To the genus codiaeum belong some species of evergreen shrubs, originating in Asia; the croton is a shrub of small or medium size, originating in the Pacific Islands. It has large leaves, visibly varied in various colors, yellow, orange, red or pink, there are many varieties, with leaves of various sizes, oval or elongated, even lobed. Very appreciated plant for its decorative foliage, in summer the Codiaeum variegatum produces also small flowers, united in long curved panicles.
The specimens of the species reach the 90-100 cm of height, however, there are dwarf varieties, with small leaves, which keep within the 30-40 cm.
Features of the Croton
The apartment plant commonly known as Croton actually belongs to the genus Codiaeum and the vast family of Euphorbiaceae.
The genus comprises 14 or 15 species from the temperate climate regions of South Asia (in particular Malaysia) and North Oceania. These shrubs are small to medium in size (30 to 80 cm at maturity) and are highly valued for the beauty of their large, colourful leaves. The specimens, depending on the species and the different types of farming, can be single or multiple stem. The most common have alternate leaves, very consistent, from oval to variously carved or wavy, long up to 30 cm.
They are available in a large number of shades: white, orange, yellow, red, brown and almost black. The different colours may be present on the same lamina distributing in dots, or in stripes, only on the margins or only at the centre, along the veins.
The flowering is not very interesting (and in cultivation is discouraged because it steals energy from the emission of new leaves). It is made up of spikes where there are many male and one female flowers, from which, in nature, the only fruit develops.
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The plants of Codiaeum variegatum prefer the luminous positions, but do not like the direct rays of the sun; avoid placing the plants in a place subject to blows of air or to sudden changes of temperature; in winter, they are cultivated in the house, with minimum temperatures over the 15°C.
They are plants of tropical origin which, for this reason, love to grow in areas with constant temperatures, the ideal one should be around 25 °C; for this reason they are plants to be cultivated indoors.
For a good development of the Codiaeum variegatum it is essential to water regularly, but avoiding the formation of water stagnations which can be very harmful; the soil should be kept slightly moist.
Every 20-25 days, add green plant fertiliser to the water of the watering, in a dose half that recommended on the package. In a very dry climate, often vaporize the canopy with demineralized water to maintain a good level of ambient humidity, a fundamental factor for the health of the plant.
Crotons prefer very well drained soils, rich in organic matter and soft; every 2-3 years repot the plants, possibly in spring; repotting should be done when the root system is too compact and compressed. The ideal soil for the cultivation of this type of plant must be acidic.
IL CROTON IN BREVE
Family, genus, species
Euphorbiaceae, Codiaeum Variegatum
Type of plant
Decorative foliage shrub
From 30 cm to 1 m
From 40 to 80 cm
Very bright (also full sun in spring and autumn)
13°C for short periods
Peat+leaf earth (equal parts)+ sand
Sub-acid to acid
Cuttings; layering and seed (only for specialists)
Cotton cochineal, Scudetto cochineal, red spider mite, foliar drop
The multiplication of these plants usually takes place by cutting, in spring or late summer.
The cuttings shall be placed in containers with a mixture of peat and sand, to be kept in a protected place and with a constant temperature, around 20 °C. Keep the soil moist but not too wet to allow the development of new plants. When the shoots appear, the containers should be moved to a brighter area.
An excessively dry climate, a sudden change in temperature or exposure to airstrokes can cause the leaves of the Codiaeum variegatum to fall; the crotons are often attacked by aphids, mites and cochineals. To eliminate the cochineals, if their presence is limited, it is possible to use a pad with alcohol, intervening manually. If the attack is widespread, it is good to use a good pesticide.
To eliminate the mites is good to intensify the nebulisations that increase the environmental humidity and are an excellent remedy against these parasites.
Variety of Croton
The enormous interest aroused by this shrub since the mid-19th century, shortly after its arrival in Europe, has led horticulturists to select and hybridize, looking for leaves with shapes and colors always new and more vibrant. The subjects most used in these experiments were the Codiaeum pictum and Codiaeum variegatum from whose hybridization derives most of the cultivars that we can find on the market today.
Here is a brief description of species and varieties.
Codiaeum variegatum var. pictum
Originally from Malaysia, Ceylon and India; of medium size (in apartment it rarely exceeds the 60 cm, but in tropical gardens or in constantly heated greenhouses it can become almost a sapling). The leaves are alternate and placed on a single stem, very polymorphous both in shape and in colour. In general, they have a bright green base with yellow hues; over time, red tones are added, creating a very interesting contrast.
Here are some cultivars that can be found commonly on the market:
-• Benoit Compte leaves with golden streaks that turn to dark red as they age
-• Blush on Fire very contained and branched. The leaves are a beautiful bright green that, over time, turn to orange
-• Bravo lobed leaves with golden veins, very ornamental.
-• Disraeli very elongated leaves bright green and with cream spots
-• Gold Dust Dark green whole leaves with yellow spots
-• Golden Bell long, narrow leaves; the young have golden yellow spots. Beautiful chromatic contrast and very luminous effect.
