The leaves of the croton are really stunning. They are as pretty as any flower, and come in such an array of colors, that they can brighten any landscape, as long as it’s subtropical.
Crotons don’t handle cold well, with established, older plants handling it best. I live in climate zone 9 and have this big croton plant in my yard. I have no idea how long it’s been there, but I did not cover it at all last winter.
Then again, last winter in Florida was not all that cold.
Recently I went out in my yard and took some photos of the croton leaves and wanted to share them with you.
When I first moved to Florida back in 1979, one flowering shrub I missed was my favorite – the Peony. My grandmother had them in her Massachusetts garden around her old white farmhouse, and the huge blooms impressed me as a child. The fluffiness of the blooms were like none I’d seen, and the peony instantly became my favorite flower.
This page contains my photos of the peonies I planted and tended for the five years I lived in my New Hampshire house. They bloomed in July, so I thought I’d treat myself to a trip back in time, when I could walk into my yard and see these beautiful blooms. I wonder if the new homeowners are enjoying them today.
Karl Rosenfeld, Pink Peony
White Peony plant
Dark pink peony buds and blooms
I live in Florida for 27 years, without growing any peonies in my landscape. I had everything else a southern gardener could grow. I had white and yellow jasmine along my fence. Camellias of all colors grew under the shade of the big live oaks in my 2.5 acre yard. I had a magnolia tree, orange tree, gardenias, hibiscus, crotons, and bougainvillea, lots of crepe myrtle, a stag horn fern, and more that I can’t remember now. But peonies don’t grow in the deep south.
I really missed seeing peony flowers, and when I moved back to New England in 2005, I couldn’t wait to have some growing in my yard. Unfortunately, I ended up not having a yard of my own to plant them in until years later. But once I had my own home, I went out and bought a peony bush. I believe the Sarah Bernhardt (light pink flowering peony) was the first, and I can’t find a picture of that flower in my photos… but that one is my favorite. (I’ll keep looking for a picture!)
I don’t recall the name of this white flowering Peony. I always kept the name of the plant in the soil beneath the shrub so I could recall the name. I no longer live there, and I’ve forgotten.
White Peony Buds
Peony Flower Garden
Karl Rosenfeld Buds
Karl Rosenfeld Bloom
I know that the bright pink flower, with the yellow center is the Karl Rosenfeld. It’s not as fluffy as the other types I grew, but it was unique.
Peony flowers don’t last long. I loved to photograph the buds too. If I missed a day or two, and didn’t go outside (due to weather) I could miss the prime blooming time!
Most of my peonies – 3 plants – grew along an old wooden fence near the driveway. The Karl Rosenfeld was planted out back. The front gardens, near the house got too much sun for growing peonies, so I reserved that area for sun-loving shrubs.
Peonies are easy to grow, but some years they don’t get many flowers. When they do bloom, ants can be found crawling all over the flowers. Usually a cage or holder of some kind is needed to keep the stems upright once they flower. It’s best to put the cage up and let the stems grow up through.
Viewing a sprouting peony in Spring, was just what I needed after a long cold winter! Here they come….
When I was given this flowering plant as a gift I was told it was a Plumeria. After seeing this same plant at the local Home Depot store, I discovered it was a Desert Rose. But before I knew what it was, I had taken it out of the original pot and put it into a sunny location in the backyard.
Sun is exactly what this flowering plant craves. But the word “desert” caused me to believe less water was better. The truth is that this plant did well with and without water.
Today I am watering it frequently, and it is thriving! So much for the “desert” title.
At the time I planted it, we were have a long dry spell here in Florida. The Desert Rose did well. I avoided watering it when I watered the hibiscus next to it, and the plant even sent out new buds, which you can see blooming at the bottom of the stalk.
Florida is a tropical place, but some areas are more tropical than others. I am in the central part of the state and it can get very cold (below freezing) here overnight in winter. I was afraid the Rose would die, so I ended up digging it up and putting it into a (bright orange) pot.
The Secret to Growing a Desert Rose in Florida
Sunlight is most important, with plenty of heat. The plant can deal with lack of water (I’ve tried that), but it also loves a daily spray with the hose.
These plants develop a very thick “stem” or caudex (see them in the photo below). This is the part that holds in the water to keep the plant thriving in drought conditions. But apparently it does not need to grow in a desert to thrive.
Keep it in a pot so it can come inside when temperatures drop – some sites say below 60 degrees and others say 40. Just bring it inside when it gets cold to be safe.
Pictures of My Desert Rose and How It Has Grown
As I mentioned above, this plant was a gift to me shortly after I moved into my house in 2016. I’ve had the plant for nearly 2 years now.
After a period of dormancy during the winter, suddenly lots of buds began to show up. New little leaves began to grow from the base of the stem. This was about the time when aphids were appearing on all my plants outside. A daily check, and I would spray the buggers off with the hose. I let the lady bugs take care of most of the aphids in my garden, but the Rose is not near the vegetables.
In the photo below, lots of greenery is showing on the plant, which has stopped blooming for now. It will take this time to put effort into growing stems and leaves before it begins to flower again.
Right now I am not sure when that will be. This plant flowers more than once a year, so I expect to see buds forming soon.
More Information About The Desert Rose
The Desert Rose is similar in appearance to the plumeria / frangipani tree and Oleander. The unique aspect is the thick stems. The Oleander does grow in Florida, but I have not seen Plumeria trees. Maybe they will grow in the southern part of the state. For more information about growing the desert rose elsewhere, read my friend’s article: Desert Rose Adenium Plant for Gardening and Bonsai.
Like the Oleander plant, the Rose contains poisonous sap. It may not be a good choice as a houseplant for families with young kids for this reason.
Now that I live in Florida, my yard must contain the normal Florida perennials. Hibiscus is at the top of that list, and therefore I recently purchased a shrub and recently planted it along the side of the house.
I know that hibiscus will tolerate lots of sun and heat. Although the tag on this one said it was protected from mites and aphids, I notice there are some on the buds. I mixed up a solution of dish detergent and water to spray on the plant, and picked off the buds that were full of bugs. I’ve had to do this for a few days not. It’s irritating that I bought it with the bugs on it. Should have checked closer.
Next to it, I added a rose bush and on the other side a small Desert Rose. In my photo below the plumeria hasn’t been planted yet, but you can see the red poinsettia I bought this past Christmas … the flowers are still red! That one also needs to go in the ground.
I need to get these gardens planted before the weather becomes too hot. I can’t work outside like I used to, and I dislike working in the heat. Digging up this St. Augustine grass is a real chore, and then I must lug the dirt to mix into the dug hole. The Florida “dirt” is mostly sand, so it must be amended with quality dirt and fertilizer. After it was planted I added black mulch.