From the Sperry Garden – October, 2010

Neil’s favorite croton (9 ft. by 10 ft.), his favorite wife (5 ft. 5 in.) and his favorite cat (1 ft. 2 in.)

I bought this croton as a 1-gallon pot. That was more than 20 years ago. I repotted it into a 3-gallon nursery pot, then a 10-gallon container. It spent 10 years in a 32-inch pot, and now it’s in this giant. Even though it’s a faux terra cotta pot made out of hard plastic, it takes two of us to get the plant and its pot onto a trailer and into my greenhouse for the winter.

Like everyone else, I tried over-wintering plants in my garage. I did so one winter. Many years ago. Tropical hibiscus, splitleaf philodendron, Boston ferns, bougainvilleas and even this croton. It’s a wonder any of them lived to tell the story. Garages are usually dark, and they’re often cold. Tropical plants need warm, sunny locations, and very few garages even come close. And, to answer the question people often ask next: no – plant lights alone won’t make any significant impact. These plants need a sunroom or greenhouse if you expect them to come through the winter in good health and with vigor to grow.

As for this croton, it’s lucky that I have an old commercial greenhouse. I bought it used 25 years ago. It’s 30 x 60 feet in size, and that gives me the space to keep a big guy like this going year-after-year. Still, it’s about to overgrow the aisles, so I’ll probably do a little air-layering on its growing tips to get new plants started. I’m also going to head to the Dallas Arboretum to try to match up its variety name. I’ve long since forgotten, and Jimmy Turner told me that he’s been field-testing 23 varieties this summer and fall. I’ll see if my buddy shows up in Jimmy’s trials.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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