Crotons: Colorful leaves all year long
Known for their bold, tropical foliage, crotons are perennial evergreen shrubs. These plants grow easily in the Yucatan and can be raised as decorative houseplants as well.
Grown for their brightly colored and marked leaves crotons (Codiaeum variegatum) come in a wide variety of leaf shapes and colors – reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, purple, greens, and white. They are native to India and Malaysia and are usually quite full with the leaves forming clusters to create color patterns. Some varieties grow up to 10′ tall, but there are smaller varieties; crotons can be pruned to shape. Many crotons grow best in full sun, but others prefer partial shade.
As houseplants, crotons add texture and color to dull interiors. When used indoors choose a cultivar such as the Petra croton, that can remain brightly colored in indoor light conditions.
Caution: Like most jungle plants, the leaves possess irritating and poisonous qualities if eaten, and the sap may also stain.
Planting and Care. When used in landscapes, plants should be located 2’ – 3’ feet apart. Crotons thrive in warm, humid weather and should be watered frequently, but not excessively. Rain water may be adequate here in the tropics.
To propagate a croton plant, use a stem cutting that is 3”- 4” long and has 3 – 5 leaves. Dip the cut end of the cutting into an off-the-shelf rooting hormone, then plant it in a small pot. Keep the soil moist, but not over-watered. Cuttings will root in less than a month if temperatures stay between 70°-80°F, which is no problem here!
In the Yucatan, just stick a cutting in the ground during a rainy season and it will grow. New foliage will begin green and develop color with maturity.