FLORIDA GARDEN TALK: Colorful Caladiums, Giant Reed Bamboo

Environmental Horticulture Agent III, Rebecca Jordi answers questions about landscaping and gardening in northeast Florida. Growing Caladiums and bamboo are discussed in this August column. “There are few plants to rival the beauty of caladiums, especially when you consider how easy they are to grow.”

Caladium, Photo University of Florida IFAS
Caladium (photo, University of Florida IFAS)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Environmental Horticulture Agent III, Rebecca Jordi, addresses questions about landscaping and gardening in northeast Florida. She is the Extension Director in Nassau County, Florida and also a University of Florida faculty member.

QUESTION: I grew up working around the garden with my grandmother and she always had caladiums planted around her trees. I had forgotten about them but I have been noticing a resurgence of them in local gardens. What can you tell me about them? I also have very little shade, are there caladiums I can grow? SB

JORDI: Caladiums are members of the aroid family. People love to grow caladiums for their colorful leaves in pots, hanging baskets or just about anywhere around shrubs or trees. Potted caladiums can instantly add color and interest in any shade to full sun area. In landscapes, I believe they work best when grown in massive plantings. Their bright colors and unique patterns catch your attention immediately! There are few plants to rival the beauty of caladiums especially when you consider how easy they are to grow.

Caladiums offer many wonderful benefits to you, either as a novice or experienced gardener. Plant types range from the large fancy-leaf types to the short strap-leaf types. Some fancy-leaf types are sold as dwarf cultivars since they are much shorter plants but have broad leaves. By choosing the right cultivar and container size or shape, many combinations and effects can be achieved.

Caladiums grow best with high soil moisture and low (acid) pH soils. There are cultivars with the ability to be grown in full sun; for example, fancy-leaved cultivars ‘Aaron’, ‘Candidum Junior.’, ‘Carolyn Whorton’, ‘Florida Elise’, ‘Florida Fantasy’, ‘Pink Cloud’, ‘Red Flash’. The strap-leaved cultivars ‘Florida Red Ruffles’, ‘Florida Irish Lace’, ‘Florida White Ruffles’, and ‘Florida Sweetheart’ and ‘Pink Gem’. For more information on growing caladiums in Florida, check out the brochure by the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research Center.

QUESTION: I love the large bamboo growing along some of the roadsides along A-1-A. Someone told me it was called Giant reed and it is invasive. I was thinking about planting it along my retention pond but thought I might ask you about it first. JA

JORDI: I appreciate you calling me about this plant and I admire your desire to do the right thing for the local community and environment.

In the 1820s, Giant reed, Arundo donax, was introduced in California for erosion control. It has since escaped and become a major invasive weed problem in California and Texas watersheds. Giant reed can be found throughout the southern United States and as far north as Maryland, but the date and location of its initial introduction in the eastern United States is unknown.

Although giant reed has been present in Florida for many years, it has not become a problem species. However, because of its growth characteristics and competitive ability it should be monitored closely. This plant is a clumping, perennial grass which can reach heights between 16 to 20 feet. Giant reed interferes with rivers and lakes by increasing sedimentation and narrowing water channels which can lead to flooding and erosion.

The best management of the reed is to mow it and remove the cut material. To totally get rid of it, the rhizome must be destroyed by using a non-selective herbicide combined with other grass controlling herbicides. It will most likely take more than one application. It is always important to be careful when choosing plants to place around bodies of water. I would always advise against any plant which might be a potential invasive. This information was combined from the following publications: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag307 and http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/node/48

QUESTION: I saw small flies coming from the drain in my garage. What are they? CB

JORDI: Thanks for bringing samples of this insect to the office. I believe it is probably filter/moth/drain flies. This fly belongs to the family of flies generally called moth flies, because their scale-covered wings resemble those of a moth. They are very tiny – about 1/16 to 1/18 inch in length and light gray to tan. Their life cycle is seven to 20 days. Adult flies have the body and wings covered with dense, long hairs. Moth/filter flies breed in decomposing organic material, such as moist plant litter, garbage, sewage, and around kitchen or bathroom sinks and water traps in plumbing fixtures. You might consider removing the drain and clean out the source of food for the flies. Best chemical control methods aim at managing the maggots or larvae.

For more information about Nassau County Extension’s horticulture programs, visit the website.

Rebecca Jordi
Rebecca Jordi

Environmental Horticulture
543350 U. S. Highway #1
Callahan, Florida 32011
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: 904-491-7340