Plant of the Week
October 14, 2006
If you want to add tropical fall color to your landscape, consider vibrant colorful crotons. If you live in a moderate, climate such as San Antonio, these plants would be an excellent addition to anyone’s landscape. These beautiful, colorful plants can be grown in containers everywhere but will reach their optimal beauty when planted outdoors in full sunshine.
Crotons are members of the Euphorbiaceae family and the scientific name of the most common species is Codiaeum variegatum. Planted outdoors, they are tolerate of sandy soil and will tolerate salt air near the beach. Only in direct sunlight do their leaves take on the fullest color variations; and in partial sun, the leaves are colorful, but not as brightly variegated. These plants originated in Bolivia and Ecuador. They tolerate heat extremely well, but are NOT very tolerant of hard frosts. If you live in a southern area that has frosts, you can protect the plants by covering them with a medium weight fabric or a thermal blanket if frost is predicted. In colder climates, growing crotons in containers is the only way they will survive the winter season of repeated hard frost and snow.
The ‘gold dust’ plant is a commonly seen croton. This shrub has bright green leaves with flecks of gold all over the leaves, hence the name. But the common croton is very pretty as well. The leaves range in shades from deepest reds and purples to bright greens, gold, and everything in between. Look for such selections as ‘Norma’ or ‘Petra’. Other variations include a mutation that has long, thin, twisted leaves.
These plants can be used to create a hedge when planted close together and allowed to grow to their full height which is usually four to six feet high. You may also see these plants with three planted together and their stems braided. These make attractive specimens.
Indoors, crotons need to be given the most sun exposure possible to allow their colors to develop as much as possible. They prefer high humidity and do well when misted on a daily basis. These beautiful plants are well worth the trouble so keep them misted and happy.
In most areas, crotons are rather inexpensive plants if purchased as small specimens. They grow fairly quickly, so it is not a problem to purchase small plants and allow them to develop. Over a period of a few years, they will reach their full height.
Overall, you can add garden color with crotons indoors if you are too far north to enjoy outdoor crotons. These evergreen shrubs are unlike any other plants and you’ll earn comments from your friends and neighbors if you care for them properly and allow their colors to develop fully.
Remember, Learn and Have Fun!!!
David Rodriguez is the County Extension Agent-Horticulture for Bexar County. He represents Texas Cooperative Extension with the Texas A&M University System. For any landscape or gardening information, call the Bexar County Master Gardeners Hotline at (210) 467-6575, e-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our County Extension website at http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu/.
Special Note: Listen to live broadcast of the Home & Garden Show with David Rodriguez & Bill Rohde on WOAI 1200 AM, every Saturday morning between 8:00-11:00 a.m., and call in your gardening questions at (210) 737-1200 or 1-800-383-9624. Check it out!