Croton Plant - Joseph’s Coat

Codiaeum variegatum

Croton plant care. Instructions for growing Codiaeum variegatum as house plants and how to care for Joseph’s Coat outdoors. Pictures of crotons in a variety of landscape settings.

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The croton plant is a colorful shrub from Malaya and the Pacific Isles.

It acquired the name Joseph’s coat because of its multi-colored leaves.

It shares this common name with Alternanthera ficoidea, Amaranthus ‘Tricolor’, and the Joseph's coat rose, 3 other very colorful garden plants.

The croton is beloved for this bright, variegated foliage which exhibits great variety in shape as well as color.

The leaves may be long, skinny and twisting, oak leaf-shaped, or oval-shaped with smooth edges.

The plant beside the croton in this picture is a dwarf variegated Schefflera.

They can—and most often will—exhibit different colors on the same plant!

A red and black variety like Codiaeum variegatum pictum ‘Carrierei’ will have some solid red leaves, some solid black leaves and the remaining leaves will be both black and red to varying degrees.

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Croton stems make good cut foliage and are excellent additions to floral arrangements.

If a leaf roots while in a flower arrangement, don’t bother planting it. It won’t grow into a shrub.

Codiaeum variegatum pictum bears yellow, red, green and black oak leaf-shaped foliage. Some leaves are solid yellow, some are yellow and green, some are red and green, and some are red and black.

To further complicate matters, the leaves will often change color with age and light conditions. This can make identifying a particular variety difficult.

This one looks just like a Gold Dust plant.

The leaves weep milky latex if they are torn or punctured. This latex can stain fabric and may irritate your skin if it gets on you.

Joseph’s coat is a slow grower to 6 feet tall by 3 feet wide.


Croton Plant Flowers

Croton plant flowers.

Given proper care and enough light, C. variegatum will bloom. Clusters of tiny white flowers held on short spikes may arise among the leaves at any time during active growth.

These diminutive blooms offer no competition to the plant's much showier foliage.


Growing Crotons – Croton Care

Narrow-leaved croton plants flanking a palm tree.

These plants require warmth and protection from hot sun. A part-shade location is preferred over full sun. Too much sun can bleach the leaves.

They like regular moisture in the summer and less in the winter. If they dry out in the summer or get too wet in the winter, they will decline. Leaf drop is usually the first sign of a problem.

Codiaeum variegatum is winter hardy in zones 9b-11. People grow them outdoors here in zone 9a but plants may be lost in an unusually cold winter.

If your plant becomes too tall, prune it hard in the spring.


House Plant Care of Croton

Close-Up of a Croton Plant (Codiaeum Variegatum)
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To grow a croton standard like the plant in the image above, select the strongest, most upright stem arising from the soil. Remove all others. Pinch all the shoots off the lower 2 thirds of the new trunk. Pinch the tips of the remaining shoots until your little tree's crown becomes as bushy as you desire.

Keeping a croton as a house plant is an exercise in pleasure and pain.

Croton plants must receive enough light to color well. They like high humidity so you may need to run a vaporizer or humidifier during the heating season to keep them happy. Fresh air circulating around the plants will keep the spider mites at bay. A healthy croton plant has no peer as a colorful foliage plant.

An unhappy croton is another matter.

If any aspect of its culture is disagreeable to it, leaf drop will occur post haste.

To propagate crotons, take 4 inch cuttings in the summer. They root easily as long as they are kept warm and humid.


The Croton as a Landscape Shrub

Crotons used as landscape shrubs in Bradenton

Here, croton plants share a border with Acalypha and areca palms at Palma Sola Botanical Park in Bradenton, Florida.

They make beautiful, low shrubs (they can become tall shrubs in time) where the climate is consistently warm and damp enough.

Above, Tiny is standing beneath a tree-sized specimen at Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, FL.

Crotons have been planted around this Central Florida home as foundation shrubs.


The stone wall and the weeping bottlebrush tree will provide the plants with winter frost protection.

Other Colorful Shrubs:

Choosing the Right Bougainvillea Variety

The Gold-splashed Aucuba Plant

The Variegated Umbrella Tree Plant

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