This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Crotons constitute a genus of remarkably handsome Euphorbiaceous plants. Of late years they have become indispensable plants for ornamenting the stove and warm conservatory. They are also exceedingly valuable for decorative purposes when planted out during the summer with other tropical plants. Crotons are of easy culture, and can be propagated from cuttings at almost any season of the year, in sand or in bottles of water. They should be potted in rich loam, with a little sand and peat. They require good drainage, a strong moist heat, and plenty of light, to bring out their brilliant colors.
The varieties of crotons are so numerous that it is a difficult matter for many to decide which are the best. For this reason I will give the following list of the most beautiful and distinct sorts. They may be divided into six or seven distinct types, viz.: Disraeli, or lobed section; maximum, or broad leaved section; undulatum and Veitchii, medium sized; Youngi, long leaved; pictum, the small sized; interruptum, pendant foliage. To give all these varieties a separate and full description would take several columns of the Monthly. Therefore the descriptions are necessarily brief. Of the undulatum and Veitchii type, aneitumensis, is a splendid species of the Weismanni style, but quite distinct in color. The midribs and margins of the leaves are bright gamboge yellow, the blades are crossed with parallel bars of the same color, upon a rather light olive green ground. "Day-spring" is a beautiful variety from New South Wales, with leaves oblong lanceolate in form, 15 to 18 inches long, spreading, deep olive green ground color, some with a large portion of bright orange yellow, tinged with crimson, and others blotched here and there with the same tints. Magnifica has a habit somewhat like Day-spring, but the coloring is quite distinct from it. Challenger is a distinct long leaved variety.
The variegation is very striking. The midribs are at first creamy white, gradually becoming suffused with red, deepening to bright carmine. Queen Victoria is a grand croton. Some of the leaves of this variety measured 17 inches from the stem, and 3 inches broad. The ground color is of a rich golden yellow, beautifully mottled with green; midribs and veins are of a rich magenta, changing with age to a vivid crimson. Weismanni still holds its place in many collections. It has a ground color of bright green, striped and mottled with golden yellow. Hawkeri and latiniaculatus are both of recent introduction. To me they seem hardly distinct enough. The habit and coloring is much the same. Rubra lineatus, from New South Wales, has leaves of pale yellow; many of them tinged with rose. They deepen with age to a golden yellow and olive green. The midribs and veins become crimson. The margin is also crimson. Etna is also a pretty variety, with the habit of the above, but distinct in color. Of the Youngi type there is Bragaeanus, a fine croton. The coloration is extremely varied. Many of the young leaves are pale yellow, marbled and mottled with light green. Others, again, are spotted with golden yellow.
The older leayes are deep olive green, spotted and speckled in many ways with bright yellow, of various shades, and having crimson midribs. Harmonianum has leaves of a rich golden yellow on a dark green ground. In Hanburyanus the coloring is very effective, being in an irregular blotching manner, with creamy white and yellow shades, changing to crimson. Youngi is an old but a magnificent croton. Its leaves are long, blotched with yellow and red. Of the Maximum type there is Andreana, of a very neat habit and free growth. It colors beautifully. Baroness James de Rothschild has young leaves of a light olive green, with midribs and veins of golden yellow. As the leaves become older they change to a brilliant crimson. C. fasciatus is a fine variety, of bold habit, with leaves 9 to 10 inches long, 4 to 5 inches wide and beautifully marked with the blades barred with golden yellow on a green ground. In Mortii the ground color of the leaves is deep glossy green, the midribs yellow. The leaves are also barred by broad lines of the same color, the broadest part of the leaves being near the apex. The leaves of Williamsii are strongly flushed with violet-crimson. The veins change to a deep crimson - a charming variety.
In Comte de Germany we have a handsome and distinct sort, with bright crimson midribs, blotched with golden yellow on a bright olive green ground. Bergmanni has a broad band of creamy white down the center of each leaf, enclosed with a deep green margin. Recurvifolius is of the Volutum type, but the midribs and veins are crimson, bordered with yellow. The variegation is well marked, and the deep olive green ground is pleasing. The Volutum has curled leaves, elegantly mottled with yellow on a green ground - very distinct.
We now come to the Disraeli type. Earl of Derby has a bright yellow stem; the midribs are of the same rich color, gradually deepening with age until they become suffused with red. Duke of Buccleugh has leaves beautifully mottled with golden yellow, on olive green ground. The variety, Disraeli, is still popular, and makes a fine exhibition plant. Its leaves are deep green, inoculated with orange red. Fordii is a dwarf-growing variety, with crimson midribs. The blade is barred and marked with golden yellow. Splendens and Bismarcki are both fine. The former is highly colored. A splendid free-growing variety is Evansianus. The newly-formed leaves are of a light olive green, with midribs and veins of a golden yellow, and the interspaces spotted with the same color. As the leaves become older, the green deepens and changes to a bright bronze crimson. Maculata Katanii has leaves of deep green, profusely spotted with yellow. Of the Pictum type there is Aurea maculata, with leaves bright green, spotted with golden yellow; one of the most distinct of its type.
Croton Caudatus tortilis.
In the Interruptum class, or pendant foliage, we have Caudatus tortilis, introduced by Messrs. Veitch & Sons from New South Wales, and of which the annexed illustration gives a good idea. Some of the leaves are a deep olive green, with a golden yellow central band and crimson midrib; the yellow becomes suffused with crimson by age. It is indeed very fine.
Cronstadtii is of a deep glossy green color, variegated with bright golden yellow; leaves twisted, curled, and crisped into many forms. Sinitzinianus comes from New South Wales. The foliage is a deep olive green, variegated with straw yellow, crisped i and undulated. In Princess of Wales the midribs are bright yellow, with a broad band of the same color on both sides, the remainder of the blade is of a light olive green, spotted and marbled with yellow. In Nohilis the colors are crimson, yellow and green in many shades. Lastly, in the Irregu-lare class there is Multicolor with leaves of a dark green, marked with yellow and crimson, distinct and good. Laurel Hill, Philadelphia.;
[With this "C" sends us a collection of leaves of the kind described, and, much as we have always advocated the culture of these beautiful plants, we were more strongly impressed with their utility for floral ornamentation. These beautiful leaves gave a charm to the library table with cut flowers which few real flowers could give.
As a matter of scholarship we suppose the more critical readers of the Gardeners' Monthly will I complain of the terminations in nomenclature, croton being a neuter noun, we believe. But we have thought best to take the names just as they have been given by the European firms who have sent the plants to the New World. - Ed. G. M].