Introduction: Hybridizing Caladiums -(making Caladium Babies)
Caladiums grow colorful heart shaped leaves from spring to fall. They mostly prefer shade and brighten the darker areas in my yard. There are many varieties with different colors and patterns available to purchase, but I prefer to make my own hybrids. By using different varieties there are endless possibilities of hybrids you can make. I am not a professional gardener so I am not going to use the correct terms like inflorescence, spathe or pistils, but you can follow my instructable and make your own Caladium babies without knowing all those terms.
Step 1: It's ALL About Timing
First you need pollen, but you need it when the other caladiums are ready to accept it. Timing is everything. If you have a multitude of plants it makes it much easier because you'll have some in different stages of development. I have harvested pollen from a plant and stored it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days while waiting for the other plants to be ready. However, the fresher the pollen the more chances you'll have for success.
These photos show plants that have already exposed their male parts. They are past the point of accepting pollen, but can supply it for others.
Step 2: Watching and Waiting to Make Your Move
Caladiums must be pollinated when they are "in the mood". They are only "in the mood" before the flower opens exposing the male part of the flower. You must wait until the top portion turns a pale yellow and is a few days from opening. These 2 photos show caladiums that are not quite ready.
Step 3: In the Mood for LOVE
So you've waited a few more days and the top has turned a pale yellow and loosened a bit. It is ready to naturally open in a few days. It is NOW that you must make your move and pollinate the caladium. If you wait until it opens it is too late and it will not be successful.
Step 4: Exposing the Female Parts
When the tops are pale and a few days from opening I use scissors to create a window to the female parts of the plant.
Step 5: Doing the Deed
Now that you have a window you can pollinate your plant. Use the freshest pollen you can get and a cheap small paintbrush to do the deed. I just dip the brush in the pollen and "paint" the female part of the plant with pollen. Sometimes I gently scrub the pollen filled brush into the plant to get into all the cracks and try to cover as much area as I can.
Step 6: Confirmation of a Successful Pollination
Within 2 weeks you should know whether your plant was successfully pollinated or not. If the female part of the plant (where you painted the pollen) is still yellowish with small black dots, you have probably successfully pollinated it. The male part of the plant (where the pollen forms) will begin to shrivel and possibly fall off - that's ok.
Step 7: Unsuccessful
These photos show what happens if you were unsuccessful in pollinating your caladiums. The female part will turn dark and moldy looking and the entire stalk will begin to droop and shrivel up. At this point you can just cut it off near the base and continue to enjoy your non baby making plant.
Step 8: They Plump When You Cook'em
These photos show successful pollination. Over the next few weeks, the female parts of the plant will swell up. There is nothing you can do to help them or speed up the process. Just keep your eyes on them as ants like to nibble on the berries. As they mature you may want to cover the berries to protect them from ants or from falling out. I snip a piece of pantyhose and secure it over the entire area with a twisty tie or a rubber band.
Step 9: Ready to Pop
It takes around 8 to 10 weeks from pollination to pop. You'll need to continue checking your berries until they begin to fall out when you touch them. Sometimes they begin fall out into the stocking cover so be careful while checking on them. The caladium berries shown are starting to come out so I can cut the entire stalk off near the base and bring them inside.
Step 10: Pop Goes the Weasel
Now the hard work begins. You need a well lit area where you can sit for hours removing the seeds. I would suggest using tweezers and colorful napkins. I simply take the berries and put them on something bright colored, to make them easy to see. You can discard any berries that didn't plump up. Each berry will contain anywhere from 1 to 10 seeds inside it.
Step 11: Labor of Love
This is a dirty and time consuming job. Each berry is like a tiny liquid filled balloon filled with seeds. You must open each berry and push the seeds out.
Using 1 set of tweezers I hold the berry near the black spot and with another pair of pointy tweezers I stab the berry near the black spot and scrape out the seeds. I use colorful napkins because they are tiny and very hard to see if you use something white. Once I push the seeds out of the berries I put them in a small bowl containing a small amount of distilled water. I allow the seeds to soak until the next day and then I plant them. This helps to soften the seeds and aids in germination.
Step 12: Meet Your Babies
Caladium seeds need light to germinate. So i sprinkle the seeds on top of dirt and mist some water over them with a water bottle. I put plastic over my seeds trays, keep them moist and wait. These photos show what's happened after 11 days. After the leaves begin forming I remove the plastic cover.
Step 13: 2 Months Later
2 months after germination your babies may begin to show some of their true colors. The last photo shows how tiny the bulbs will be at this stage. Good Luck!!