The Croton, Codiaeum variegatum is a beautiful multicolored plant. It has the beauty of green, yellow and brown leaves. This plant can be enjoyed outdoors or indoors. Gardeners in the very southern part of Texas can enjoy crotons as in-ground plants. In our area, it is best to keep the plant in a container. The croton can be moved from outdoors to indoors based on the season. There are some species that may be adaptable to the cold weather, however, the typical croton found in our local stores are sold as house plants only.
What is a Croton?
It is classified as a Euphorbiaceae.
Euphorbiaceae is a group of shrubs, herbs or even a tree. The plants are referred to as the Spurge family. They have the commonality of having a milky substance inside of the plant stem and leaves. They also have a plant part called the calyx. What is a calyx? It is when the sepals of a flower, typically forming a whorl that encloses the petals and forms a protective layer around a flower in bud. In many flowers, sepals are modified in various ways or even completely missing.
Crotons as Houseplants
You can enjoy croton plants as a colorful fall plant, no matter what climate you live in, cold or warm, inside your home. They’re an excellent choice for bringing color and texture to your home or office, especially in dreary winter months. As indoor plants, crotons will thrive in bright light. They also prefer average to warm temperatures, and average to above-average relative humidity. Humidity is as important as the amount of light. Humidity can be added by simply using a spray bottle of water. I personally give all my houseplants (that can be moved) a shower on Sunday. This takes care of dust and debris on the leaves. The shower waters and allows the water to drain, thus preventing over-watering.
The most common issue we see with crotons as houseplants is when they don’t receive enough light and shed their foliage. If you leave them in place to water them consider using a wood pencil to test for dryness. If the pencil comes out with dirt, then it does not need water. Water them when the top inch or so of the potting mix dries to the touch.
Reproducing a new plant from the old plant.
Some houseplants are easily propagated, but the Croton is not one of these plants. Cutting the stem and trying to root is difficult. The best method is to start the roots before you remove the stem. This is called air layering. This technique was developed by the Chinese, and may be called “Chinese layering.” First, select a top stem that is healthy. Make an upward cut about halfway through the stem. Insert a small stick or toothpick into the opening. This will keep the plant from healing over the cut. Use rooting hormone on the open region of the stem. Take wet sphagnum moss and wrap the open area with a generous amount of moss. You can use clear wrapping cellophane and wrap the tennis ball size structure and secure at the top and bottom of the stem. It should take several months before the roots can be seen in the moss structure. Allow the roots to develop fully within the wrapped stem. Once the roots are visible cut the stem below the wrapping. The plant can be planted into a container and stake if needed. Keep the new plant out of bright sunlight until the plant has established a good root system.
So, bring the fall inside and enjoy the colors of the Croton. And possibly propagate and share with a friend!