Croton: Wild Kaleidoscope of Colors

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, croton is a colorful tropical that 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

Family: Euphorbiaceae


Growing conditions

  • Sun: Bright indirect light (indoors); partial shade (outdoors)
  • Soil: Potting mix (indoors); loam with ample organic matter (outdoors)
  • Moisture: Evenly moist, well-drained

Care

  • 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.

Propagation

  • Cuttings
  • Air layering


Pests and diseases

  • Mealybugs, scales, spider mites

Cultivars

  • ‘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.

Garden notes

  • 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