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That's what Norman Winter calls croton plants, and he should know. As Director of the University of Georgia Coastal Botanical Gardens in Savannah, Georgia, Dr. Winter certainly knows his way around tropical plants. Of the many species and cultivars of croton plants, we have one of the most unusual for you. Mamey Croton (Codiaeum variegatum var. pictum 'Mamey') puts a new twist '– literally '– on the traditional look of croton plants because of its corkscrew-like leaves! Festive Foliage Mamey Croton's foliage is every bit as colorful as other types of croton plants; in fact, this plant looks like the life of the party! Vivid shades of red, orange, yellow, and green splash the leaves with brush strokes of color that cause abstract paintings to pale in comparison. But the difference is in the shape of the foliage. Other types of croton plants have broad, flat leaves, but Mamey Croton sizzles with crinkled streamers of foliage! Tropical Touch Before they were renowned as the world's most colorful houseplants, croton plants were widely considered the world's most colorful shrub species. Across their native habitats in Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Caribbean, crotons are tropical treasures that brighten landscapes with their irrepressible vibrancy. If you've traveled to the Caribbean, you've surely seen crotons planted en masse around resorts and other upscale venues. If you'd like a fond reminder of your tropical travels '– or if you'd just enjoy the tropical look this plant will add to your garden '– grow Mamey Croton as a vibrant complement to your other landscape plants. If you prefer to garden indoors, Mamey Croton will likely be the most unusual addition to your houseplant collection! Bring the Tropics Indoors Houseplants typically are tropical plants that grow in exotic locations around the world, but they simply won't survive winter temperatures in most U.S. growing zones. This is one reason they're adapted as houseplants '– they're protected indoors from the wide fluctuations in temperatures that are found outside, including freezing conditions. Many of these tropical plants are called "understory" plants, which means they live in the shade of taller plants. But Mamey Croton is a tropical plant that loves sunshine; in fact, direct sun brings out its lively coloration. If you're growing this plant indoors, it prefers a sunny location '– in a sunroom, solarium, or in front of a sunny window (an east- or west-facing is best). Benefits of Houseplants As urban sprawl continues to increase in many areas, green landscapes continue to decline. But you can surround yourself with green plants even if you live in a city high-rise by gardening indoors, which is called "interiorscaping." You can easily cultivate a multitude of plants by growing them in containers. Houseplants keep us in touch with nature, lift our spirits, and even purify the air in our homes and office spaces. If you don't enjoy working outdoors, but you love plants, tending to houseplants may be the perfect hobby for you! Designing with Houseplants Look in any upscale interior design magazine and you'll see houseplants. Plants bring interior spaces alive by creating stunning visuals, enhancing peaceful settings, providing focal points, and adding textural interest. Part of the design appeal is your choice of container, which not only provides a growing environment for your plant's root system but also complements your design scheme. Because Mamey Croton is a riot of color, you may want to choose a bright pot that features a single color of this plant. You can also select a container in a neutral earth-tone shade to focus all the attention on Mamey Croton's form and color. Feature Your Plant on a Pedestal or Table Baker's racks and bookshelves hold lots of houseplants for a profusion of greenery in a small area, but if you really want to feature a single Mamey Croton, elevate it by placing the potted plant on a small table in front of a sunny window. Or think about using a pedestal to show off your plant in an elegant presentation. Pedestals are available in a variety of heights and styles, and they add striking silhouettes to any room. Enhance Your Office Environment Think outside the box when you hear the word "houseplant" and include "office plant," too! Whether you work in a coveted corner office or a streamlined cubicle, adding plants to your environment also adds a touch of your personality to an otherwise utilitarian workspace. Because Mamey Croton is more colorful in a sunny location, the fluorescent lights in many offices can serve as a sunlight substitute if your office doesn't have a bright window. The best placement for Mamey Croton is close to a fluorescent light fixture, such as you'd have illuminating your desk. If you're a business owner with a sunny atrium or reception area in your office building, that's a perfect indoor location for Mamey Croton! Dusting the Leaves Landscape plants have the assistance of rain and wind to keep their foliage dust-free. But if you grow Mamey Croton indoors, dust may settle on its leaves just as it does on your furniture! This not only detracts from a plant's beauty, but it can also clog the leaf pores. The result is dull foliage that reflects light instead of absorbing it, which hinders photosynthesis. The remedy is quick and simple '– occasionally, wipe the leaves with a damp rag to remove any dusty build-up. Indoor Humidity You don't have to turn your home into a sauna to meet Mamey Croton's need for some humidity. But your plant will grow best if you can simply optimize the humidity around it. Keep it away from heating vents, which can dry the plant's leaves. If you have numerous houseplants, grouping them together raises the humidity around them. And if you use a humidifier for your health, it will also benefit Mamey Croton's health! Landscape Hardiness Perennial. If you live in a frost-free climate in U.S. Plant Hardiness Zones 10 and 11, you can grow Mamey Croton in your landscape year-round. Annual. If you live outside Mamey Croton's limited perennial range, you can still plant it in your landscape. Just as you grow other colorful annuals, such as petunias and marigolds, you can also enjoy Croton Mamey during the warm growing season. And just like other annual plants, Mamey Croton won't make it through the winter if you leave it outside. But you have the option at the end of the warm season of digging it, potting it, and growing it during the winter months as a houseplant! Moving Plants Indoors from the Landscape If you decide to dig your Mamey Croton plants at the end of the summer and pot them up to bring indoors for the winter, don't be alarmed if the plants drop some of their leaves once they're inside. They're just reacting to a big change in their environment. Older croton varieties didn't fare as well when they were moved from the landscape to indoors, but Mamey Croton is an improved cultivar that is better able to handle environmental changes, even though it may still drop some leaves. Resist the urge to overwater your plant, thinking that the dropped leaves signal a lack of water, because if you give your plants too much water, their roots can rot. Another tip is to use a commercial potting mix for houseplants instead of using garden soil. Keep the soil around the rootball intact, but use a potting mix to fill its container and to firm around the rootball. New Trend in Landscape Design Traditionally, gardeners have used annual flowering plants to add season-long color to landscape plantings. But the exciting new trend in landscape design is using tropical foliage plants to mix things up a bit! Tropical plants bring a host of characteristics that are lacking in many annual plant selections, such as different textures, shapes, and bold color combinations. Mamey Croton combines all three of these characteristics into one trendy landscape plant! It features a texture of thick, glossy leaves; a shape that's contorted, and a color that's a kaleidoscope mixture of hues. Plant a Tropical Garden Create a lush look in your landscape by mixing different types of tropical plants, such as Mamey Croton, with the types of plants you typically grow each year. Design your garden with a diversity of sizes, textures, shapes, and colors in mind. Think of creating a colorful border garden or lining the sunny walkway to your front door with Mamey Crotons. And what an intriguing foundation plant you'll have by planting Mamey Croton at the front presentation of your home! You can even add a touch of the tropics by placing groups of potted Mamey Croton plants as multicolored accents at your patio, terrace, or poolside. Seaside Suitability Many plants struggle when planted in coastal locations because they cannot tolerate sandy soil and salty air. But Mamey Croton sails through both of these challenges with ease! So reach for your sunglasses, pull up a deck chair, and enjoy this seaside-suitable beauty. Sensitivity Mamey Croton may cause minor skin irritation only after repeated contact for some gardeners who are susceptible to contact dermatitis. If this plant is ingested, it may cause nausea or vomiting, but only if large quantities are eaten. To be on the safe side, keep an eye on children and pets!
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