Crotons come in many colors ranging from pale green with yellow/white splotches to dark greens with vivid splashes of yellow, orange and red and the leaves come in many shapes. The one shown here reminds me of a little Christmas tree but the colors are not seasonal. It's a delight to behold, 365 days a year!
Crotons are sometimes called the "castor oil plant" but this is in no way related to the highly poisonous Ricinus communis that contains a deadly substance called "ricin".
No, the houseplants known as Crotons that we speak of are of the genus Codiaeum and while their sap can cause skin irritation, they are a popular and easy to grow plant. They are widely used as landscaping shrubs in warmer climates, Southern California to Florida, and further south. They grow wild and profusely in the Tropics.
A LITTLE LOVIN' GOES A LONG WAY!
Crotons are very forgiving of the home gardener who is a little lax in weekly waterings. This is probably contributes to them being used so successfully in landscaping when watering is erratic and temperatures fluctuate. I water mine when top of the soil begins to feel dry - about 1 1/2 - 2 weeks, then give it a good soaking. I use regular potting soil formulated for houseplants and never allow the plant to dry out completely. Fertilize sparingly using a liquid fertilizer recommended for foliage plants.
They require a lot of exposure to outdoor light to keep their colors vibrant. This one sits inside a patio door. I change the position every three or four months in order to keep it well shaped. If you'll notice the photo, it's reaching towards the right - where the light is. I'll just give it a 180 degree turn and it will soon straighten right up.
They are quite comfortable ranges of 65 - 80 degree temperatures and love frequent misting of fresh water.
BEWARE OF BUGS:
Crotons are fairly disease-resistant but they are susceptible to pests, especially spider mites and aphids. Spider mites are very hard to get rid of as most insecticides do not last long enough to kill the eggs which require about 9 days to hatch. Spider mites love being warm and dry, and hate water. That's another benefit of misting your Croton - you might run the spider mites off before they set up housekeeping and lay eggs. When all else fails, check Esprit's House Plant Pests page for drastic action!
With proper attention to its habitat and soil requirements, you shouldn't have any infestations of bugs or problems with atmospheric-borne diseases. Just remember that they need good drainage and warm air circulation.
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