A drooping Caladium is a depressing sight. However, this indoor superstar’s flashy, brightly variegated leaves deserve to be on full display during their short season of growth.
Water your drooping Caladium thoroughly, as dehydration is the most likely cause. Low humidity and poor water quality both play a role.
Temperature stress, too much light, disease, and pests can also cause drooping. In the fall, seasonal die-back wilts the Caladium leaves.
Lack of Water Causes Caladium to Lose Its Turgor Pressure
Droopy Caladium leaves are most often caused by under-watering, which is a relatively simple mistake to make but is also relatively easy to fix.
In addition to its biological functions, water is required for the structure of the Caladium. Filling their cells with water causes the leaves to become rigid, preventing them from drooping over time.
This is known as turgor pressure or turgidity. The turgidity of an under-watered plant is low. This is because its cells have deflated to the point where they cannot hold the leaves upright.
Is your growing medium loose and crumbly no matter how far down you prod it? Does it feel light to you when you lift it?
If this is the case, give your Caladium some extra water to help it recover to its former glory.
How to Rehydrate Your Caladium
You should water your Caladium from below if you want the best results. The roots are soaked first, allowing the plant to rehydrate quickly and efficiently.
Caladium needs to be kept in a large basin or tub and plenty of clean water. The best water is distilled, filtered, or collected from the roof.
To water from below:
- Removing your Caladium from its saucer or tray is the first step.
- Put the plant in the basin.
- Fill the basin to the halfway point of the pot with water.
- Leave the Caladium in the water for about 30 minutes.
- Maintain the water level as it seeps into the growing medium.
- After removing the pot, let it sit for at least 15 minutes after removing the pot to allow the excess moisture to drain away.
- Ensure your rehydrated Caladium is in its drip tray or saucer before returning it to its original location.
It may be difficult to get larger plant’ pots into basins. In this case, consider watering from above.
Don’t rush things; take your time and be patient. Dry soil can become hydrophobic, meaning it does not readily absorb water but actively resists it.
Slowly adding water to your dry potting mix is the best approach. This slows down the rate at which it is absorbed by the soil.
Then, you can add more generously when you see dripping from the drainage holes.
Caladiums prefer a humid environment with a 50-60% humidity level. They are native to the tropical forests of Central and South America and are therefore actual jungle plants.
They will begin to dry out and lose their turgidity without that high humidity. However, if the tips of the leaves are brown and crispy, you need to add more moisture to the air.
How to Maintain Humidity
Begin by thoroughly misting your Caladium. The plant’s surrounding humidity will be immediately improved as a result.
Consider a pebble tray for long-term humidity. Simply a saucer or tray containing river stones and a generous amount of freshwater is all that is required.
As the water evaporates, it creates a steady, comfortable humidity level in the air. I wrote more about DIY pebble trays here.
Add a humidifier as an additional option. If you have extensive humid-loving tropical plant collections, a humidifier like this is a wise investment. (Check out the prices on Amazon here.)
Caladiums dislike cool temperatures and rapid shifts in climate. Because of this, they are known for ‘pouting’ when they aren’t getting the constant, unrelenting heat essential for their survival.
While they can live in a temperature range of 70°F to 85°F (21°C to 30°C), they prefer the higher end of that range and despise temperature swings and cold drafts.
Do not let any chilly air bother your Caladium before doing anything else. They despise being swarmed by air-conditioning vents in particular. The same can be said for sudden bursts of hot air.
Place it in a consistently warm area to get the most out of your Caladium’s season. Warm but steady weather is preferable to cold in the mornings and hot by midday.
Salt and Minerals in Water
Caladium, like humans, requires clean water to thrive. However, our needs are often different from those of plants.
The fluoride and chlorine in tap water are often added to kill pathogenic bacteria and prevent tooth decay. Mineral salt-rich water is also found in some places. Unfortunately, neither of these things is suitable for Caladiums.
Your tap water is to blame if your leaves appear yellowed as well as wilting. The mineral salt buildup on the soil’s surface, which looks chalky, indicates that your tap water is too hard.
If you see visible deposits on the surface of your Caladium, you’ll need to flush your growing medium. Here’s how to go about it:
- Place the Caladium in an area with free-flowing water. It is best to use a showerhead or a garden hose.
- Fill the pot with water until it flows freely from the drainage holes.
