When it comes to variegated foliage, croton takes the cake. No demure white streaks or pale gold leaf edges for this plant! Instead, its foliage is a wild kaleidoscope of green, yellow, orange, red and burgundy.
Native to Malaysia, this colorful tropical can be grown outdoors only in frost-free zones, but it makes an excellent houseplant elsewhere.
Croton grows as a small branched shrub with dense foliage. Many hybrid cultivars have been selected for their showy leaves and tolerance of indoor growing conditions.
Common name: Croton
Botanical name: Codiaeum variegatum
Plant type: Tropical broadleaf evergreen
Zones: Any zone as houseplant; Zone 11 or higher outdoors
Height: 2 to 6 feet
• Sun: Bright indirect light (indoors); partial shade (outdoors)
• Soil: Potting mix (indoors); loam with ample organic matter (outdoors)
• Moisture: Evenly moist, well-drained
• Mulch: None, or 1 to 2 inches organic mulch
• Pruning: Prune lightly to improve form if needed
• Fertilizer: Apply half-strength soluble fertilizer monthly during active growth season
• Air layering
Pests and diseases
• Mealybugs, scales, spider mites
• ‘Gold Star’ has green leaves abundantly splashed and speckled with bright yellow.
• ‘Mammy’ has distinctive twisted leaves highlighted with bright red, orange and yellow.
• ‘Petra’ is probably the most widely available cultivar and has broad oval leaves showing a mosaic of green, red, orange and yellow.
• ‘Zanzibar’ has long, narrow leaves colored green, orange and red.
• Move crotons outdoors in the summer (place in shade to start; then gradually move to partial sun). It’s a great plant for adding color to patio containers.
• Croton likes humidity, so indoors (especially in winter) it helps to group it together with other plants on a pebble tray or place a humidifier nearby.
• Individual croton leaves or cut stems make great additions to flower arrangements.
All in the family
• Croton is a member of the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae), a large family of mostly tropical and subtropical herbaceous plants and shrubs.
• There are also a number of hardy euphorbias, including some popular garden perennials with colorful foliage.
• One of the best known members of the spurge family is the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
Where to buy
• Emerald Goddess Gardens, emeraldgoddessgardens.com
• Zone 9 Tropicals, zone9tropicals.com