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On Gardening: Let Heart to Heart caladiums create the unexpected in your garden

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

The Garden Guy made a trip across town to chat with son James and came away giddy on one hand and grumpy on the other because I had been scooped. I am used to being the dud when it comes to comparing my plant partnerships with his, but this time he showed me up with a new variety. I’m the new variety guy, not this whippersnapper, but he was grinning like the Cheshire Cat with this year’s new Heart to Heart Burning Heart caladium.

First thought: How come I didn’t have them? Second thought: There can’t really be a caladium with that color. This caladium is a tropical flaming red with a few specks. It is a screaming red that says "look at me!" How could I have missed it at the University of Georgia trials? It scored 4.5 out of 5 through the entire season. I desperately want some, and you will too.

Once again, as is his nature, he taught me that it is the unexpected in the plant combinations that takes your breath away. In his design he was closely pairing it with Shadowland Coast to Coast hostas. This hosta’s leaves are a brilliant golden chartreuse that creates a shocking color contrast of foliage, making you wonder if you can capture the essence with the camera. In the bed he also used Graceful Grasses Prince Tut, Surefire begonias and Summer Wave torenia in the front of the border. As I left, he was flanking the bed with a large Mangave Catch a Wave on one end and a large Aztec King Mangave on the other end. I wanted to tell him, "You can’t do that."

Proven Winners introducing the Heart to Heart series of caladiums a couple of years ago got all of us out of our design rut. Sure, we felt bold combining caladiums with impatiens, bananas or elephant ears, but who knew there were opportunities with Color Guard Yucca, perennial grasses and Unplugged So Blue salvia?

The rebellious son saw the possibilities. With Heart to Heart caladiums, James went with that saying, go big or go home. Outside of an office complex he did just that: yuccas, perennial salvia, grasses, begonias with the eye-catching Heart to Heart Bottle Rocket and Heart to Heart Snowdrift caladiums. It was a good thing Dad wasn’t around to tell him that you can’t do that; it is NOT expected.

Even Dad, the old guy, can accidentally do the unexpected with Heart to Heart caladiums. Last year I planted Heart to Heart Tickle Me Pink caladiums with Hydrangea Wee Bit Giddy. Ooh la la, every squirrel finally gets an acorn!

Growing Heart to Heart caladiums is so easy. You may have heard the old saying, that plant is so easy to grow, all you have to do is plant the green-side up. Well, I am here to tell you when it comes to Heart to Heart caladium tubers, all you have to do is plant the white side up. The bulbs have been painted, showing you what side is up.


But this year it is even easier than that, as all of our garden centers have been selling container-grown plants. These you simply plant in your well-prepared bed and set them in the ground where the top of the root ball is even with the soil surface.

There are 28 Heart to Heart caladiums to choose from with five new varieties introduced in 2022. Go to Heart to Heart Caladiums' webpage and you’ll find detailed instructions on growing, storing for winter, as well as help choosing the best ones for your amount of sun or shade. Know this, if you have fertile, well-drained soil, you are in business.

Even though it is the end of May, you can still get months of great color. What can you do with Heart to Heart caladiums? Anything you want; you are the art director. The Garden Guy says go bold and unexpected.


(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)

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