Looking for a tropical plant similar to a croton

robins1stgarden(7)September 13, 2013

Hi everyone. I've been working on my tropical garden for a few years now and recently, I vacationed in the Dominican Republic and fell in love with all the beautiful plants there. I have since found the plant "Croton" (i believe) here in the states but they do not survive the winters in the ground here in S.C. (zone 7). I really want to plant something like it here. Does anyone know of anything with a similar look that is hardy in zone 7? Here is a picture of the one I have now but it has to be in a pot and brought in for the winter. I want to plant something like this in the ground. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thanks , Robin

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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

I don't know of any that have the brilliant colors of croton, but there is Aucuba japonica, which I have here in zone 6 so no problem for you. The leaves are similar in size and form, and it holds its leaves all year round. While not having the brilliant reds or oranges of croton, there are several different varieties having splashes, spots or streaks of gold or yellow or cream with the green. I'm sure if you search the Internet you'll find plenty of photos. One called "Picturata" has a lot of yellow with green edges.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 5:16PM
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This may not seem like what you want AT ALL, but young Southern Magnolia leaves are close to the same texture, size and glossiness. But will only be small for a year or 2. When I first planted mine it reminded me of what (for me) is a houseplant. Are you sure that in your zone 8 they can't be protected in-ground with a small greenhouse type structure with heat cables? My mom's friend plants Cannas in the ground in zone 6 near her house, she has heated floors and the Cannas are right next to the house. I would go to Wally mart and get a houseplant and try some sort of protective structure and some lights. My Wally mart has them for 6-8 $ for a small potted Croton. Yeah, maybe I don't know your weather good enough, but I'm zone 6 and zone 8 seems like the tropics.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 12:53AM
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Sorry Robin, I see you are zone 7 not 8. Forget the inground idea I guess, but Southern Mag is a close look-alike but with out the orange of course.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 12:56AM
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Thanks for the suggestions Bill and poaky1. poaky1, thanks. I'm looking for something more of a shrub type as opposed to a tree. It will go around my pool and mix with windmill palms, and other tropical-esque plants. I did find a canna that is called tropicanna canna lily and it looks like a croton (color wise). That may work well out there, but zone 7 still may be too cool in the winter. Not sure if I want to have to do all the heating and winterizing (or digging up each fall) in that area.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 2:32PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

The Aucuba is a shrub. It will not need any protection in zone 7. Did you have a chance to look at any photos online? There are countless cultivars and many come close to resembling some crotons, although not the really red or orange ones. But there are many crotons that are green, cream and yellow, speckled or spotted, etc. and look a lot like some of the Aucubas. And the Aucubas are evergreen, so they add that touch all winter too. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 6:26PM
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Thanks Bill. Yes, I did go out and look at those. Very pretty and would probably do well. I really want the colors of the croton because of the tropical look I want around the pool, but I will probably add a few of those Aucubas too now that I've seen them :) Thanks for the tip.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 2:13PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

You mentioned Canna "Tropicana", and there are others too with colorful foliage, such as "Pink Sunburst" that would add a lot of color. I have read on these forums that many gardeners in zone 7 can leave cannas in the ground year round. So although they would die off in winter, they would come back every year. Here in zone 6, I have to dig them every fall and store for winter. With both Cannas and Aucuba, it might look pretty good. Hope you find all you need for that tropical look!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 11:42AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

How about adding some Coleus each spring, to whatever bare areas/pots you have? That's easy, inexpensive, and comes in any combo of wild colors except blue.

Many landscape plants come in variegated forms, but that's usually just one color, yellow, white or pink, sometimes red. Finding all in one would be tough. Duplicating the look with entire shrubs might be a lot easier, yellowish shrub next to a reddish shrub, so when you look out the window, you see the variety of colors well, in big chunks as if the area were one plant and each plant an individual leaf of red or yellow.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 6:04PM
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