New Caladium Plants From Older Leaves

A Caladium leaf, rooted earlier in the summer, grows on in a small pot.  Each new leaf the plant produces is a bit larger and more colorful.


When transplanting newly sprouted Caladium tubers from the boxes where I started them, into their permanent spots, a few leaves broke away.  Back in May, I showed you how these leaves, still with a bit of the tuber attached, rooted in water.  I was able to pot these rooted leaves, and they have continued growing all summer as independent Caladium plants.


This leaf has been living in water for better than six weeks. I finally noticed a root growing from the stem early last week.


As the summer has gone on, I’ve tried rooting a few more leaves that broke away.  Some have rooted and others have not.  Rooting definitely depends on having a few cells from the tuber at the bottom of the petiole.   I wondered, too, what effect the age of the leaf might have on its ability to strike roots.

I’ve had this particular leaf in a small jar of water on my kitchen windowsill for better than six weeks.  I’ve seriously considered composting it several times over the last month because I wasn’t seeing progress and the leaf grew increasingly dull.

But where there is life there is hope.  It took up no more space in my window than a quarter, and I left it alone, only changing out the water from time to time to keep it fresh.



It was early last week when I noticed the first tiny root tip protruding from the stem.  Oddly, it wasn’t growing from the base of the stem.  It was growing out of the stem itself, where it grows concave and folded over on itself near the base.

It has been a busy week and I’ve not had time to do more than simply watch it.  But yesterday afternoon, I took a closer look.  And imagine my absolute delight to find not only roots, but an entire new little plant growing from the stem!



When I examined it again this morning, I saw that fragile root is actually a couple of inches long now and branched.  There is a tiny new leaf fully formed, and the beginnings of more.  It was clearly time to pot this up in soil and give it room to grow.

This particular leaf was a month or two old before it broke away.  It wasn’t a newly sprouted leaf like those I rooted so successfully this spring.  That means that leaves of various ages may be rooted, so long as one has the entire petiole, right down to where it grows out of its tuber.  Having a bit of root attached already makes the propagation even more successful, and certainly faster.



I’m not sure what the implications of this might be for the home gardener.  Already, we increase our stock of tubers as we dig and save the plants in fall.  What was planted as a single tuber in spring has grown over the season, and often it has divided itself into several new pieces.

When we dry these and keep them over winter, we have more tubers to plant the following spring.  Even tiny tubers the size of a blueberry will sprout and grow on, producing leaves and increasing through the season.


Remember to mulch the soil with perlite, vermiculate or fine pea gravel to conserve moisture and reduce soil borne disease. I like to keep small, newly rooted plants like this in a reservoir for the first few weeks. You don’t have to leave the plant in standing water. But this plant was growing in water before it was potted up. Never allow the pot to completely dry out.


It might be worth the effort to try rooting Caladium leaves in autumn, as we dig our tubers.  I often dig plants that are still in full beautiful leaf.  Sometimes I cut the leaves and enjoy them in a vase for several more weeks.  The alternative is to let them wither and fade, finally pulling them off and composting them when we gather our dried tubers for storage.

If you decide to try rooting a leaf or two this fall, remember to keep each leaf in its own small container of water, and keep that water clean so bacteria doesn’t grow.  I use the syrup bottles from a popular chain restaurant with great success.


Caladium ‘Chinook’ and C. ‘Highlighter’ have put on a beautiful, ever changing display, all summer.  Soon, I’ll dig the tubers out of this pot to dry them and store them for next year.


The Caladium always needs warmth and bright, filtered light.  Windowsill propagation works during the spring and summer because the windowsill maintains a comfortable temperature.

I’m not sure how the Caladium might do once nights drop below freezing, and the windowsill temperatures dip lower, too.  But for a gardener who has a light set up to propagate seeds in late winter and spring, it might be worth the effort to root leaves in the autumn and grow these on indoors as potted plants through the winter.


Caladium ‘Moonlight’ is planted in the pot with a large cane Begonia. It has grown happily here, peeping out of the pot.


Please keep in mind that these plants could only be used in one’s own garden.  Many, but not all Caladium cultivars are patented.  But there are many situations where a rooted leaf may be included in potted arrangements, where a tuber and full-sized plant may not fit.  Rooted leaves are especially nice in small, decorative ceramic pots and in hanging baskets.


Here C. ‘Moonlight’ grows in its own pot, without competition. This is a single medium sized (#2) tuber after a summer’s growth.


As you grow and enjoy Caladiums, please keep in mind the other  ‘elephant ear’ plants.  These plants share the virtues of large, colorful leaves and simple needs.


Colocasia ‘Black Magic’ shares a pot with Begonia ‘Flamingo.’  Black Magic is known for producing many runners and spreading itself out generously.  It needs shade, evenly moist soil, and can’t freeze.


They are low maintenance plants.  Their leaves all contain compounds which make them unpleasant to eat for the browsers in the neighborhood.  They cause burning in the mouth and upset stomach.  Even if you loose a leaf or two, rogue deer will quickly learn to leave your elephant ears alone.


Here, a runner is pegged into a new pot to root.


