The science behind Crotons in the Keys

Discussion in 'THE CROTON SOCIETY' started by fawnridge, Jun 27, 2013.

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  1. fawnridge

    fawnridge Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,439
    Location:
    Western Boca Raton
    I'll let Judy and Jim give you the correct names for each of the varieties below, but I believe I can offer a scientific explanation for the massive leaf growth these plants exhibit in the Keys.

    While quite a bit of it is simple environment - hot, humid nights that extend the daily growth cycle immeasurably - the rest of the equation is found in the earth. The Glock's garden is essentially a huge mistbed. Each plant has a drip emitter that runs for 20 minutes every day of the week. Now, normally you'd think that would be too much water, especially with all the rain they get that far south. The solution is in the soil - a thin layer of top soil and then porous coral rock that allows the water to filter away. Add some fertilizer to the system and you get plants with leaves larger than dinner plates.

    There's also quite a bit of shade in their garden and that will make anyone's Crotons grow much larger leaves, but without the natural mistbed created by coral rock, you aren't going to get the same results. To confirm my suspicions, I asked them what effects they noticed moving a plant from the Keys to Ft. Myers and the answer was obvious - smaller leaves. Again, environmental conditions are vastly different, as is the soil.

    All of this leaves me wondering - should I dig up my garden and rebuild it with a coral rock base, outfitted with a drip system or just have another scotch and leave things as they are?


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  2. Crazy for Crotons

    Crazy for Crotons Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,050
    Location:
    south Tampa, Bokeelia
    Good stuff Ricky. I'll add this. Salt air does not provide a good habitat for spider mites and thrips.
     
  3. Bullwinkle

    Bullwinkle Esteemed Member

    Messages:
    1,450
    Location:
    DAVIE FL
    Great points Ricky,also the growing season extends another 2-3 months down in Key West.When our plants are shutting down they keep chugging along down there.
     
  4. fawnridge

    fawnridge Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,439
    Location:
    Western Boca Raton
    Mike - I doubt the longer season has much to do with it, that would probably account for taller plants overall, but not leaf size. Ray does make a good point about bugs, though. The salt air certainly keeps them beat back. I don't believe I saw a single plant with scale on it. Okay, let's start putting salt in our irrigation system, but not in the single malt.
     
  5. annafl

    annafl Esteemed Member

    Well, I think they're all possibilities. I speculate that the more warm (temps down there I don't think are quite as hot and stagnant as inland or even coastal areas), humid, longer growing season plays the larger role in growing these beautiful plants. The question is, how can we make our non-key gardens closer to those conditions? We can't do anything about the weather. Should we be watering the crotons more? What about adding lots of organic material to our gardens to create better water absorption/filtering? Can we do anything else to improve our conditions? I'll have to think about it more.
     
  6. fawnridge

    fawnridge Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,439
    Location:
    Western Boca Raton
    Anna - I doubt we'll be able to match the environmental conditions and water is not the only answer. I have very good soil in my garden, having worked it for over 15 years, and none of Crotons have leaves as large as the Glocks. The same variety in my garden is half the size of theirs. Add to that the constant dealing with scale and we're way behind the curve in comparison to the Keys.
     
  7. Phil Stager

    Phil Stager Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,637
    Location:
    Sunny St. Pete, FL
    It's the climate - warm days, warm nights, moderately high humidity; little seasonal variation; no 40 degree nights with cold drying winds. The watering and fert regimen makes them all the better. Recall: Codieaum variegatum is a tropical plant from the tropics, i.e. Anbom Island in the Mollucas near Indonesia. When's the last time they had 40F near sea level - a couple gazillion years ago maybe.

    One can replicate these growing conditions in a green house with enough money. Look what Sergei was/is growing in Siberia. Tovarisch - are you still growing crotons?

    Dean - anyone growing any crotons near you on the Big Island?
     
  8. Jerry Shilling

    Jerry Shilling Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    280
    Location:
    Summerland Key, FL zone 11
    Great thread you guys. As for me, I would say Phil's point in regard to climate is most of it. I'm germinating seeds outside all winter long without heat pads etc. Our night time temps are consistently 10 to 15 degrees warmer than Fort Myers.
     
  9. annafl

    annafl Esteemed Member

    Well, we may not have ideal croton-growing conditions up my way, but I had the pleasure of seeing Phil's garden recently and he had incredibly gorgeous plants with what I felt were very large leaves and amazingly vibrant colors. I would be extremely happy if mine ever looks close to his. So I will keep onward through the fog and keep trying to learn as much as I can from all of you:).
     
  10. koki

    koki Active Member

    Messages:
    266
    Location:
    pine island, fl
    I think soil porosity does help a lot in addition to climate. Look at Hawaii for example, ground up lava rock and everything grows like mad, plants getting 2-3 times larger than in Florida. Sometimes in late summer Florida crotons look wilty from too much rain, especially when clay is present in the soil. Ricky, you could consider crushed stone for the yard AND single malt for you....you'll need it!
     
  11. Jeff Searle

    Jeff Searle Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,752
    Location:
    South Florida, USA
    Ahhh, no mysteries here. A lot of good TLC and then some good climate thrown in for extra measure. I think the Glock's garden would be pretty complete if they only had a Licuala mapu growing down there. Lol
     
  12. waykoolplantz

    waykoolplantz Active Member

    Messages:
    142
    Ricky...you can probably answer your own question and have fun doing it. Dig up a 6X6 square and try your porous rock base under your toplayer and drip it up. Unfortunately your area closest to the water faces NW...if I had my bearings straight (questionable)...subjecting the plants to a chill they won't see in the keys. See if you can get enlarged.

    As Jeff pointed out...Judy's devotion makes the most of climate & soil.


    Btw...while it's not a Mapu...there's a good-looking Hemithrinax and I think Cowelli that benefit from love and attention. Jim's gotta do sumthin while admiring Judy and her handiwork.
     

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