Caladiums (Caladium ×hortulanum Birdsey, Araceae Juss.) are commonly grown in pots, hanging baskets, and other container types, or planted in the landscape as accent and border plants (Evans et al., 1992). They are valued for a wide array of leaf colors, coloration patterns, and shapes. The majority of commercially available caladium plants are forced from tubers. Florida growers supply the great majority of the caladium tubers used in the United States and in the world. Frequent introduction of new cultivars is important to both the Florida tuber-producing industry and landscape and greenhouse/nursery industries. New cultivars with novel or improved ornamental characteristics have been a major force attracting new interest and increased use of caladiums within all segments of these industries. For new caladium cultivars to be successfully introduced into the tuber-producing industry, adequate tuber yields with field production methods are essential.
A recent survey of the Florida caladium industry indicated that 51 caladium cultivars were planted in 2013 with two or more acres planted per cultivar (Zhanao Deng, unpublished data). These cultivars can be categorized into eight groups based on leaf type and impact leaf color [fancy white, red, pink, and novelty, and lance (or strap) white, red, pink, and novelty] (Bell et al., 1998). Various subgroups may exist within major cultivar groups. White Wing and Gingerland are lance-type cultivars, falling into the lance white and the lance novelty group, respectively. They have been produced commercially for many years, and ranked third and fourth among all lance-leaved cultivars in the acreage planted (14.3 and 9.9 acres, respectively) (Deng et al., 2008). These two cultivars have not yielded well, particularly in recent years. ‘White Wing’ and ‘Gingerland’ were found to be highly susceptible to pythium root rot (Deng et al., 2005a, 2005b) and caladium growers indicated that the pythium root rot disease pressure in their fields seemed to have been increasing due to the lack of effective soil fumigants. Miss Muffet and White Queen represent two subgroups of cultivars within the fancy novelty group. Leaves of ‘Miss Muffet’ have a unique lemon-yellow color and many burgundy spots. Leaves of ‘White Queen’ are characterized by having bright red main veins and a large red area in the center. These two cultivars have been widely grown for decades, and they ranked 12th and sixth, respectively, among all fancy cultivars in acreage in 2013 (Deng et al., 2008). ‘Miss Muffet’ and ‘White Queen’ are susceptible or highly susceptible to pythium root rot (Deng et al., 2005a). Caladium growers were seeking new cultivars to complement or replace these cultivars.
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) initiated a caladium breeding program at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC; Wimauma, FL) in 1976. The main breeding objectives of this program have been to produce new caladium cultivars with novel colors, coloration patterns, increased tuber yield potentials, sunburn tolerance, and enhanced container and landscape performance. Toward these objectives, three new cultivars had been developed and they were released in 2015 to complement the abovementioned subgroups of cultivars. This report describes the origin and plant characteristics of these new cultivars and their tuber yield potential in field production and performance in container and landscape trials.
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