Photo courtesy Texas A&M University
Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) has bright, glossy, thick leaves with a wide range of patterns, from speckles to almost solid with contrasting veins. Croton leaves are multicolored, ranging in reds, pinks, yellows, oranges and greens. Foliage can be finely cut, resembling an oak leaf, or it can be broad and bold.
In Florida, parts of southern California and other sub-tropical climates, croton is a landscape plant. For the rest of us, croton is a house plant that thrives indoors in a bright, sunny window. The less light, the more green the leaves will have.
It is extremely sensitive to cold temperatures, which may cause leaf drop, indoors or out. Croton does best in evenly moist, but not wet, well-drained soil. If the soil gets too dry, the leaves will droop.
Apply a water-soluble, all-purpose fertilizer according to label directions. Usually, the amount of fertilizer is reduced in winter when the plant’s growth has slowed.
Prayer plant (Maranta) has green, oval- or oblong-shaped leaves with white, red or cream color markings or veins. This plant gets its names because its leaves are flat during the day but fold up at night, as if praying.
Prayer plant is at home in bright, indirect light or in a north, east or west window. The soil should be well-drained and evenly moist, but not wet.
Apply a water-soluble fertilizer every two months throughout spring, summer and fall according to label directions. Prayer plants need to rest during the winter months. In tropical climates, this plant can be grown in the landscape outdoors. It is very sensitive to cold temperatures.
Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) is an easy care, long-blooming succulent that usually is sold as a flowering plant. Depending on the cultivar, it will have orange, white, yellow, red, lavender or pink flowers, which may last six months or more.
The care is similar to a jade plant, which is a relative of kalanchoe. For the longest bloom cycle, place kalanchoe in a cool, bright location but out of direct sun. Allow the soil to go dry between waterings. Too much water will kill this plant. Apply a water soluble fertilizer monthly during the bloom cycle according to the label directions. Pinch or snip off flowers as they die.
In hot climates, kalanchoe can be grown as a shrub outdoors in the landscape. Temperatures below 30 degrees F will damage or kill the plant.
Polka dot plant
Polka dot plant
Polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) has several different leaf patterns, such as green and white, red and green, pink and green and other combos. The coloring looks like splotches or polka dots on the leaves, which gives this plant its common name.
Polka dot plant does best in a bright area but out of direct sun. The soil should be evenly moist but not wet. This plant may be sensitive to chlorine used in water treatment. Allow tap water to sit in a container for a day to allow chemicals to dissipate before watering. Apply a water soluble fertilizer monthly during the growing season according to label directions. Do not fertilize in winter when growth slows.
Polka dot plant is as much at home indoors as it is outdoors. This plant frequently is used in window boxes, pots and other containers to add a bit of color to shady spots. In cold climates, treat polka dot plant as an annual outdoors. In hot climates, the plant is used as an ornamental in the landscape or as a ground cover. Freezing temperatures may damage or kill polka dot plant.