The New Caladium Frontier - East plus West!

By LariAnn Garner (LariAnn) on June 23, 2010

While the western-style Caladiums have been around for many years, the relatively recent advent of the Thai Caladium varieties has sent ripples throughout the Caladium fancier's world. Now, I'm bringing the two together in a bold cross-cultural hybridization program - read on for the spicy details!

Bringing East and West together

Caladium Miss MuffettFor several years now, I've been hybridizing Caladiums and studying what kinds of progeny come out of particular combinations. Some interesting plants have resulted from my work so far, but none as stunning as some of the Caladium plants coming out of Thailand. I must admit that no matter how deeply I ponder what kind of parentage some of these plants must have, I am clueless about what those Thai breeders are doing to come up with some of the plants they do. However, I don't have to know what they are doing in order to utilize what they have already done to produce some new marvels of my own.

Starting at the Beginning

Western-Thai Caladium hybridsSince I prefer the use of fresh pollen for my work, I was limited initially by the available plants in bloom, and at the right stage of blooming. I happened to have the Caladium variety "Miss Muffett" (see photo, above left) in bloom, as well as the Thai Caladium variety, "Jungle Rain" (shown in thumbnail picture), so these two became my first candidates for a cross-cultural blend. This first work was done in Spring of 2009, and I was able to set seed on the Miss Muffett using pollen from the Jungle Rain. I have since grown these seedlings large enough to determine that I have indeed succeeded in blending a Western Caladium with an Eastern (Thai) Caladium! The progeny are still small, but showing unique coloration unlike the typical patterns I have seen in Western cultivars. One in particular I might name "Spring Flurry" because the spotting on the leaves looks like a snow flurry (see photo at right)!

The true test of these new plants, though, will be how they perform in winter, and if they are as easy to grow in the long term as the other Western cultivars are. So that will mean another year of work with them to finalize this first trial.

A Black Thai Affair

Having had my first taste of cross-cultural success, I couldn't resist trying another combination or two. Unfortunately, the Thai varieties of Caladium are not as vigorous or prolific as my Western specimens, so only one of them bloomed at the same time as the Western cultivars. This particular one happens to have rather dark, almost black, coloration on the leaves, and it is apparently a mutation of a named Thai variety. So, for purposes of my work, I have given this variety the name of "Black Thai" (see photo below, left). My first attempt appears to be resulting in some berry swelling when using Black Thai as the ovule parent. A second plant of the Black Thai, pollinated later, seems also to be setting a nice head of berries in response to Western pollen.

Black Thai CaladiumBesides these two, I've used Black Thai pollen on two of my Western cultivars. One of them is a hybrid I've produced myself; this one has a leaf much like "Candidum", except that it is much larger and has a scattering of blood-red spots on it. The other is a commercially available hybrid called "Red Flash". As of June 26, 2010, the Red Flash cross has taken, but even if the other one doesn't take, the Black Thai plants are still showing a verified promise of seeds to come, using pollen from the same two Western plants!

Oh, just in case you were wondering how I decide which Western cultivars to use in my crosses, the answer is that, although I have certain ones I wish to try, I must use the best of whichever ones happen to have fresh pollen when the other prospective parent is ovule-receptive (or vice versa).

Continuing "Orientation"

Knowing now that I can, indeed, mix the Eastern and Western cultivars together to produce new plants, I am anxious to try working with some even more spectacular Thai varieties, like the brilliant red shiny-leaved one that I have, or the soft velvety maroon strap-leaf. For now, I can only dream of what I will be able to come up with when I get the chance to breed with those!

Hybridization Update 7/12/2010!

The first Black Thai cross yielded 6 (six) seeds, which are now germinating. The second one (Black Thai pollen on my "bloodspotted candidum" hybrid) yielded 27 seeds, just planted this weekend. Four other crosses involving Thai Caladiums have swelling and ripening berries.

Update 8/30/2010!

Berries from all crosses described above have been harvested, seeds removed and cleaned, and all have germinated as well. It is now a wait and see game to discover what I might have produced from these crosses. A future article will cover the results of these crosses.

All photos copyright 2010 LariAnn Garner

Related articles:
araceae, aroids, Caladiums, elephant ears

About LariAnn Garner
LariAnn Garner is the founder and Research Director at Aroidia Research. LariAnn is amply qualified for the position, having a Bachelor of Science in Botany, and a Masters Degree in Plant Physiology from the University of Florida. After her college education, she spent a number of years working at several nurseries to gain practical experience before embarking on her own research efforts. One of these nurseries was Bamboo Nursery in the Orlando, Florida area, where she observed and learned about the Philodendron hybridization work of Bob McColley. To learn more about LariAnn's work, visit http://aroidiaresearch.org.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Thank-you. Katg Jul 4, 2010 6:40 PM 10
I love caladiums!! UniQueTreasures Jul 1, 2010 11:25 AM 12
Aroids are great!!! Ridesredmule Jun 25, 2010 10:48 AM 0
Lari Ann.... Sharon Jun 23, 2010 10:56 AM 1

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