When I first came to Florida I wanted to get information on what were the best, most reliable plants to use in this harsh environment. If you are from New England, stop complaining about your environment being so tough, Florida is quite a challenge: the heat, the dryness, the downpours and flooding. So, back to my top 20 shrub choices; it is good to know what shrubs will do well without a lot of extra work. These can be used as the backbone of your planting, then you can highlight with other possibly higher maintenance plants because you just like them.
The first plant I want to talk about is the Croton. The Botanical name is Codiaeum variegatum. I will be using the Botanical/Latin names for plants because really this is the only way to accurately identify them. For some reason, you do not see the Latin name used in Florida so it provides a great deal of mystery when buying plants with questions such as, " Is this the variety that grows 10 feet tall or 2 feet tall?" Answer, ummmm, " I think it is the short one." Wow, that really gives me security.
So, the Croton is very common but there are many interesting varieties. I will have more pictures later. The most common variety, Petra Croton, grows to about 6' tall and 4' wide but can be kept at 3'x3'. They will grow in part shade to full sun. The color can fade a bit in the full sun. These plants are subject to frost damage and this past winter with temperatures dipping into the thirty's with regularity, there wasn't a leaf left on any of the plants in my neighborhood. However most came back and on some of my jobs the entire top died and they came back from the base.
These plants, once established , will survive without irrigation, just the natural Florida rains. One of the nice things about these plants is the variety of colors in the leaves. As far as landscape design, you can work off these colors and make a beautiful arrangement. They also brighten up a semi-shaded area that is composed only of green plants. In the partial shade, mix them with Autumn Ferns, Ti Plant, Variegated Ginger and in the sun, use Cannas, Allamandas, Pentas.