28 October 2010

Croton Codiaeum Variegatum

We recently planted "Codiaeum Variegatum" indoors.  "Codiaeum belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae. It is native to Melanesia, Polynesia and North Australia. Floriculturists call codieaum more often simply as croton flower. There are a lot of croton species, for example croton mammy or croton mamey, petra croton (or croton petra), croton eluteria, red croton, codiaeum variegatum, croton megalocarpus, croton bonplandianum, croton tiglium, croton norma, croton capitatus, croton alabamensis, croton glandulosus etc. But as a house plant people mostly use Garden Croton. 

Croton flower is an evergreen shrub with rigid leatherlike leaves. In the nature croton flower grows up to 1,5 m high. House croton has more descent size (35-70 cm). Croton leaves are bright, have various colours and forms. They can be wide or narrow, mostly they resemble magnified laurel leaves, but they can be ribbon-like, coiled, fancifully cut out. Croton flower looks bright and multicoloured, because its leaves have various colours. Young croton leaves are green and yellowish, they are located at the top of a shrub, but while growing they change their colour and become multicoloured: with rose, red, orange spots. Codiaeums bloom with yellow-white flowers that should be mostly plucked so that plants won’t lose their powers, because their beauty is in their leaves.

Croton Codiaeum care
Croton plant requires quite complicated care. This shrub is quite exigent, it doesn’t like sharp changes of temperature and it is thermophyte. The temperature should be not lower than +170C. It doesn’t tolerate draughts.

The lighting should be bright, but direct sunlight is bad for croton. Croton is a plant that prefers rooms with east or west windows.  The care for croton flower means first of all high air humidity and clean leaves. That is why it is desirable to spray croton leaves every day, to wash them often and wipe them with moist rag.
In spring and in summer when croton plant actively grows and when it is warm, you should water it frequently.  Soft warm water suits best for this purpose. In this time codiaeum should be nourished regularly (once a week) with 0,2 % solution of NPK compound.  In winter you should take care of croton with the same thoroughness. When the temperature goes down, the watering should be stopped, but the soil should never dry out. If it is warm and dry in the room, codiaeum should be sprayed, but very seldom compared to summer period, and the leaves should be wiped with moist rag quite often to remove dust. From time to time you can wash codiaeum in the shower, but for this you should cover the soil with film. At this time croton plant ough to be nourished at least once or twice a month.

Young plants are replanted once a year in spring, and old plants should be replanted when necessary, but not lesser than once every two years. Clay and plastic pots are good for planting crotons, the bottom of pots should be filled with drainage, the drainage should consist of shards and charcoal that prevent water stagnation and roots decay. The most suitable soil for young codiaeum is a mixture of sod and leaf soil and sand in the following proportion 1:2:1. For mature plants you should take more leaf soil.

Croton Codiaeum diseases
Any faults in the care can affect the croton flower badly. The diseases can be caused for example by bad lighting. Direct sunlight can cause leaf burns, and lack of light will negatively affect the colour of leaves: they lose their bright colour and turn pale.

Too much watering and water stagnation in the underpan lead to root decay, and if there is not enough water and the air is too dry, tops of croton leaves become brown and then dry out. To low temperature will change the colour of leaves – their edges will become brown and the plant will slow down its growth.  Draughts and sharp change of temperature can make croton shed its leaves.  Codiaeum’s sap is poisonous, that is why it is not very popular among pests, but if the leaves are washed very seldomly and the air is very dry, then the croton flower will be affected by red spiders and scale insects.  Red spider is a very small red spider. It settles on the lower part of leaves and covers it with thin white web. It can be eliminated by spraying and washing the leaves, especially at the lower part, with water or weak solution of soap and tobacco, by spraying (outdoors) with milled sulphur or you can treat the croton plant with ready systemic insecticides. If you washed leaves with some infusion with soap, in 2-3 hours you should wash the leaves with just some warm water.

Scale insects or armored scales got their name from a wax-like clypeus that covers the body of a mature pest. First young scale insects are barely visible, but they are propagated very quickly and cover stems and leaves with green spots. Mature specimens are still and sit under their clypei, from where larvae creep out and crawl further to cover the whole plant. At this time you should exterminate them by spraying the plant with a solution of soap and tobacco, where you can also add some kerosene or denatured alcohol. Mature specimens should be removed together with their clypei using wet tampons, but in addition to it you should also treat the whole plant with insecticide or soap solution to remove larvae. Such procedures should be repeated.  After you finished working with the croton plant, you should wash your hands with soap and you also should prevent domestic animals from eating the leaves. Croton’s sap is poisonous."  This extract is taken from the following website, 

Figure 1:  Croton Codiaeum Variegatum
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