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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 16
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garden croton
A.M. Costa Rica/Victoria Torley
Garden crotons (Codiaeum variegatum) has thick, red, shiny leaves.
 
Local plants can offer fall-like colors

Well, the rainy season seems to be ending and the season of sun beginning. We only have two seasons here in Costa Rica, and that can be a problem

Victoria Torley
for some people, especially those who miss colors of autumn leaves. If you, like Metric Man, miss the fall foliage, here are some good plants for you.

For the most outstanding of fall color, I always go with the garden crotons (Codiaeum variegatum) with its thick shiny leaves. Reds, yellows, oranges, and greens, these
  plants are an autumn spectacular all year long.

A hedge or fence of crotons is spectacular while a lone plant, grown as an accent, is always eye-catching. I leave my crotons with natural upright growth pruning only for height, but they can be pruned to be a small tree or even a bonsai. As a final plus, crotons are tolerant of most conditions. Plant them in full to partial sun and moist soil and they will be happy with some wind and salt, and even continue to thrive in short periods of drought.

Copper leaf  (Acalypha wildesiana) is another great accent plant with great bright to deep red foliage. It is also called Jacob’s coat and beefsteak plant, so don’t get confused by names. It shares many of its environmental needs with the garden croton so the plants can be intermixed. Copper leaf is susceptible to mealy bugs, so keep an eye on your plants as they grow.

If you want more autumn color, add red spurge to your garden. (Euphorbia cotinifolia) grows to about 20 feet and mixes well with croton and copper leaf, especially if the latter are trimmed as smaller shrubs.  Red spurge is almost indestructible. Trimmed branches that we tossed into the shaded trash pile have sent out roots and have sprouted several small trees. You have to love something with that much persistence.

Then there is blood leaf, (Iresine herbstii) aka, beefsteak plant, is a small shrub that grows to about five to six feet. Foliage is described as deep red, crimson, or purple and is, sadly, a favorite of leaf-cutter ants. Unlike the croton, which has upright branches, the branches of the blood leaf are spreading which makes a nice contrast when planted close bye.

And under your taller plants? Wandering jew and purple heart make good ground covers while oyster plant is a nice edge to paths. For truly startling color, try purple shield (Strobilanthes dyerianu) with iridescent leaves of green and purple. It is a tremendous accent plant.

So, if you miss autumn color, try some of these and add your own ideas. Now if we could only put a nip in the air . . . .

splurge
A.M/.Costa Rica photo
copperleaf
A.M. Costa Rica photo

Plants of the Week
Here they are, my baby red spurge (right now in the shade and looking more purple than red)  and copperleaf, wonderful eye-catching color that rivals anything Vermont has to offer and we get it year round!

If you would like to suggest a topic for this column, simply send a letter to the editor.  And, for more garden tips, visit HERE!

Costa Rican News
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