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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Croton (Codiaeum variegatum)

By Staff | May 20, 2015

Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) Anita Force Marshall

First impression: Vibrant, colorful leaves that look like someone spilled paint on them. These eye-catching leaves are waxy, in all shapes and sizes adorning its branches. No noticeable blossoms, so no detectable fragrance.

Gosh, we have hundreds planted and they reward us every day with thousands of kaleidoscope colored leaves. You can see these flowerless whorls of patterns and hues strutting their stuff at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Codiaeum only includes about 15 species of shrubs and trees originating from Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands. Our star is considered a houseplant to our northern visitors, but quite common in our gardens. Tender too cold, when it gets chilly (aka in the 30s) its leaves drop. No worry, once our temperatures begin to warm up, usually the next day new growth will appear.

Here in paradise when our plant loses its leaves from cold, we should refrain from trimming. Pruning adds another stress on the already stressed cold plant. Since we don’t get cold much, we have lots of opportunity to admire those super colorful leaves.

Our Crotons have been hybridized not only for colors but in a variety of leaf shapes. Twisted, ruffled, lobed, and even heart shaped to name a few. Croton shrubs have a natural shape and should not be hedged and edged; the leaves are their beauty and uniqueness. They look most vibrant when planted in shade to partial sun and can really add zip to a shady garden area. You will enjoy choosing from the hundreds of different colors, patterns and leaf shapes. They can be planted alone or grouped together with a mature height varying from 2-20 feet. Many varieties mature and thrive in our tropical temperatures. Easy to care for, they require good drainage and regular watering to do well. They make great cut colorful leaves; I have successfully placed them in vases and admired them in my home for several days.

Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) Anita Force Marshall

Our Crotons throughout our garden have been here many decades. They remain healthy, but every now and then they get mites, which I can detect when I see sooty mold. Sooty mold is the residue from the harmful insect, which is sticky and black and can be removed by hosing the leaves with a strong water spray. I combat chewing insects with a systemic product when applied to the roots of the plant is absorbed by the plants roots and only kills the chewing insect and no other beneficial insects. When you spray pesticides you are killing the good and bad bugs. Good bugs make your garden hummmmm.

Pros:

* Year round show stopping colorful leaves.

* Natural shape.

* Great for vases.

Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) Anita Force Marshall

* Medium salt tolerant.

* Huge selection of different colors and shapes.

* Non-invasive.

* May find your perfect color for bathroom in one of the leaves.

Cons:

Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) Anita Force Marshall

* Not cold tolerant.

* May find spouse trying to clean off leaves with mineral spirits.

* Occasionally treat for mites.

* Non-native.

Conclusion: We have oodles of eye catching Crotons bursting with paint spilled leaves. So many choices, so little timeaahhhtake all the time you need in our tropical eye-catching garden.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!