Codiaeum Variegatum (Croton)
Croton plants stiff, leathery leaves in bold colors of yellow, pink, red, orange and green make it a beautiful and popular house plant. Its varied colors give it another common name, Joseph's Coat.
The croton plant shown here is one of the most dramatic we've seen. Warm tropical colors and exotic patterned leaves make 'Petra' a knockout in any brightly lit room. Those vibrant colors will rival just about any flower you could name. Crotons are not easy to please. The keys to success are plenty of sunshine, a warm, draft-free environment, moist soil, and humid air. Dry air and soil will cause croton leaves to fall off. Give croton what it wants and you'll enjoy this tropical beauty a long time.
Origin: Pacific Islands, Malaysia, Northern Australia
Height: Up to 3 ft (90 cm), depending on variety. When allowed to grow tall, crotons have a tree-like form with thick trunks.
Light: Bright light and at least 3 hours of direct sun each day. Leaf color is most vibrant when the plant is getting lots of light. If new leaves are mostly green, move the plant to a brighter location. A lack of sunlight can cause croton to drop its leaves. Don't test it on this -- I had one that dropped all of its leaves when I left it in a less-than-sunny location.
Water: Keep soil mix evenly moist with tepid water. It's a good idea to use a pot with drainage holes. Water thoroughly, then empty the drainage saucer. Water less in winter, when growth is slower, but don't allow the potting mix to dry out.
Humidity: Aim to maintain relative humidity around 60% or higher around plant. Stand pot on a tray of wet pebbles or use a cool-mist room humidifier.
Temperature: Average to warm room temperature (65-85°F/18-29°C) year-round. Don't expose this tropical native to temperatures below 60°F/16°C.
Soil: Peat moss-based mix, such as African violet potting mix.
Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks from early spring through summer with a balanced liquid or water-soluble fertilizer, diluted by half.
Propagation: Take stem cuttings in spring and dip in rooting hormone before inserting in a half-half mix of sand and peat moss-based potting mix. Croton cuttings root in about a month.