What is a Croton Plant?

Sonal Panse

Croton plants are tropical, evergreen plants belonging to the Euphrobiaceae or Spurge family. They are notable for their bright, multicolored foliage, which is why the Croton plant is also known as Joseph's Coat. The foliage consists of stiff, waxy and alternately placed leaves that can be of a variety of shapes, oval, lance-like, lobed or linear, and of a mix of various shades of green, yellow, orange, white, red, pink, crimson, purple and black; the same plant can have different kinds of leaves and colors. The Croton plant colors are caused by the presence of a chemical called anthocyanin in the leaves, and the colors are liable to brighten or fade according to the amount of sunlight the plant receives.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

There are over 750 varieties of Crotons around the world, the two most popular being Codieaum petra and Codieaum variegatum. These plants can be planted directly in the ground, kept as garden potted plants or grown as houseplants. They can be quite high maintenance, requiring a warm, humid environment and an exacting amount of water. They cannot survive in very cold weather, and if water supply is insufficient, the normally upward-pointing leaves start pointing downward and start to drop off. In case of over-watering, the leaves begin to wilt at the edges.

The amount of sunlight the plant receives is also important. It does not do too well if it receives an abundance of direct sunlight, but in inadequate light, its colorful foliage starts to lose its color and brightness. The plant leaves also start dropping off in poor light conditions. The plant is vulnerable to mealy bugs; spraying the plant with soapy water once or twice a day can help get rid of these pests.

Under favorable conditions, the Croton plant can attain heights of 10 feet (3.05 m) or more, and produce tiny yellow flowers. It usually helps to prune the plant from time to time to encourage a heavy foliage growth. The pruned parts, especially the green wood and leaf bud cuttings, can be used to propagate new Croton plants.

The Croton plant leaves secrete a milky latex substance if they are torn and this latex can stain clothes. It is also toxic and can cause skin irritations. It is important to know that Crotons fall in the category of poisonous houseplants, and special care should be taken if there are young children or pets in the house.

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