Four New Caladium Cultivars for Containers and Landscapes

WIMAUMA, FL- Caladiums are ornamental aroids highly valued for their attractive foliage that rivals the display of many flowers. Aroid is a common name for a large species of plants in the Araceae family. This family of plants is also often called the Philodendron or Arum family. There are over 100 genera and 3,750 species of aroid plants, most of which are from the tropics.

Caladium plants grow well in summer heat and rains and have a wide diversity of leaf shapes, colors, and vein patterns that are rarely found in other plant species. Essentially all commercially available caladium plants in the U.S. and in the world are produced from tubers. Florida growers produce all of the caladium tubers used by greenhouse growers, nurseries, landscapers, and gardeners across the U.S. and in the world.

Since 1976, the University of Florida has supported a caladium breeding program, the only public program of its kind in the world, at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, to meet the needs of the Florida caladium industry and the environmental horticulture industry for new caladium cultivars. The program’s main breeding objective is to develop new and novel cultivars that can produce attractive and robust plants with many bright, colorful leaves and with high tuber yield potential. The main breeding approach used is hybridization of commercial caladium cultivars and breeding lines followed by multiyear, rigorous selection and evaluation.

According to Zanhao Deng, plant breeder and professor of environmental horticulture at the

University of Florida Gulf Coast research and Education Center, the focus of his research has

been to develop new cultivars with novel characteristics, improved disease resistance and plant

performance, sterility, and other traits of interest to the environmental horticulture industry and

its consumers. “The environmental horticulture industry is an important contributor to the

economy, employment, and rural development; its needs have been the driving force of our

statewide ornamental plant breeding program. So far, I have developed and introduced nearly

30 new caladium cultivars, including these four cultivars described in this article.” Additional

team members are Natalia Peres, plant pathologist and professor of plant pathology, and Johan

Desaeger, nematologist and associate professor of plant nematology.

Four new caladium cultivars, Dots Delight (UF-R1410), Firefly (UF-15-441), White Lightning (UF-15-21), and Spicy Lizard (UF-16-597), were released by the University of Florida caladium breeding program in 2020 and 2021. These cultivars have novel leaf colors, or coloration patterns, and are also improved in tuber yield potential, sunburn tolerance, and leaf health. The cultivars were also evaluated for their suitability in container plant production.

Typical leaves of ‘UF-R1410’ caladium grown in the ground bed in full sun in Wimauma, FL (photo credit K. Druffel)

Dots Delight (UF-R1410) is characterized by a novel color pattern (white main veins and

multiple, light pink spots), resistance to leaf spot and excellent tolerance to sunburn, thus it is

well suited for use in landscapes, especially sunny locations.

A typical plant of ‘UF-15-21’ (35-day-old) caladium forced from four No. 1 (3.8 to 6.4 cm

diameter) tubers in a 20.3-cm container (photo credit K. Druffel)

White Lightning (UF-15-21) has wide, white lance leaves and light pink streaks on mature leaves, and performs best in shady locations in the landscape.

A typical plant of ‘UF-15-441’ (≈93-day-old) caladium forced from four No. 1 (3.8 to 6.4 cm

diameter) tubers in a 20.3-cm container (photo credit K. Druffel)

Firefly (UF-15-441) performs well in both shady and sunny locations and has good sunburn tolerance and tuber yield potential.

Typical leaves of ‘UF-16-597’ caladium (≈51-day-old) grown under shade in Wimauma, FL

(photo credit K. Druffel)

Spicy Lizard (UF-16-597 is a novel lance-leaved cultivar that has excellent sunburn tolerance, strong leaf spot resistance, and excellent tuber yield potential, and is also well suited for use in the landscape. These cultivars are expected to further enrich the plant palette for growers, nurseries, and gardeners in the U.S. and beyond.

Dr. Zhanao Deng is a plant breeder and professor of environmental horticulture. Dr. Natalia Peres is a plant pathologist and professor of plant pathology. Dr. Johan Desaeger is a nematologist and associate professor of plant nematology. All three authors are staff members of the University of Florida, Gulf Coast Research Center.

The complete article is available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal website: DOI: https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI16566-22

Established in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science is recognized around the world as one of the most respected and influential professional societies for horticultural scientists. ASHS is committed to promoting and encouraging national and international interest in scientific research and education in all branches of horticulture.

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