To the genus codiaeum belong some species of evergreen shrubs, originating in Asia; croton is a small or medium-sized shrub, native to the Pacific islands. It has large leaves, conspicuously variegated of various colors, yellow, orange, red or pink; there are numerous varieties, with leaves of various sizes, oval or elongated, even lobed. Plant much appreciated for its decorative foliage, in summer the Codiaeum variegatum also produces small flowers, gathered in long arched panicles. Specimens of the species reach 90-100 cm in height, but there are dwarf varieties, with small leaves, which remain within 30-40 cm.
The houseplant commonly known as Croton actually belongs to the genus Codiaeum and to the large family of Euphorbiaceae.
The genus includes 14 or 15 species from the temperate climate regions of southern Asia (particularly Malaysia) and northern Oceania. These are small to medium sized shrubs (from 30 to 80 cm at maturity) very appreciated above all for the beauty of their leaves, large and variously colored. The specimens, depending on the species and the different types of farming, can be single or multiple stems. The most common have alternate leaves, very consistent, from oval to variously carved or wavy, up to 30 cm long. They are available in a large number of shades: white, orange, yellow, red, brown and almost black. The different colors can be present on the same lamina distributed in spots, or in strips, only on the margins or only in the center, along the ribs.
Flowering is not very interesting (and in cultivation it is discouraged because it steals energy when new leaves are released). It consists of ears where there are many male flowers and only one female, from which, in nature, the only fruit develops.
Codiaeum variegatum plants prefer bright positions, but they do not like the direct rays of the sun; avoid placing the plants in a place subject to air blows or temperature changes; in winter they are grown indoors, with minimum temperatures above 15 ° C.
They are plants of tropical origin that, 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 specimens it is essential to water regularly, but avoiding the formation of water stagnations that can be very harmful; the soil must be kept slightly damp.
Every 20-25 days add some fertilizer for green plants to the water of the watering, in half the dosage compared to that suggested on the package. In very dry weather, spray the foliage often with demineralised water to maintain a good degree of environmental humidity, a fundamental factor for the health of the plant.
Crotons prefer very well-drained soils, rich in organic and soft matter; every 2-3 years repot the plants, possibly in spring; repotting should be performed when the root system is too compact and compressed. The ideal soil for the cultivation of this type of plant must be an acid component.
THE CROTON IN BRIEF
Family, genus, species
Euphorbiaceae, Codiaeum Variegatum
|Type of plant||Shrub with decorative foliage|
|Height||From 30 cm to 1 m|
|Width||From 40 to 80 cm|
|Exposure||Very bright (even full sun in spring and autumn)|
|Ideal temperature||18-21 ° C|
|Winter temperature||15-16 ° C|
|Minimum temperature||13 ° C for short periods|
|Ground||Peat + ground of leaves (in equal parts) + sand|
|soil pH||From subacid to acid|
|Propagation||Talea; layering and seed (only for specialists)|
|Parasites||Cotoniglia cotonosa, cochineal with shield, red spider, leaf drop|
THE CROTON CALENDAR
All year (with 20 ° C) or from spring to autumn
|Flowering (rare in indoor plants)||From November to February|
|Pruning||March April May|
|repotting||April, May, June|
|Fertilizing young plants||All year (with 20 ° C) every 20 days, differently only from March to November|
|Fertilizing adult plants||All year (with 20 ° C) every 7 days, differently 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, ie a room with windows facing South or East. This will guarantee a fast growth and the maintenance of the bright nuances that characterize the leaves (especially the red ones, in the shade, they tend to return to a uniform green).
Almost all of them actually have no problem tolerating the direct sun. This should be avoided only in the hottest months (from mid-June to mid-September), with a little more attention for those living in the southern regions or in the coastal areas.
Croton irrigation and watering
The croton always needs a slightly damp soil. The irrigations must therefore be frequent: to regulate ourselves, insert a finger in the soil, about 5 cm deep: if we feel it dry we will have to immediately proceed with the administration of liquids. If in our rooms the temperature is always around 20 ° C we will maintain this behavior throughout the year. Otherwise, in winter, with a climate of around 15-16 ° C, we will reduce the irrigation a little, making sure only that the ground bread never gets completely dry.
For all operations we always prefer demineralized water (such as the one sold for irons) or we collect rainwater. A high concentration of salts (in particular calcium) can, over time, cause the advent of important physiopathies.
Soil and repotting croton
The ideal soil is to be composed of forest soil mixed equally with peat soil for acidophilic plants. It can also be useful to lighten up by adding a few handfuls of river sand.
Repotting, given its rather vigorous growth, can also be done every year, in the middle of spring.
The croton needs fairly frequent fertilizations. We choose a balanced product, suitable for indoor plants. Liquid formulations are the most suitable. In general, young subjects grow best with one administration every twenty days, while adults instead require a weekly frequency. Very important is to first wet the substrate well: the roots are in fact very sensitive and direct contact with a high dose of nitrogen could cause major damage.
Pruning of the croton
It is not strictly necessary. We can decide to do this if the plant has grown distorted or spun due to an incorrect positioning with respect to the light. We will intervene at the end of winter by eliminating almost completely the stems. From the cuts will come out a liquid ("latex") characteristic of this family: for this it is recommended to always use gloves as it could irritate the skin. The lacerations of the plant must be dusted with charcoal or a little cinnamon: this will speed up the healing process.
Parasites and croton adversity
The most frequent parasites are the cochineal and the red spider mite. The first ones can be fought with mineral oil and, in case of serious infestations, with systemic insecticides to be administered by irrigation (or with the special pot tablets). The second is prevented with frequent vaporizations.
Croton - Codiaeum variegatum: Propagation
The only method available to everyone is the cutting:
- Proceed in mid-spring by taking a tip from 5 to 10 cm long. We eliminate the leaves at the base and leave only two (possibly cut in half) to reduce transpiration
- We dust the base with a product based on rooting hormones
- We insert the segments in a mix of soil and sand in equal parts
- We cover with clear plastic and keep warm, vaporizing often. Generally within a few weeks the new shoots are born.
- We await perfect rooting and transfer to larger pots with soil suitable for adult plants.
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The Croton is an evergreen plant, used to decorate the apartments; and is native to Asia. In particular, these