robert Hartman, CEO of Classic Caladiums, resulted from his cross of C. ‘Grey Ghost’ with  pollen parent C. ‘Miss Muffett.’  ‘Grey Ghost’ lends its vigor, its true green coloring and tolerance for sun;  ‘Miss Muffett’ lends the interesting chartreuse coloration and pink veins and splotches on the leaves.

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August 30, 2016 pots 003

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But ‘Sweet Carolina’ surpasses both parents for size and vigor.  Considered a ‘fancy leaf  Caladium,’ these beautiful leaves resemble large hearts.

Our  package of tubers arrived from Classic Caladiums in the first week of August, and I planted a few in pots right away.  The staff very generously sent more than I ordered, which were shared with a number of gardening friends.  These friends and I are growing out ‘Sweet Carolina’ and the dwarf  ‘Cherry Tart’ to observe how they grow for us in Virginia.   We’ll send photos and our notes back to the folks at Classic Caladiums in October, the end of the Caladium season for us.

‘Sweet Carolina’ unfurled its first leaves for us around August 24, less than three weeks after planting!  All of the tubers I planted haven’t yet sprouted, but they were planted over a period of about 10 days in various conditions and types of soil.  And of course, a week of growth isn’t nearly enough for me to see the full potential of this plant.

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This is the first pot of 'Sweet Carolina' that I planted on August 6. There are 4 tubers in this pot along with 4 rooted cuttings of Coleus, 'Bone Fish.'

This is the first pot of ‘Sweet Carolina’ that I planted on August 6. There are 4 tubers in this pot along with 3 rooted cuttings of Coleus, ‘Bone Fish.’  The dry leaves on the ground are new ones fallen from our trees this week… It is that dry here!

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‘Sweet Carolina’  is said to grow to over 36″ tall!  That is just enormous for a Caladium!  I’ve never grown one that topped out much over 24″.  None of these new plants are growing in full sun.  The heat and sun have been too intense here this month, and so far I’ve kept them in full to partial shade.  But I’ve been moving some of the pots to sunny spots as the leaves begin to grow.  And these do grow very fast!

I’ll keep taking photos as the ‘Sweet Carolina’ plants develop and we’ll learn about them together.

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You can see that the leaves are growing very quickly and will soon make a large, beautiful display here.

You can see that the leaves are growing very quickly and will soon make a large, beautiful display here, in partial sun.  Begonia ‘Gryphon’ and Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’ grow in the pot behind.

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The first of the ‘Cherry Tart’ Caladiums planted showed themselves yesterday.  The first leaves are a lovely rosy red, and the tubers are quite vigorous with multiple leaves breaking the ground at once from each.  Watch for photos of these beauties in the coming days!

Breeding better plants proves exciting, but painstaking work.  There is inspiration to select the best parents for a desired result; but then there is a long time to wait for the seeds to develop and grow on before any real judgements can be made.

I admire the work of Dr. Hartman, and also the staff at the University of Florida for their contributions in the field of Caladium research.  I know Caladiums would be far more popular among my gardening friends if they were hardy to Zone 7.

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This is 'Miss Muffett,' pollen parent (father) of Sweet Carolina. Do you see the similarity? Sweet Carolina will grow taller and will have bigger leaves than these.

This is ‘Miss Muffett,’ pollen parent (father) of  ‘Sweet Carolina.’  Do you see the similarity? Sweet Carolina will grow taller and will have bigger leaves than either parent.

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Currently these plants are considered tropicals, hardy only to zone 9 or 10.  That said, one of my friends swears that Caladiums she left outside over the winter in a large barrel, well mulched, returned this summer!

And I have been surprised by the Caladiums which  continue to sprout in pots, overwintered in our garage, that have shown themselves only in recent weeks.  Obviously, the more recent hybrids on the market have improved tolerance to cold.

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This tuber was planted nearly a week later than the first, and the leaves have just begun to emerge since Sunday.

This tuber was planted nearly a week later than the first, and the leaves have just begun to emerge since Saturday.  It is planted with Begonia ‘Arabian Sunset’ and Begonia ‘Richmondensis.’  This one has had more sun since it emerged and you may notice the leaf is darker here.

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Besides cold tolerance, newer hybrids can take more sun, grow larger, produce more leaves, and grow faster than the older Caladium varieties.  And, of course, there are always new colors and patterns on their beautiful leaves.

We appreciate Caladiums in our garden for their long lasting beauty, but add more each year as they are one plant the rabbits and deer definitely leave alone!  We can plant them with confidence, knowing we will actually enjoy them over a long period of time.

Caladiums appreciate a good meal, and I am watering with a dilute solution of Neptune’s Harvest to supplement the Osmocote already in their potting soil.  They don’t suffer from any blight, disease or infestation in our garden; which is saying a lot!  All they require is regular moisture and a light grooming as older leaves fall and fade.

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August 30, 2016 pots 019

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Do you like the leaf of  ‘Sweet Carolina’?  Is this a color combination and pattern you would choose for your garden and pot designs?

Grown primarily for their leaves, Caladiums do produce simple, but interesting, flowers.  Many gardeners cut these away as they appear so the plant’s energy remains invested in producing more leaves.

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I added a few tubers to this worked over pot, where a Heuchera and ivy already grew. I added some fern and Begonia cuttings when I planted the Caladium tubers. Other Caladiums grow in a pot nearby.

I added a few tubers to this worked over pot, where a Heuchera and ivy already grew. I added some fern divisions and Begonia cuttings when I planted the Caladium tubers. Other Caladiums grow in a pot nearby.  This area enjoys shade for most of the day and may prove too shady for ‘Sweet Carolina.’

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I find the pink splotches a charming shade, going well with the flowers I already have growing nearby.  I’ve planted tubers in combination with angelwing Begonias, Creeping Jenny, Heuchera, ferns and with Coleus.  These seem good companions thus far, but we’ll see how the combinations work as the Caladiums grow.

If you are interested in growing Caladiums, you’ll probably need to wait until next spring to plant tubers.  A few local garden centers still offer actively growing plants in pots.  They still  had a reasonable selection to choose from when I bought a pot of C.’Aaron’ for my father last week.

But Florida growers stopped shipping bulbs around the end of July.  You can still place your order now for next spring, to make sure you can get the choice tubers of new introductions, always in short supply.

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August 30, 2016 pots 001

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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August 23, in a shady spot, as the 'Sweet Carolina' Caladiums first began to grow.

August 23, about 17 days after planting, as the ‘Sweet Carolina’ Caladiums first began to grow in this shady and protected spot .

 

“Imagination is everything.
It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
.
Albert Einstein

 

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About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

6 responses to “‘Sweet Carolina,’ Love at First Sight

  1. We have a HUGE Sweet Carolina caladium. It has grown like topsy and is absolutely beautiful!

  2. farseems

    my first one unfurled yesterday, the Sweet Carolina, and the second one has a shoot to show. Waiting for it to unfurl.

    • 😉 We will enjoy them for the next two months, won’t we? Your porch and yard look spectacular! I walked past and admired your beautiful Caladiums and Begonias this evening 😉 Such beauty! ❤ ❤ ❤

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