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croton

Q: I just purchased a plant and wanted to know how to take care of it once I plant is outside.

A: The photo you sent me was of one of the croton, Codiaeum variegata, varieties probably ‘Gold Star’. Crotons are truly topical plants which thrive best in south Florida in cold hardiness zones 10-11. Nassau County is in cold hardiness zones 8b-9a. West of I-95 is considered 8b while east of I-95 is 9a. The larger the number the farther south the plant should be grown; the smaller the number the farther north the plant belongs. This croton is an unlikely candidate for long term survival in this area. You might consider keeping it as an office or house plant instead. Give it plenty of light and avoid the most common mistake of overwatering by giving it water only when the soil is dry to the touch. Local garden centers sell this plant because of its attractive foliage. The label on the plant may only say is it a topical plant, which usually indicates we are too far north for it to survive outdoors in our colder temperatures. There are exceptions, of course, but consider using hardier, more cold tolerant alternatives such as gingers or cast iron plant for outdoor plantings. These plants provide attractive foliage but are able to tolerate our cooler climate. At a time when all of us are thinking about “tightening our belts”; replacing plants can be an expensive enterprise. As good stewards of the land, we might consider choosing sustainable perennials rather than high maintenance annuals.