Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Friendly* critique

Thirteen things which are wrong with this article (be sure to see both pages!) about crotons (Codiaeum variegatum):

1) Crotons do not adapt well to indoor environments. The best you can hope for is that your indoor environment can be manipulated into something a croton finds satisfactory.

2) They do not "thrive" in winter months: if anything, they barely hold it together. Spider mites are what thrive, if anything is gonna be thriving.

3) They are not extremely easy plants to care for, and require a good bit more than weekly waterings in order to grow "healthy, tall, wide and strong." Weekly waterings will buy you tall. Maybe. For healthy, wide and strong you need air circulation, humidity, heat, and keen observation. Also: don't water on a schedule.

4)They do not thrive in both "dark and sunny conditions." Don't even try it if you don't have full sun to offer.

5) "The natural [as opposed to artificial] croton doesn't spurn flowers" makes the opposite point of what the author is trying to say. Spurning is roughly equivalent to rejecting. Possibly the author means "doesn't sport flowers." But that's wrong anyway: they do flower.

6) Whether something flowers or not really doesn't have anything to do with its appropriateness as a housewarming gift for recipients of either gender.

7) It makes a crappy housewarming gift, mainly because of articles like this one which try to claim that it's an easy-care plant, leading to confusion about what one is supposed to do with it, leading to the plant's eventual defoliation and death.

8) The leaves are not always large. Leaf size varies with the particular cultivar: the one below, for example, has very narrow, threadlike leaves.

9) The leaves are not always dark green and red. Some cultivars are only green and yellow; some are green, yellow, orange and red; some are purple, green and yellow; some are green and cream; some are red and purple. (They also don't especially resemble cabbage, but I'll let that slide because the author doesn't make that claim directly: she only says that they remind her of cabbage. I won't hold people responsible for what things remind them of other things.)

10) Silk crotons never have a "natural look" to them, except perhaps to people who are not well-acquainted with the natural plant.

11) The Croton Society webpage is more a placeholder than anything else, and provides little information on caring for the plant. It provides no information at all about caring for the plant indoors.

12) Crotons are not versatile. They are dependable, in that they reliably do the same thing once indoors (attract spider mites and die), but I don't think that's what the author intends to say.

13) "Reasonably priced" seems like a stretch too.


*(Not really. I'm actually kinda pissed.)


Claude said...

GRRRR - the Mis-information article is the absolute worst. I banished Crotons and their danged mites years ago...

Every year the local paper runs some article about what do with "Holiday Gift Plants" written by someone in Conneticut who once read a pulp novel about Texas and has no idea of our actual climate, (and I strongly suspect doesn't do much gardening in Conneticut)

I've visited your blog before... I always enjoy reading it...

ScottE. said...

I always wanted a Croton for home and finally bought one a year ago from a large box home store. Immediately is started dropping leaves. The same week I got it home! By the end of the first month, one of the three plants in the pot was fully dead.

A year later, the remaining two plants are actually growing new leaves. It took a lot of work and stress, but I think I've made a climate it will stand...sitting above a giant humidity tray! I don't have any bugs yet. YET!!!

I wouldn't urge anyone to get a Croton, unless they know what they are doing. I was very upset when the first part of the plant died. I spent about $30 on it and thought the money was going down the drain. Plenty of nurturing, trial and error, I have a fairly healthy, presumably happy plant.

mr_subjunctive said...

Well right -- the problem is not so much that they're impossible as that it completely misrepresents them to describe them as easy plants. I had one myself for over a year that did just fine, until I started seriously collecting houseplants, at which point the croton caught spider mites from a new arrival, defoliated, became touchy about too much or too little water, etc. Eventually I got tired of looking at it, and tired of trying to get mites off of it, and I gave up.

If you're fairly confident that you have a mite-free environment in your house, and you can provide it enough light, heat and humidity, then sure, crotons are no worse than anything else. But those are much bigger ifs than they sound like. And even then, all my objections to the article except for maybe #1 and #12 still apply.

Kenneth Moore said...

14. She perpetuates the gap between those who think science is a big bad monster and those who don't by saying "long scientific name." It's not long, it's not scary, and it's NOT ITALIC either. It should be. Gah!

15. And why does it make it a good gift for both men and women just because it doesn't flower that often? What do flowers have to do with it?