-• Standard leaves lobed green by young then burgundy
-• Ondulatum very particular leaves due to their waving course over the entire lamina; the base is dark green, but has light spots that, as they age, tend to pinkish.
-• Petra wide leaves coloured pink, red or yellow
-• Punctatum aureum thin leaves with cream-coloured spots
The codiaeum warrenii is less common from the horticultural point of view, but is interesting for some of its characteristics and is now used to obtain new varieties. In the right conditions (warm climate all year round) it can become very impressive. The appearance of the leaves varies with time: initially they are green with a golden centre, then they darken to become almost black and the veins light up in the vermilion.
Temperatures and ambient humidity for the croton
The croton comes from the rainforests of the tropical climates. Theoretically, it lives at its best where it is possible to maintain almost the same climatic conditions both in summer and in winter, therefore in greenhouses specially prepared for this purpose.
In our apartments we keep in mind that we have an optimal development with temperatures around 18-21 ° C. The plant easily tolerates a slightly colder environment (especially in winter with less intense light), around 15-16°C. If we don’t want it to be damaged we shouldn’t expose it to less than 13°C, especially for long periods. It is also very sensitive to temperature changes and cold currents: they can cause an extensive foliar droplet.
Heat (above 25°C) can be another cause of problems, especially when combined with a very dry environment. If, in summer, we do not have the possibility to use an air conditioner, remember that a constant increase in atmospheric humidity is essential when the temperature rises. We should therefore not skimp on foliar vaporization with demineralized water and the use of special humidifiers.
IL CALENDARIO DEL CROTON
All year round (at 20°C) or from spring to autumn
Flowering (rare in indoor plants)
From November to February
March, April, May
April, May, June
Fertilization of young plants
All year round (with 20°C) every 20 days, unlike only from March to November
Fertilization of adult plants
All year round (with 20°C) every 7 days, unlike only from March to November
Light and exposure
This shrub, in order to grow at its best, must be placed in an extremely illuminated area, i.e. a room with windows facing south or east. This will ensure a fast growth and the maintenance of the bright shades that characterize the leaves (especially the red ones, in the shade, tend to return to a uniform green).
Almost all of them actually have no problem with tolerating direct sunshine. This should only be avoided in the warmer months (mid-June to mid-September), with a little more attention for those living in southern regions or coastal areas.
Irrigations and Watering Croton
The croton needs a slightly moist soil. The irrigations must therefore be frequent: to regulate we insert a finger in the soil, about 5 cm deep: if we feel it dry we should immediately proceed with the administration of liquids. If the temperature in our rooms is always around 20°C we will maintain this behaviour throughout the year. Otherwise, in winter, with a climate around 15-16°C, we will reduce the irrigation a little, making sure only that the ground bread never dries completely.
For all operations we always prefer demineralised water (such as the one on sale for irons) or we collect rainwater. A high concentration of salts (particularly calcium) can, over time, cause the advent of important physiopathologies.
Soil and repotting croton
The ideal soil is to be composed of woodland soil mixed in equal measure with peaty soil for acidophilic plants. It can also be useful to lighten it by adding a few handfuls of river sand.
The repotting, given the rather vigorous growth, can also be carried out every year, in the middle of spring.
Fertilization of the croton
The croton needs frequent fertilization. Let’s choose a balanced product, suitable for indoor plants. The liquid formulations are the most suitable. In general, young subjects grow best with an administration every twenty days, while adults require a weekly frequency. It is very important to wet the substrate well before: the roots are very sensitive and direct contact with a high dose of nitrogen could cause significant damage.
It’s not strictly necessary. We can decide to do so if the plant has grown crooked or spun due to incorrect positioning with respect to the light. We will intervene at the end of winter by almost completely eliminating the stems. The cuts will produce a liquid (“latex”) characteristic of this family: for this reason it is recommended to always use gloves as it could irritate the skin.
The tears in the plant should be dusted with charcoal or a little cinnamon: this will speed up the healing process.
Croton parasites and adversities
The most common parasites are cochineal and red spider mite. The former can be fought with mineral oil and, in case of serious infestations, with systemic insecticides to be administered by irrigation (or with the appropriate pot pills). The latter should be prevented by frequent vaporization.
Croton – Codiaeum variegatum: Propagation
The only method available to everyone is cutting:
– We proceed in mid spring, taking a 5 to 10 cm long apex. Let’s remove the leaves at the base and leave only two (possibly cut in half) to reduce perspiration
– We dust the base with a product based on radical hormones
– We insert the segments in a mix of soil and sand in equal parts
– We cover with transparent plastic and keep warm, vaporizing often. Usually in a few weeks the new shoots are born.
– We wait for a perfect rooting and transfer into larger pots with soil suitable for adult plants.
Watch the Video
- The Croton is an evergreen plant, used to decorate apartments; it is native to Asia. In particular, this
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