Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Silver Croton

Croton insularis
Around the district, the crotons are in flower.
The flowers are interesting (to butterflies, as well as to us), but not actually particularly showy. With these plants, it is the scatter of bright orange leaves which are the main attraction. Every leaf turns bright orange before it dies, but unlike deciduous trees which use up all their glory in less than a month, crotons ration the display so it lasts all year.
New leaves are pale silver-brown, and the adult leaves all have silver backs, which show every time the trees is ruffled by the breeze. The bark is pale, too, so the overall effect is of a light-coloured tree.
These are very fast-growing small trees, suitable for the suburbs, and very useful for new gardens. When young they like a semi-shaded position and shelter from frosts.
They are equally happy in heavy blacksoil and our very lightest redsoil.
Though usually grown as single-trunked specimens, they can be pruned as a hedge, or coppiced (cut back to the ground) when they respond by producing multiple stems and re-growing as shrubs.


Ros Vandenberg said...

We have 4 baby Silver Crotons at Cambooya (probably only 20cm tall). Frost season is potentially around the corner for us. Do you have any particular trick for frost protection that works...hessian around the tree guards or the like?
Thanks Ros

Patricia Gardner said...

Hi Ros.
Well, my best trick is to plan well in advance (see my blog "Map your Frost in August"), but it's obviously not what you need to know right now.
The second trick is to choose "frost hardy" species, which you have done, with the croton. Frost hardiness is claimed for it, and it obviously grows in places around you, with potential for frost. The question is how much shelter these mature plants had in their infancy.
"Frost hardiness" is something that can't be guaranteed, as I'm sure you know. There are so many variables (the age of the plant, the soil moisture, the moisture on the leaves, the degree of frost etc.) that there really are no guarantees.
I never do more than to choose tougher plants for the frostier parts of my garden, and snug them up with a plastic tree guard and a good, thick ring of mulch around it. (The mulch actually attracts frost, because its top layer is so dry, so it does need to be a thick layer.) I occasionally lose some, and sometimes I get a bit of all-round frost "burn" which recovers in summer, and stops happening when the plant gets taller.
However, I never seem to get a frost colder than -1½ °. You might get more, where you are.
So my answer to your question is really that you have to decide for yourself whether you need the full kit, (which is hessian with three stakes twice as tall as the plant, if that can be managed, and a flap to fold over it at night), or whether you take your chances with less.
Best of luck!

Ros Vandenberg said...

Thanks Trish, I am the kind to take my chances & good to know that experienced gardeners do the same! However I am really attached to these little ones so I'll see how I go! I am fairly certain the whole yard frosts as we are completely open, until my trees grow, but I'll get out and have a good look this Winter & map the frosts.
Thanks. Ros.