Hm, so apparently I have issues with generalized statements that perpetuate negative or odd stereotypes.

Can't say I've ever tried a croton before (I'm only recently getting into houseplants), but I have done indignant rants before, so I'm totally qualified to comment. :-D

Lance said...

I agree. I had one that I kept alive and full of foliage for two years in an office with two walls of windows. But it was a pain, never did anything but get buggy. Unless I move some where they can go outside, I'll pass on them for now.

I did love the look of the thread leaved one, hadn't seen that. But it won't tempt me to try again - too many bugs.

Anonymous said...

Agreed that the article misrepresents the plant. I've got a "Victoria Gold Bell" croton that my boss gave me for a birthday, and it is NOT easy - if anything, it's the most demanding plant on my desk. It has taken over my desk lamp, since the daylight bulb seems to be the only thing that keeps it colorful and not dropping leaves. It has me trained to accommodate its watering needs. It will someday be getting its very own stand, as it's outgrowing its corner of the desk. No plant is more expensive than a free plant.

That said, it doesn't suck at all. I haven't had bug problems, and it's starting to grow into a nice bushy plant (at all of one foot tall.) I'd love to get it to flower. (Heck, I'd love to separate one of the smaller plants and take it home, but the incredible rootball isn't likely to allow that any time soon.)

Anonymous said...

I love Crotons! What is the matter with you guys? Lots of light is all it wants and spray it every month with horticultural oil and there you go! The colors, the colors...

Oh! Who in their right mind buys houseplants from Home Depot? Good Grief! Your asking for trouble there. There's a reason why they sell them so cheap...Grow fast, sell fast, die fast.

Mrs. Darling said...

This is what I hate. New gardners and wannabe gardeners think it is all so easy because of false advertisements like these. Its that way with seed companies too lulling everyone into thinking that you put a seed in the ground and you will have 2000 tomatoes from one plant. They never tell you about blossom rot, or blight or slugs...

Oh dont get me started!

daphne said...

"The natural Croton doesn't spurn flowers." That sentence says that a croton, if offered flowers, would accept them graciously. I'm up for anthropomorphizing plants once in a while (indeed, this is a conceit of PATSP, and delightful in the hands of Mr. S), but I just can't see a croton, or any houseplant, even having a notion of what it would mean to accept or reject a gift of flowers.

#16. "Well it is true that..."

#17. "...you can get buy with..."

Am said...

Haha! I loved the way you wrote this. I am LUCKY I read this, because I have been so tempted to get a croton (they are always readily available in the supermarket plant section).

I feel so sorry about the croton of yours that caught spider mites and died. =(

I really hate it when an otherwise healthy plant gets infested - overnight in some cases - and starts to go downhill really fast. I hate spider mites, I really do.

But I don't think it's true to imply that a particular species of plant is more prone to certain bugs - I think mites choose their host not according to plant type but according to certain conditions a plant exhibits at any one time.

mr_subjunctive said...

Well, yes and no: the pests show up sooner and thrive better on plants that are already weakened for some reason, but pests have definite preferences for certain plants, and plants have varying amounts of resistance to different pests. I promise. Ask anybody who's worked in a garden center.

phantom_tiger said...

I love Crotons! Now I feel like a rebel. I was surprised Crotons are supposed to like humidity, because I live in a super dry place and my Crotons don't seem to care. I dropped something heavy on one of my plants twice, knocking off most of its leaves, but it did not die. They seem hardy to me. They like it when I ignore them.

Non-garden centres usually overwater their plants so letting them dry out a bit is good. I've had plants that were so wet I could squeeze out the soil and water ran out. Some plants will drop their leaves when the light level changes after you bring them home.

Anonymous said...

I realize it is an old post but since no one mentioned this before...

I believe that the author is only writing about the "Excellent" variety which in my experience is a lot more tolerant than other crotons. It responds to low light levels by skipping the yellow coloration on new growth to go straight to dark green/dark red. Will live through low temperatures for months but won't grow. No idea how "Excellent" gets along with pests.

Anonymous said...

I've had a "Victoria Gold Bell" Croton for about 6 months. It's in an east facing window, and has done great. Strong growth, no pest problems, and has just started putting out a flower stalk. The plant has lost two leaves since I've had it. I guess that I'm lucky, since you all seem to be having so much trouble with your plants.