So, who coined the names of these new cultivars? In the case of ‘Salsa’ and ‘Wonderland,’ it was Dot Bates, and her daughter, Terri Bates, of Bates Sons & Daughters, which sells caladiums in Lake Placid.
Dot came up with ‘Salsa.’
Terri named the other caladium ‘Wonderland.’
“Customers have been asking for a shorter, fuller Gingerland,” she said. “‘Wonderland’ looks like Gingerland, so people have an idea of what it will look like -- that’s why I picked that name.”
Caladium growers in Florida work with Zhanao Deng, a plant breeder and professor of environmental horticulture with the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC).
Deng led newly published research in which he and other scientists describe how they developed the new cultivars on commercial farms near the GCREC.
Here’s how Deng summarizes each new varieties’ strengths:
• ‘Salsa’ is a new red caladium, and its leaves have a large, bright red center and lightly undulated green margins.
• ‘Pinky Swear’ is a distinct, pink lance-leaved caladium with multiple prominent brightly pink veins and irregular light pink or green blotches.
• ‘Wonderland’ is compact with several creamy, white leaves and numerous brightly colored red-to-burgundy spots.
“These trial data make us believe that the new cultivars will perform well with gardeners,” Deng said.
Working with Bob Hartman, who runs Classic Caladiums LLC, a nursery in Avon Park, Deng is studying whether he can grow caladiums year-round. If he can find the right varieties, Florida growers can serve a global market. They can also make plants available in the winter months in the United States, which means consumers could use them for the holidays and perhaps, Valentine’s Day.
One of these new varieties might grow year-round, Deng said.
“‘Wonderland’ has shown it can resist fusarium tuber rot when we store the tubers,” he said. “With this disease resistance, it may store better and longer than other commercial cultivars, thus being more suitable for extended postharvest storage and the global market year-round.”