by Leigh Fulghum
Crotons (Codiaeum) are shrubs which frequently receive a snub in Florida landscaping, with many people going so far as to say, "I HATE Crotons!" which is hardly fair. Despite its indelible staining sap and low mammalian toxicity, in certain situations a well-chosen Croton is an excellent design option. Crotons are particularly appropriate with various types of stucco and clay, and used carefully, can provide durable low-maintenance texture and color where there's no hope of achieving flowers.
Admittedly they can be ghastly
placed next to other large-leaved variegated plants or certain flowering
shrubs. The yellow and brown foliage types stuck in with red or double-pink
hibiscus and a mixed ground cover of Rhoeo and Asparagus Fern
then edged in oolitic limestone, comprise an unfortunate combination
seen in Florida which has understandably caused many people to hold
a grudge against all Crotons forever.
But Crotons are not to be blamed for the indiscriminate trading and propagation of non-select cuttings which has in many Florida neighborhoods resulted in large foundation plantings of some of the least attractive possibilities. Indeed selected branches of the most fantastic foliages and leaf shapes propagated for nursery stock by true connoisseurs of plant pigments are now being overlooked in the design process due to this widespread wave of Croton prejudice created by earlier trends in subdivision landscape philosophy.
Probably the top client request along with "low-maintenance" in residential landscape design is "color." Crotons fulfill both these objectives. Their successful use simply requires thoughtful decision on which variety to specify and how to coordinate it with the surrounding landscape.
Croton Fact Sheet
Broward County Agricultural Extension Fact Sheet on cultivation of Crotons outdoors.
Toxicity of Codiaeum
Fact Sheet in Poisonous Plants of North Carolina by Dr. Alice B. Russell.
University of Hawaii Croton
Image of a brilliant red croton.
Page updated 01/29/2004