While the 19th Century was a period of discovery and invention, plantsmen and horticulturists worked feverishly to create new and better hybrids and cultivars of the ornamental and food plants that we grow today. It is now estimated that there may be over 700 recorded Codiaeum variegatum (Croton) varieties—talk about genetic variability. From apples to roses, there is a documented lineage of our favorite plants. Old books and nursery catalogs detail the varieties, origins and hybrids of the Croton family including many that—if we are fortunate, may have today been renamed or might still be found globally under glass-topped botanical conservatories or, if we are lucky, we encounter some in “the wild” on our tropical treks or even perhaps within a few of Florida’s oldest remaining residential areas.
Saving these beautiful specimens is an enormous undertaking. No single person has ever amassed a complete collection. Many collectors or institutions have tried and made important contributions to planting, nurturing, propagating, and documenting these plants. We continue to try to do our part and work hard to preserve these beauties. Unfortunately, it is not practical to propagate the most exotic, large-leaved varieties by mass production (in a mist system). Air layering (marcottage) works very well and is commonly used by devotees, but is a slow, labor intensive and expensive process.
While the trend of heirloom horticulture in floriculture and plants has been slower to evolve than in veggies and fruits, it is no less important. Inasmuch as saving seeds from overly-hybridized species is in many cases of no value it could be argued that compared to fruits and vegetables, the labor intensive effort intrinsic to hand-propagating(and, ironically cloning) these organic treasures to keep them flourishing is much more risky, difficult, time-consuming and, demanding. We nevertheless persist and obsess in our attempts to learn more about and at the same time preserve the heritage of these organic treasures.
These historic foliage plants, with their many colorful variegations and variations complemented by exotic, dramatic, and, contrastingly differing leaf structures were at home in London’s 19th Century Crystal Palace, and are your Grandma’s –if not– your great-grandma’s Crotons! And, sadly, ever fewer of the once commonly grown Croton varieties even from as recently as a decade ago are no longer being produced commercially in the floriculture trade.
A trace or remnant of something that is disappearing or no longer exists - An heirloom plant; an heirloom variety.
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Thought to have been hybridized in 1870’s France, and widely grown in 1960’s Florida, this limited edition Croton has broad oval yellow leaves with orange venation. As it develops the leaves turn maroon with copper veining.
Thin narrow leaf with twists and turns mostly red, orange and yellow. Compact grower.
A large, broad semi oak leaf mostly yellow and white turning pink as it matures. Similar to Rubens.
Broad green leaves, a sun lover with yellow then vivid crimson venation. Often overlooked because of its simple oval leaves in strong, direct daylong sun however, this Croton develops distinctive colorful veining that makes it a bold standout.
Described in a gardening dictionary, London 1885, this variegated, Ilex holly like leaf with green and-gray creamy white. This variety tends to “sport” the alternative genetic variations of butter yellow and green ‘Tamara,’ and the delicate ivory white ‘Lucia’ varieties. This is one of the rare heirloom crotons that has a leathery surface texture.
Named for the creator of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, this croton has very long slender leaves with red petioles—in Sun midrib and veining becomes yellow; in shade, midrib and veining are more inclined to be an ivory white. Sometimes mistaken for Weismanii but without the thumb-like notch.
Thomas Edison’s employee and friend, Robert Halgrim introduced this exquisite Croton whose trident, oakleaf shape leaves are apple green with creamy white midrib soon turning shocking pink, then dark eggplant purple with the hot pink venation.
Described by Dr. Brown, “New growth green with a few yellow spots. The green turns a dark red, nearly black and the yellow a crimson shade.” Its 1920’s and 30’s Miami Hybridizer Henry Coppinger liked it best of all his introductions.
Referenced in Dreer’s (of Philadelphia) 1917 Garden Calendar, this Croton ‘s beautiful gently bow-curved leaves with undulate margins make this striking macaroon yellow fish bone and green variety a sensation. Rich creamy yellow veining and midrib against cypress green background.
Named by Henry Coppinger to honor the 1904 Opera by this name, the Croton has spear-like, pointed leaves with jagged-edge sheaths of yellow to white coloring on newest leaves; jagged-edge sheaths of bubblegum pink on older leaves. Green on the most mature leaves turns to a dark plum color with the pink sheath seeming to shrink back to a w
Named by Henry Coppinger to honor the 1904 Opera by this name, the Croton has spear-like, pointed leaves with jagged-edge sheaths of yellow to white coloring on newest leaves; jagged-edge sheaths of bubblegum pink on older leaves. Green on the most mature leaves turns to a dark plum color with the pink sheath seeming to shrink back to a wide midvein. Semi-dwarf grower looks her best when exposed to direct, gentle sun.
