November 8, 2010

The Rennaissance of Crotons

'Mrs. Iceton'

'Yellow Mrs. Iceton'

In the last 5 years, I've seen a real resurgence in the popularity of crotons. In some areas on the west coast of Florida, crotons have been a major anchor plant choice of landscapes for decades. Perhaps the croton nurseries were there 50 years ago, and the plants became available to homeowners. Perhaps the rocky soil in Miami prevented a wider variety becoming available, or it may be a simple demand-supply curve problem that prevented a wider array of plants becoming available earlier. Nonetheless, there are dozens of varieties of crotons available in good supply these days. There is a nursery in Miami which specializes in crotons, producing several dozen varieties from cuttings. New seedling-grown varieties crop up all the time in large collections. Here at Pinecrest Gardens we have over 100 varieties of crotons, most of which are named, some of which are wild seedlings.

'Mona Lisa'




There are varieties for sunny locations, container culture, deep shade locations, and almost any variety of conditions in between. There are landscape varieties which turn into small trees, and some newer varieties that are ultra compact, sitting nicely in pots for years at a time. I have not seen groundcover-crotons yet, although some varieties can be maintained at 12 inches high for many years. In South Florida, there are at least 50 varieties available for sale at public garden sales and in nurseries, and easily 400 named varieties in private and public collections.

In decades past, crotons were just another landscape plant, suitable for sunny dry areas, and often cropping up in old neighborhoods who did not have programmed urban landscape maintenance. Today there are dozens of varieties for sale, some of which are decent indoor landscape plants. There is a Croton Society to help promote the plants and to try to keep the names of these highly variable plants as straight as possible.

'Irene Kingsley'
Crotons are no longer just for filling space in the back yard. They can be used very effectively as focal-point plants, container specimens, small-garden or Asian Garden candidates, and almost every possibility in between. Take a new look at crotons, especially in the south parts of Florida, California and Texas. In other areas, crotons make decent houseplants in a sunny window. I learned of crotons in Milwaukee 35 years ago, where their brilliant colors made a real difference in a window in the dreary gloom of February. They can make a difference in your garden as a permanent resident. 

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens 

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