Have you seen photos of Dutch bulb fields and been amazed at their beauty? Florida’s very own version of that spectacular scene can be found in the caladium fields at Classic Caladiums.
Most of the world’s caladiums are produced in Florida among a handful of growers. Unique to Classic Caladiums is the breeding program that produces new and exciting varieties of caladiums. The photo below shows a test field at Classic Caladiums, featuring thousands of crosses with varying colors, habits, and vigor. Among the thousands of beautiful plants seen here, only a handful will pass the rigorous testing to make it to the market.
Probably the most exciting part of the this visit is seeing these test plots and knowing the future of caladiums is going to feature such beautiful plants. Purples, oranges, chartreuse and the brightest of pinks are all being developed. To walk through these plots and pick out a few favorites is a task that leaves you second guessing yourself!
Endless fields of brightly colored leaves fill the landscape. Some, as see here, are planted in raised beds similar to strawberry production, while others are planted in the level soil of the field.
From the Classic Caladiums website, “Modern farming methods combined with extensive testing, developing new varieties and reinvigorating older varieties keeps things hopping down on the farm. Unlike our competitors, we do not grow our caladiums in the mucky lake bottom soil near Lake Placid. The sandy soil near Zolfo Springs works very well and since we have extensive acreage, it allows us to rotate crops naturally and avoid using fertilizers and other pesticides and restoratives necessary to keep using the same ground over and over.”
As my caladiums are slowly putting themselves to sleep for the season, it seems the beds at Classic Caladiums were still in full show. It won’t be long however, until these start to shut down to and the harvesting process begins. The team at Classic Caladiums writes, “Once the temperatures drop and the caladiums ready themselves for dormancy, we cut off the leaves, then come back and harvest the bulbs using specialized farming equipment. Even though there are no leaves, every row is marked and plotted by GPS so we know exactly what bulbs we are harvesting. The bulb carrier is then emptied and sent to our nearby Avon Park production warehouse for cleaning, curing and sorting, getting the bulbs ready for commercial and retail orders.”
In addition to the caladium fields at Classic Caladiums, display beds showcase the current selections of varieties available for purchase. Like a kid in a candy shop, I didn’t know where to turn to next when it came to admiring and photographing these plants.
It’s hard to say for sure, but I don’t think agriculture gets much prettier than caladium farming in Florida.