The Croton (Codiaeum) is a popular house plant and its attraction is obvious – vivid foliage colors and varied leaf shapes. Stiff leaves are borne on an upright plant – the usual pattern is large and lobed foliage on which there are distinctly colored veins. A tough-looking plant in the shop or garden center, but before you buy one of the hybrids of Codiaeum variegatum pictum you must make sure that you can satisfy its fussy requirements. It will need a fairly constant temperature which will not drop below 60°F and it will need high air humidity.
The compost will have to be kept moist at all times during the growing season with tepid water, and you will have to keep the pot away from draughts. Regular feeding is necessary during the growing season but it should be stopped in winter when proper care calls for moderately warm air and rather dry compost. Your reward for creating the right conditions will be a colorful bush with the clear sign of the expert… the lower stem of a Croton fully clothed with leaves.
The basic variety is Codiaeum variegatum pictum, and over the years hundreds of different named types have appeared. Most have Laurel-like foliage, but there are also forked leaves, long ribbons, lobed leaves, twisted and curled types. Identification is not easy – the color often changes with age, a pink or red hue taking over from the yellows and greens.
Examples of well-known varieties include Appleleaf and Vulcan (yellow with red edges and green veins), Norma (green with red veins and splashes of yellow), aucubifolium (green with yellow spots), Bravo (green splashed with yellow). Reidii is popular – so are the lobed varieties such as craigii and holuﬁiana. There are many, many others, such as Mrs lceton, Excellent, Gold Finger, Gold Sun, Julietta, Petra, Europa, Gold Star and Gold Moon.
Secrets of success
Temperature: minimum 60°F in winter.
Light: Good light is necessary – an east– or west-facing windowsill is ideal.
Water: Water liberally from spring to fall. water sparingly in winter.
Propagation: Take stem cuttings in spring. Use a rooting hormone and provide bottom heat.