Codiaeum x variegatum: Croton

One of the first things to surprise and impress a visitor to the tropics is the fact that just outside the airport there is practically always a magnificent park and the ornamental shrubs there are almost always crotons — lovely, shrubby plants up to 2 m (6 ft) high with brightly coloured foliage.

These plants, native to the Sunda Islands, southeast Indies, and Malay Archipelago, are great favourites throughout the whole world; and no wonder, for few plants are so variable in shape and colour of the leaves.

All modern cultivars are derived from a single variety of the type species Codiaeum variegation pictum. They are the result of multiple crossing of the frequently occurring form and colour deviations. Cultivars are divided into several groups according to the shape of the leaves. Recommended are ‘Imperialis’ and ‘Clipper’ from the oval-leaved group; ‘Arthur Howe’ from the group with leaves having two side lobes and an elongate middle section; ‘Tortilis’ and ‘Corkscrew’ from the group with spirally coiled leaves; and ‘Punctatum Aureum’ of compact habit with small, narrow leaflets spotted with yellow.

Though gardening books often state that crotons are excellent plants for the modern home and do well in warm rooms, the author’s experience, unfortunately, does not back this up. They are ideal plants for a large plant-case, where the necessary humidity can be maintained, but if placed freely in a room they generally do not survive undamaged for more than six months. Naturally there are exceptions and the author himself has seen several nice large crotons in various homes; practically all, however, are solitary specimens that are exceptionally hardy. Crotons should be grown in a peaty substrate with the addition of leaf mould and sand. Propagation is relatively easy by means of tip cuttings in propagators with bottom heat.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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