New photos as of late summer, 2007:
I wrote the essay below several years ago when I tried to save a couple bucks and keep my garden Caladium from year to year. I just don't have that kind of time or interest anymore and so just allow garden Caladium to become compost each fall. On the other hand, there are some Thai Caladium and a few unusual ones that I do want to keep from year to year. Those are planted in pots. I allow the pots to go dry and don't water again till the spring. I allow them to spend the winter in unused corners and top shelves of my greenhouse. By avoiding watering, they don't start to grow until the following year. They've actually grown from year to year. Anyway, the following is what I did a few years ago when I wanted to save my tubers:
Winter Preparations (I've also created a photo essay of this tuber preparation which you can view by clicking here.)
The winter of 96/97 was the first time I managed to successfully save caladium tubers. I had purchased the usual 75-100 tubers and for the first time vowed to keep at least the White Christmas tubers over the winter. In October, when the plants began to degenerate, I dug up as many tubers as I could locate.
I rinsed the tubers multiple times until as much soil as possible was washed off. After they were clean, I soaked them in a benomyl solution (Bonide) that I had mixed up according to instructions. They were allowed to soak for about 15-20 minutes.
Once they had soaked in benomyl, I allowed the tubers to totally dry overnight. I covered the tubers with new vermiculite in a plastic bag. The plastic bag was kept in a heated portion of the house. I had kept some others in a paper bag, also with vermiculite. Others never made it through the processing and sat on a styrofoam box all winter.
In spring, the plastic bag caladiums were sprouting even before I had an opportunity to plant them. They shot up and had full-size leaves by late May. I don't think I lost a single tuber. The ones in the paper bag had a much poorer survival rate. Those tubers that I never got around to burying in vermiculite dried and shriveled. Of those, just one tuber sent up a small leaf and that didn't come up till August.
Tubers that I purchased this year were planted the same day as the tubers I had prepared but were much slower to sprout (slower by several weeks).
I'm now convinced that this method is effective and plan to set it up in a mass production system this fall so that the 150 or so tubers will not take forever to process. One step to simplify the system will be using a box with 1/4" screen mesh on the bottom to wash the tubers. That will allow me to wash off the bulk of the soil before the final hand washing. I'll capture images of the production line and post them shortly by late October.