Colocasias have the added benefit of spreading themselves around by runners.  These special stems creep around the ground for a ways, and then strike roots and grow new leaves.  When you see runners form, you can peg them down where you want an additional plant, or you can set a prepared pot under the runner and allow it to root into the pot.


Peg the runner into an empty spot in the parent’s pot to create a fuller display.


Cut the runner once the new plant has a few leaves and is well rooted.  Once you have a plant going, you can continue producing new plants indefinitely, and create your own tropical plant filled paradise each summer.

Caladiums, Colocasias and Alocasias are all easy to grow and easy to propagate.  If you enjoy playing with your plants, and not just admiring them, see what you can easily do yourself to increase your collection.



Woodland Gnome 2018

Potting Up

succulent gardenGrowing in a pot or hanging basket gives  a plant just the right soil for its needs. The pot or basket can be moved around to get just the right amount of sun or shade.  The plant doesn’t have to compete with the roots of other plants, unless you choose to plant a group who will grow well together.

Tips and Tricks for Potting Up

1.  Make sure the pot has one or more holes for drainage.  Without drainage, the plant will most likely drown when it rains, or if it is over watered.  Cover the bottom of the empty pot with a piece of landscaping fabric or a paper towel.  This holds the soil in the pot until the plants’ roots grow out to hold the soil.  Landscape fabric will present a barrier to pill bugs and other creatures who want to climb in through the drainage hole to make a new home for themselves.

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The paper towel will absorb water, and then release it back to the soil as needed to help the soil stay evenly moist between waterings.  Eventually, the paper will decompose.

2.  I spread a shallow layer of gravel over the paper or landscape fabric.  I believe this allows an extra margin for water to drain out of the soil, especially if the pot is outside during a rainy spell.

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3.  Partially fill the pot with fresh potting soil.  I like a peat based mix which advertises that it will also feed the plants for the first few months.   A  little sand or gravel mixed with the soil improves drainage for succulents.  A little compost can be mixed into the soil for vegetables.   The soil should be moist, but not too wet.  A plants’ roots need to breathe, especially in a pot.  Dirt dug up in the yard will be too heavy and the plant will have difficulty.

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4.  Mix some fertilizer into the soil.  I often use Espoma Plant Tone for flowering plants, or Tomato Tone for vegetable plants.  This enriches the soil and feeds plants over the long term.  Osmocote is a good short term fertilizer which will release nutrients at each watering for about four months.

5.  Make a well in the center of the soil for the root ball of the new plant.  Push the fresh potting mix against the sides of the pot, especially if the pot has concave areas like this one does.

6.  Remove the new plant from its nursery pot, loosen the roots slightly, and place into the new pot.  Fill in with additional potting soil around the roots, tamping the soil gently until it is firm and all spaces are filled.  Keep the plant at the same depth as it grew in the nursery pot, unless you know it will grow new roots along the stem like a tomato plant will.  Some plants, especially shrubs or trees, will actually suffocate if you put too much soil over the root ball.  Sprinkle some Osmocote onto the soil.

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7. Top dress the soil with fine gravel or small bits of shell.  The layer of gravel serves several purposes.  First, it looks nice.  It protects the plant from splashed soil during a rain, and protects the soil from erosion during a heavy rain or watering.  Finally, it offers the plant some protection from slugs and snail, who don’t like the gravel, and from digging squirrels, who will be deterred from digging in the pot.

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This Echeveria nodulosa is top dressed with pea gravel and stones picked up along a beach on the Puget Sound. This will protect the roots from digging squirrels, and will discourage slugs from eating the leaves.  Echeveria leaves will root, and so those broken off during potting are stuck about 1/4 into the soil around the parent plant.

8.  Water in the newly potted  plant.  I like to make a dilute solution of Neptune’s Harvest for the first watering to strengthen the plant and counteract any transplant shock.  This first watering settles the soil around the roots of the plant and helps prevent any air pockets which could allow the roots to dry out.  Place most plants in a shady area for a day or so to let their roots adjust before moving into a sunnier spot. 


This Echeveria nodulosa is a succulent, which enjoys the heat of full sun, and so it has gone to its new permanent spot in the garden.

These succulents live in a pot with no drainage.  There are two inches of gravel in the bottom of the pot, and it is watered sparingly.

These succulents live in a pot with no drainage. There are two inches of gravel in the bottom of the pot.  It is watered sparingly and kept sheltered from the rain.

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Plants growing in pots don’t have the same available nutrients as plants growing into deep Earth out in the garden.  They rely on the gardener for care and feeding.  I use a multi-layered approach to feeding by enriching the soil as a plant is potted, top-dressing with a slow release fertilizer, and also feeding with a diluted fish emulsion and seaweed fertilizer every few weeks when the plant is actively growing.  Each of these products approaches feeding in a slightly different way. 

Here are the products I’ve used successfully:

Espoma    I use Rose Tone and Holly Tone out in the garden and Plant Tone and Tomato Tone both in the garden and when potting up.

Neptune’s Harvest


The best source for all of these products, beautifully grown plants, and excellent gardening advice in the Williamsburg area is the Homestead Garden Center on Rochambeau Drive/Rt. 30 west of Toano

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