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Caladium History

Caladiums are a genus of flowering plants in the family Araceae, native to South America and Central America, and naturalized in India, parts of Africa, and various tropical islands. More Info
The first commercial caladium varieties were discovered in the Amazon River basin and made their way to the Americas via European greenhouses. More Info

native and introduced areas

native and introduced areas

The green areas on the map are where Caladiums were found to grow natively, and the purple areas are where they flourished after being intoduced.

Caladiums first documented

Book title: Description des plantes Nouvelles et peu connues: cultivées dans le jardin de J.M. Cels: avec figures.

By: Ventenat, Etienne Pierre, 1757-1808; Cels, Jacques Martin, 1743-1806; Redouté, Henri-Joseph, 1766-1852
Publication date

One of the first written Caladium Descriptions

Click HERE to go to the book (it's in French)

Page 135 and 136

Breeding plants with desirable characteristics was well underway in the 1800s and continues today. There are over 1000 named cultivars of Caladium bicolour from the original South American plant. More Info

Potted and landscape caladium plants are grown from tubers (they are often called bulbs). Most of the tubers used throughout the world are produced in Florida.

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) initiated a caladium breeding program in 1976 at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Centre.

So far, this has been the only major organized caladium breeding program in the world. The program's main objectives were to develop new cultivars that:

1) can produce many bright colourful leaves and a high yield of good quality tubers; and

2) have short, sturdy petioles and multi-eyed tubers that can result in increased early leaf production and improved leaf display.

Additional goals of this program included the following:

1) to improve the aesthetic values and performance of caladium plants in containers and landscapes.

2) to eliminate the costly labour associated with tuber de-eyeing; and

3) to improve tuber and plant productivity and profitability. More Info

The leaves of caladiums are large, arrowhead-shaped, and marked in varying patterns in white, pink, and red. The two forms most widely cultivated are called “fancy-leaved” (round and pointy) and “lance-leaved” (long and ruffled)1.with many new shaped being created. More Info


Thai Caladiums – a whole otherworld of Caladium Species

Some sources suggest that Thai caladiums are more compact and have smaller leaves than their US counterparts, while others suggest that they have larger leaves and more vibrant colours. More Info

Thai caladiums are a relatively new addition to the world of caladiums. According to some sources, the Thai royal household has been breeding caladiums for over a century for their exclusive enjoyment.
The breeding program has resulted in some stunning plants that are now available in the United States. The Thai breeders went in different directions than other caladium breeders, apparently using some species or varieties that are unknown to Western horticulture. One species being used that is familiar to collectors is Caladium rubicundrum, a larger purple-leaved plant whose leaves also have lighter pinkish-purple spots. More Info

Here is a very interesting review and write up about Thai caladiums by the blogger Daves Garden (the above paragraph is an excerpt) Thai Caladiums - Will they rock the Caladium world? - Dave's Garden ( More Info

A more plausible explanation

 It is thought that a plant that is native to the Philippines called Gabigabihan has been used over the years to breed with imported caladiums to make the current Thai varieties.

This makes Thai caladiums shorter, more colourful, and more needy of tropical conditions.

 About Gabigabihan (monochoria) More Info

 Gen info

- Monochoria was originally a genus of aquatic plants in the water hyacinth family,


Gabi-gabihan is fast-growing perennial herb. Leaves are long-petioled. Petioles are stout, up to 60 centimetres long, sheathing below.


- Native to the Philippines, in open wetlands, swamps, along freshwater pools, etc., at low and medium altitudes from Luzon to Mindanao.

- Also native to Assam, Bangladesh, Borneo, Cambodia, China, Hainan, Himalaya, India, Jawa, Laos, Malaya, Myanmar, Nepal, New Guinea, Northern Territory, Sri Lanka, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Thailand, Vietnam.

Examples of Thai Style caladiums

Examples of Thai Style caladiums

are some competition winners from the one of the latest caladium competitions in Asia.

There are hundreds if not thousands of hybrids available with Thai origins. Photo Credit