- Turn off the water and wait five to ten minutes. This allows for the dissolution of any remaining salts.
- Repeat the second step.
- Water the plant only when the top inch of potting medium is dehydrated to the touch.
Rainwater is the best water for your Caladium. If you can collect it during storms or showers, you can save it for later use. Distilled or filtered water is another viable option.
Over-watering Suffocates The Root System
Surprisingly, over-watering can cause the same loss of turgidity as under-watering.
To thrive, caladiums require a moist but not soggy growing medium. Rain forest floors drain quickly, so water doesn’t build up on them even after many showers.
As time goes on, the roots are slowly suffocated by the water. In addition, they begin to lose their ability to transport water to the leaves due to their stress. Take a look at the growing medium you’re using.
Is it dripping wet when you touch it? Next, it’s time to check if your drip tray or saucer has any drainage holes at all. What’s the smell like in there? Is it damp or rotten eggs? These are all signs of over-watering.
First of all, stop watering! Even in hot weather, you should only water your Caladium once or twice a week.
Allow the Caladium to dry out. Overwatering your plant may feel like neglect at first, but this is actually a death sentence for your plant.
Finding the right amount of water can be challenging, so it’s better to risk too little than too much.
I get the best results from a free-draining mix of potting soil that includes large amounts of peat and perlite.
In terms of drainage, perlite is excellent, while peat retains moisture without becoming dangerously wet.
Infected with Root Rot
Caladiums grow from corms, which are small round tubers similar to onions. Root rot poses a particular threat to plants because their entire root system originates from a single point.
Excess water creates a favorable environment for the rot, causing fungus to thrive. In addition, this decomposing mass is an ideal breeding ground for a wide variety of pathogens and fungi.
Gently remove the plant from its pot and inspect the root mass for signs of rot. Fine pale fibers branch from the corm’s hard to mass if it’s healthy.
Rotten roots are brown or black in color and are brittle. When touched, fine root fibers disintegrate, and larger ones may shed their outer layer or sheath.
Rotting roots also have an awful smell, resembling either eggs or sewage. When soils are clean and healthy, they should only smell like dirt, not anything else.
The rot will spread upwards from the roots into the plant’s stems in extreme cases.
Infected roots are unable to perform their functions. If the plant does not receive the proper amount of nutrients and water, it will show signs of drooping.
How to Save Caladium From Root Rot
The only way to save a Caladium with root rot is to re-pot it.
- A new pot with at least two drainage holes is required.
- It’s best to use a potting soil mix with plenty of perlite and organic additives like peat or coconut coir.
- Clean your shears or scissors.
Re-pot your Caladium as follows:
- Remove the ailing Caladium from its pot with care.
- Rinse the roots to get rid of any infected soil.
- Trim away any blackened or dead roots gently.
- Fill the bottom of your new pot with a growing medium and place the Caladium inside.
- Fill the pot carefully, taking care not to snap or otherwise damage the remaining roots.
- Water thoroughly and let it drain before returning to its original location.
It may be too late if your corm has softened and turned black. The plant has no chance of recovery and should be discarded.
Caladium Drooping After Repotting
It’s hard on your Caladium when you have to repot it. Regardless of how delicate we are, no plant enjoys being uprooted and handled. This is especially true for plants that have been re-potted due to root rot.
The root system gets damaged, and its ability to function decreases. That’s why nutrition and water supply disrupts temporally, and the plant shows drooping signs.
If you have a healthy Caladium, it won’t be long before it recovers. Water your plant only when the soil is arid, and give it time to recover.
Re-potting a Caladium because of rot will prolong the plant’s recovery time. Give them extra attention, especially when it comes to water. They’ll get going at their own pace.
Insufficient Pot Size for Caladium
If you don’t have a lot of space, you can grow caladiums in a small pot. However, it’s important to remember that the Caladium won’t maintain solid and upright leaves if the growing medium is too crowded.
You may need a new pot if you see root fibers emerging from the top of the soil or from the drainage holes.
There are two ways to re-pot a root-bound Caladium.
You must take action right away. Choose a new pot that is only an inch or two more expansive than the old one, and re-pot as you would a root rotten caladium.
The other option is to sit back and see what happens. If your Caladium signs of root binding in the late summer, it is best to wait until the winter to remove the roots. Removing the corms and storing them for the winter will allow you to replant them in a larger pot in the spring once the leaves have withered. Even if you find multiple corms, you can repot each into a completely new plant.
