Caladium breeding: progress in developing lance-leaved cultivars

Zhanao Zheng, Brent K. Harbaugh

Abstract


Caladiums are commonly grown as container or landscape plants in Florida. Historically, fancy-leaved cultivars have dominated the market. During the past two or three decades, the demand for lance-leaved cultivars has increased due to their inherent characteristics including short plants, resilience to environmental stresses, and ease of forcing in containers. However, the number of lance-leaved cultivars has been limited with few choices available for leaf color or color pattern, and many of the available lance-leaved cultivars have poor tuber yields. Consequently, tuber production for these cultivars is difficult and less profitable compared to production of fancy-leaved cultivars; this has led to a short supply and higher price for tubers of lance-leaved cultivars. Since its beginning in 1976, developing new lance-leaved cultivars with improved or novel foliar characteristics and good tuber yield has been a major breeding objective of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science’s caladium breeding program. ‘Florida Sweetheart’ was the first cultivar released from this breeding program, followed by ‘Florida Red Ruffles’, ‘Florida Irish Lace’, ‘Florida White Ruffles’, and ‘Florida Whitewater’. Some of them have become very popular in the Florida caladium industry. In more recent years, efforts have been made to improve disease resistance, sun tolerance, and cold tolerance in lance-leaved cultivars. Dozens of elite lines have been developed and evaluated for their tuber production, landscape performance in the sun as well as in the shade, and container performance. A number of these lines have performed outstandingly; three of them were released as new cultivars in early 2008.

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Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc.     ISSN 0886-7283