An unhurried grower that loves the Sun! Spear shape leaves turn canary yellow and green. Very slowly green turns a dark raisin colour; yellow deepens to tangerine, and the areas of colour shrink to the midrib and black edges and shades the leaf margin.
First reference was hand-written in an 1882 garden calendar, by 1960 this was one of the most widely grown Crotons in Florida. Classic long straight leaves with bright yellow midrib and veining. In sun, leaves tend to turn fully yellow.
Almond shape leaf shape with slightly undulating edges. Pastel shading and soft muted coloring so characteristic of Mr. Aubrey Christian’s seems to begin at the base and blush to the fore, then steadily permeate and extend forward. Mature leaves exhibit unusual dark veining – purple-pink. Overall, a wonderful selection for a partly shady spot with a big hole to fill.
This striking oak-leaved variety was sent from Oceania and introduced by Veitch and Sons in 1870’s Great Britain as ‘Disraeli’ honoring the prime minister. Seemingly when hearing of its deeply pronged, trident-like leaves, “English cultivators were startled from their propriety.” It’s green and yellow with brilliant orange-flame color rib
This striking oak-leaved variety was sent from Oceania and introduced by Veitch and Sons in 1870’s Great Britain as ‘Disraeli’ honoring the prime minister. Seemingly when hearing of its deeply pronged, trident-like leaves, “English cultivators were startled from their propriety.” It’s green and yellow with brilliant orange-flame color ribbing and margins. Mature leaves turn coppery ginger with saffron margination. Prefers gentle direct sun
Developed in Northern Italy in the 1970’s specifically to maintain its color when grown indoors. When grown outdoors the broad almond shape leaf—similar to Petra—colors-up a gorgeous orange-red vermillion.
Unlike regular Eburneum, this pink variety is more circular and concave with ivory and rosy-pink/fuchsia purple. Reverse side of leaves are splotched plum colour.
Found in Polynesia, this cultivar was brought back and introduced into Great Britain in 1874. Mainly short green leaves turned under like a ram’s horn. On many leaves the rib and veins turn yellow especially when exposed to gentle sun. Sadly, these cultivars are no longer produced commercially.
Round leaves! Thailand's 1950’s contribution of unusually shaped leaves to Codiaeum variegatum, adorn this unusual Croton, one of the few that will grow and do well in the United States. Partial to sun but not too much. The most robust Thai hybrid in U.S. cultivation, mostly because of its hardiness. Strong grower. Combination of narrow,
Round leaves! Thailand's 1950’s contribution of unusually shaped leaves to Codiaeum variegatum, adorn this unusual Croton, one of the few that will grow and do well in the United States. Partial to sun but not too much. The most robust Thai hybrid in U.S. cultivation, mostly because of its hardiness. Strong grower. Combination of narrow, curly and, round, circular leaves. Progression of green, yellow, orange red colors.
Spear shape light green leaf with pale white blotching and light pink along the midrib, the veins and pink edging the leaf along its margins. Mature leaves turn pink, then very dark pink.
Variegated, Ilex holly like leaf with buttery yellow and green. Tends to “sport” the alternative genetic variations of creamy white and green ‘Andrew’ or Eburneum,’ and the delicate ivory white ‘Lucia.’
Found in the South Seas around 1868, and named for John Gould Veitch, from the esteemed British nursery of Veitch and Sons. Has long, linear thick leaves. Wide creamy yellow spine, ribbing and margins that turn rosy pink.
A wide, oak leaf shaped leaf. Wide yellow or white midrib and venation. One of the best ivory white and green cultivars. Will grow thick and full with regular pruning. Not unusual for them to produce leaves measuring 10 inches or more.
In the 1930’s Miami hybridizer Charles Rutherford produced several varieties. Of all the green, and white variegated Crotons, this is by far one of the most beautiful, and a vigorous grower to boot. Its large oak leaf starts green with pale butter yellow midrib, veining and tips; then the yellow becomes a shining white-as-snow tone, very
In the 1930’s Miami hybridizer Charles Rutherford produced several varieties. Of all the green, and white variegated Crotons, this is by far one of the most beautiful, and a vigorous grower to boot. Its large oak leaf starts green with pale butter yellow midrib, veining and tips; then the yellow becomes a shining white-as-snow tone, very nearly as if painted on. Makes for a very dramatic white and green shrub.
Extra-large, slightly kite shaped broad leaf. Slight crinkling around the edges. Substantial yellow and orange marbling. Old leaves turn very dark with bright red midrib.
Bright yellow and green oak and strap leaves on the same plant. This is a “Sport” of the regular ‘Duke of Windsor.’
Broad, almond shape leaves somewhat bigger, and more kite shaped than those of the orange-red Petra. Admired for its very bright, cheerful ripe banana yellow colour. Happy in full sun or shade.