Collectively, the crotons, sometimes referred to as codiaeum crotons, are a group of tropical and subtropical shrubs which in the wild may reach 9 feet in height but in cultivation are much smaller, usually about 5 feet tall. They are native to Southeast Asia, Australia and the Western Pacific islands, where selection for attractive ornamental forms began. Despite the many differences in variegated leaf characteristics, codiaeum crotons are botanically a single genus and species, Codiaeum variegatum, family Euphorbiaceae. There are 16 other recognized species of Codiaeum, but none are as colorful and interesting as variegatum. Some name confusion exists because there are plants in the same family classified under the genus Croton, but they are easy to distinguish because they have solid colored green or gray leaves and are without variegation. Codiaeum crotons have three common characteristics; thick leathery evergreen leaves, tiny star-shaped yellow flowers borne on a hanging flower bunch and a milky latex in the stems which is toxic and a skin irritant. The leaf variegation of Codiaeum variegatum involves color and pattern, as well as form, which may be linear, oval, smooth-edged, deeply lobed or spiraled. In botany, the term chimera is used to describe a plant which has more than one type of DNA in their tissues. The expression of these differences in leaf color and form results in variegation. Color differences, for example, are due to with the masking of green pigment with other pigments, affecting a part or all a leaf. In the propagation of desirable croton types tip cuttings taken from side shoots are used, which assures carry-over of the variegated traits. Seed propagation is used to create new forms. Outside their native area, codiaeum crotons became popular landscape plants in the Mediterranean area in the middle of the 19th Century and their appreciation has continued to the present day. In tropical and subtropical climates, codiaeum crotons make attractive hedges, container plants, dressing up any garden. They are also good indoor pot plants. Because new varieties are always being developed, the exact number which exists is not known. Treeworld has in stock 22 codiaeum croton varieties providing a range of leaf colors and forms from which to select the best plants for landscaping any residential, commercial or public location.

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