The codiaeum (ko-DEE-ay-oom) contains attractive foliage that will have a variety of leaf colours and patterns and, as it ages, the leaf colours and patterns often change. Codiaeum has been given names such as crotons, Joseph’s coat (because of the many colours) or variegated laurels.
The leaves of the codiaeum come in different sizes and shapes and are usually between 4 and 6 inches in length. The leaves are glossy and leathery and there are a variety of leaf colours, including greens, yellows, oranges, reds, pinks, browns and even purple-red or blackish green. The leaves can be mottled, veined, striped or spotted. It is an evergreen and in the wild, it can grow to around 6 foot tall. The codiaeum also produces tiny star shaped flowers.
These flowers are found growing wild in the Pacific, India, Malaysia and other regions of south-east Asia.
Codiaeum are available all year long although a resting period between autumn and winter is advisable.
The genus, codiaeum is part of the splurge (Euphorbiceae) family. The C.variegatum pictum is the most common houseplant species and there are many colours and leaf shapes available within this species.
This plant needs moist compost and the compost should be loose to allow any excess water to drain. As a tropical plant, it prefers humidity and temperatures of up to 27°C, making it an ideal houseplant throughout the year. It is also suitable for moving into the garden during summer, although you should take care to ensure that the outdoor temperatures do not drop overnight. You should keep it out of direct sunlight, as this causes leaves to revert to green instead of remaining multi-coloured. During winter, as it rests, the lower leaves will drop. Your codiaeum needs to be kept away from children and pets and it is also preferable that you wear gloves during pruning, as the sap is poisonous.
Did You Know?
A molecule called anthocyanin gives the leaves their many different colours and patterns. This molecule is also in some fruits and vegetables, such as peppers and red apples.
In herbal medicine, codiaeum is a treatment for gastric ulcers.