HOW TO GROW CODIAFUM VARIEGATUM PICTUM (croton, Joseph’s coat)

15 deg C/59 deg F

This species has a vast number of cultivars – many named – and is extremely varied in form. The leaves may be laurellike in shape, spoon-shaped, branched. or thin and ribbon-like. In all cases. there is glorious colouring and. usually. contrasting veining. However, they are plants to select only for places which have constant, congenial warmth and reasonable humidity. Where it is cool and draughty – or the air is dry where there is central-heating without humidi-lication – the leaves are most likely to fall. The plants are so lovely that this usually causes much disappointment. The finest leaf colours develop in plants positioned in maximum light, but avoid direct sunlight. In such conditions, the foliage becomes suffused golden-yellow.

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with shades of red and salmon, and purplish tints, depending on the cultivar. The plants are highly sensitive to temperature and environmental changes. and are best bought during the warmer months of the year to avoid the chill of travelling.

The plants are best bought from a reliable source where they have been properly looked after. The reason for this is that ill-treatment may not show until some time afterwards. It may be a few weeks before the leaves start to fall. The minimum recommended temperature should be maintained but a ’ev degrees higher is desirable. Changes in temperature must be avoided. The situation should be bright and draught-free. Codiaeums often do well in centrally-heated buildings, where the heat is on all the time, and they like to be grouped with other warmth-loving plants to create a humid micro-climate. In summer, spray the leaves with a mist of tepid water. In winter, water sparingly and never use extremely cold water. Leave a jug of water in the room to reach the minimum air temperature. Codiaeums rarely need pots larger than 18cm (7in), and in the home they seldom need pruning. However, if through accident the leaves do fall, the top stems can be cut back in spring to encourage new shoots to arise from the base. If this is not done, a straggly plant results. Plants that have been cut back should be given as much warmth and humidity as possible, to promote rapid growth. If the cut stems exude a sticky, whitish latex. dust the surfaces with charcoal powder. A popular cultivar with boldly-veined multi-coloured laurel-like leaves is ‘Reidii’. and ‘Carrierei’ is also very colourful. ‘Disraeli’ has slender foliage, and ‘Holufliana’ bears leaves with a ‘forked’ shape and striking cream veining. Two other eultivars likely to be encountered are ‘Norma’ and ‘Bravo’. With ‘Norma’ the top and bottom leaves are deep green with red veins, while those in the centre are a more intense green and also have yellow blotches. ‘Bravo’ has markedly green leaves with yellow blotches, those at the base being edged with red.

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