Rooting Caladium Leaves

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“Oops!  I didn’t mean to do that!”

Sometimes when I am transplanting a Caladium, a leaf will break off in the process.  No matter how careful I’m trying to be with moving the plant from where it has been growing to where it will be growing, a piece will sometimes break away.

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And with such a lovely leaf, why would anyone simply throw it away?  And that is how I discovered a little discussed secret about Caladiums. 

A green-handed gardening friend had a rooted Caladium leaf on her kitchen windowsill when I visited with her last summer, and I learned that it is possible to root a Caladium leaf from her.

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A Caladium leaf grows on a petiole that is connected, below ground, to the Caladium’s tuber.  The tuber is a fleshy storage organ which helps the plant survive while it is dormant, without active leaves or roots.

It is from the tuber that new roots and stems emerge when there is sufficient warmth and moisture to support growth.  New leaves emerge from the tuber at a growth point called a ‘bud,’ which is rich in growth hormones.

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Late October 2017, tubers were still in active growth when I dug them up to store over winter.  Tubers tend to grow in segments.  Larger tubers may be broken apart into smaller sections, especially when digging them in the fall.  This is another way to propagate more plants.

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When a Caladium leaf, and its petiole, break off with a bit of the brown tuber still attached, there is potential for this ‘division’ to grow new roots.

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These leaves have been rooting for only a few days. On a rainy humid day like today, there is a good chance that these rooted leaves will establish quickly in a pot in a shady spot.

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Once the roots form, the leaf is likely to survive.  The leaf has to be able to absorb enough water to prevent it from wilting, as water evaporates from its surface.   A new tuber begins to grow at the point where the roots are growing from the petiole.

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Once this new tuber is actively growing, new leaves will begin to emerge.  The more leaves in active growth, the more photosynthesis will occur.  The sugars produced during photosynthesis will be sent to the new tuber for storage.

Depending on how many weeks the new plant can grow before it goes back into dormancy, the tuber may bulk up enough to survive until spring.  If it doesn’t, you will still have enjoyed the rooted Caladium leaf for that season.

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I transplanted the newly rooted leaf into this shady spot on the deck where it can continue growth. If it needs more space in a few weeks, it will be easy enough to transplant it to a pot of its own.

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One must be careful about respecting plant patents in any home-grown propagation efforts.  That said, I have been carefully saving any leaves that break away while I am transplanting Caladiums this spring, and placing them in clean bottles filled with fresh water.

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Small bottles tend to work well, and I change out the water every few days to minimize any bacterial growth that would stop the process before the leaf can grow new roots.

Keep this technique in mind if you are designing pots or making floral arrangements and don’t have room for a fully established Caladium plant.  Maybe you do have room for a rooted leaf to make your arrangement sparkle with that special flair a Caladium leaf always brings.

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 September 2017, a successfully rooted leaf grows on. I hope it will emerge again this spring.

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I successfully established this rooted leaf last summer, and stored its tiny tuber in its pot over winter.  I’m still waiting to see whether it survived, and will leaf out again this year.

“Fingers crossed…”

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

16 responses to “Rooting Caladium Leaves

  1. bam

    Hi!, I stumbled upon this thread because one of my leafs broke of. I’m trying out your technique, but there’s one thing I’m not sure of, how much sun should I let it get before it starts growing roots? Also, how many have you been able to save using this method?

    • Caladiums prefer shade, though some of the newer hybrids can stand full sun. I root Caladium leaves indoors. I have one in my kitchen window right now. I prefer to keep the leaves protected from full sun as they root and also change the water every few days to help prevent bacterial growth. How many? Several every year since I discovered this method ❤ ❤ ❤ Wishing you success!

  2. Poughkeepsie

    Thanks for the info!!! It’s so hard to find information on caladiums! I tried this method and my Caladium is now rooting! 🙂 How long should the roots be before I transplant it into soil?

    • So glad it is working for you! The key is to have that little bit of tuber on the base of the stem. I wait until the root is an inch or so long, at least. It really depends on how much shade you will plant in and how large of a hole you can make for the root. If the leaf will be in moist soil and shade for at least the first couple of weeks, you can transplant as soon as you have visible root(s). ❤ ❤ ❤

  3. Maria

    Hello, thank you for this information. Can I put the leaf in a bigger bottle?

    • Yes, Maria. In fact, you can use a bud vase, or root several leaves together in a larger jar. I like to use clear glass so I can keep an eye on its progress. Remember to change out the water as needed to keep it clear. Good luck! ❤

      • Maria

        Thank you so much ❤️ Do you have an email where I can send you a picture of my leaves so you can tell me if you think they will grow roots or if they will work. I would really thank you so much

  4. Morgan

    Thanks for the info, I made the exact same mistake of breaking a leaf that had a lil baby leaf coming up too. Fingers crossed it’ll root!

    • Good luck 💗 I hope it works for you.

      • Anonymous

        Hi there! I got my first caladium yesterday. I was going to transfer it to a bigger pot today and it fell over and broke off about 5 stems. I put them.in water, but from reading this article I believe Inhave to have a little tuner attached. It is just stem and leaf where it bent and broke in half. Will it root in water or is it a loss? Thanks for any advice.

        • Time will tell! Caladium leaves are beautiful whether in a vase or in planted in a pot or in the garden. I would enjoy those beautiful leaves in a vase, or vases, and give them a chance. If they are going to root, you’ll see some indication of a root starting within 10 days or so. I’ve been fortunate this year to only break 1 leaf so far, and it is in water.

          When the leaf breaks from the tuber, you won’t see a hunk of the tuber attached. What you may notice is that the base of the stem, where it connected, is a little brown. You want meristem cells at the base of your leaf, which can differentiate to grow into roots rather than stem. You only need a tiny bit for the leaf to root. Good luck!

  5. So pretty! I love the color of the leaves. 🙂

  6. SW

    I love caladiums and never knew they could be propagated. That is so interesting and I am definitely going to try your technique. Thanks for sharing that!

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