How Much Light Does It Get?
Caladiums adapted to the shady undergrowth of rain forests. Therefore, medium-light levels, dappled with shaded areas, are ideal for them.
The light that is too bright for Caladium will cause it to curl up its leaves to protect itself. This reduces the area that is exposed to the sun’s rays.
The plant will also turn white, erasing the Caladium’s vibrant hues. Damage tends to be more noticeable on the side of the plant that is closest to the light.
When given insufficient light, the opposite is true: a Caladium will be unable to produce any robust leaves at all.
In addition, without adequate light, your plant will not photosynthesize or utilize sunlight to produce energizing sugars.
No matter which side of the plant you look at, you’ll see a lack of green pigment and the brighter reds and pinks in a specimen that isn’t getting enough light.
It doesn’t matter whether your plant wants more or less light; all you have to do is move it. Avoiding direct sunlight is ideal for growing Caladiums because they prefer moderate indirect light.
As long as they don’t get too much direct sunlight, north and east-facing rooms are acceptable options.
Allow plants to gradually transition from darkness to light over a few days. Your plant could be damaged if you increase the amount of light too quickly.
Infestation by Pests
Your Caladium will lose its luster if it is infested by pests. They literally suck the life from its leaves.
Take a good look at your plant, especially around the veins. The fleshy white buildup is a sure sign of mealy bugs.
Spider mites cause thin, delicate webbing, and thrips leave light scraped areas and are sometimes spotted as tiny black dots.
On top of all that, small seed-like creatures known as aphids collect on veins, appearing in various colors from creamy to dark brown. The stems may be infested with scale insect and cause the plant drooping.
For mild infestations, it’s often best to simply get rid of the pests. For example, suppose you have spider mites or thrips.
In that case, you can use a garden hose or showerhead to blast them away, and mealybugs can be wiped away with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to get rid of them.
Applying neem oil or another insecticide will take care of more severe infestations.
It’s also possible that disease is to blame for Caladium leaf wilt.
Pythium root: A fungal infection is known as Pythium root rot causes roots to turn orange-brown before they die out completely. This causes the Caladium to lose its leaves and stems, which bend and are consistent signs of dehydration and malnutrition.
Rhizoctonia Stem Rot: Symptoms of Rhizoctonia Stem Rot are similar to those of Pythium Root Rot, with the addition of distinctive oval-shaped brown lesions on stems.
Fusarium Wilt: It is another disease that causes wilting and soft leaves. Root die-back and lesions are caused by this pathogen, as are Pythium and Rhizoctonia.
It can be difficult to tell one disease from another. However, soggy, over-watered soil is essential for the growth of all of these organisms, and they all exhibit similar symptoms.
Your Caladium will suffer from an unknown disease that causes soft leaves and bowed stems in rare cases.
First and foremost, quarantine any plants that appear to be infected. You don’t want to spread disease.
These three diseases all necessitate aggressive treatment with a commercial fungicide. It’s best to go all-in from the start because they aren’t to be messed with.
Your best bet is to use a broad-spectrum copper fungicide. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s also best to use it outside.
Caladium Seasonal Die-back
Caladiums are perennials, which means they thrive before dying for a set period. In the comfort of their own homes, Caladiums can sense the passing of the seasons.
It is common for new growers to purchase a potted Caladium in the spring, only to be disappointed when the entire plant dies off in the fall.
Sadly, even the most well-loved and meticulously cared-for Caladiums will begin to droop in the late summer heat.
You will be left with nothing but a pile of dead leaves, their radiant splendor now nothing more than a summer memory as the older leaves wither and fall.
Your Caladium will go through all of this. It’s normal. If you take care of the corms, your plant will spring back to life in the spring.
As the leaves wither, remove them. Ensure your plant is in a cool, dry area of your home once all of its leaves have fallen off. Don’t water at all. If you want to avoid rot, make sure the Caladium is well-ventilated.
To prolong their life, you can also remove the corms from the pot and store them in a paper bag, away from moisture and light. I like to mix powdered sulfur or cinnamon into the bag to keep mold at bay.
The pot can be moved back to the sun in the spring, or the corms can be planted in a new medium. Bright, fresh leaves will appear in no time at all from the soil, glamorous as ever when adequately cared for.