For a croton, subtlety is not a virtue. The gaudiest foliage plant in the world, it’s a Carmen Miranda with leaves and commands the garden’s limelight through sheer pomp and spectacle. Although it originates in a land without autumn, its extravagant costume of yellow, orange, and red exhibits the season’s signature colors.
Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, the croton (Codiaeum variegatum) is standard fare in Tropical South gardens, where it can grow into an evergreen shrub 6 feet tall and wide or larger. Elsewhere, it makes a phenomenal potted plant, either outdoors from spring to fall on a porch, deck, or patio or indoors year-round as a houseplant.
The croton offers a dizzying array of leaf colors, shapes, and sizes. The most common variety is called pictum. Its magnolia-shaped leaves emerge yellow and green and then turn salmon, orange, and red as they age. Other types add colors of pink, purple, bronze, and nearly black to the mix with leaves that are oaklike, finger-like, spider-like, twisted, puckered, or spiraled.
Potted crotons on this front porch welcome guests with the colors of the season.
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