This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
(probably from Greek for head, the colored leaves being used for crowning-wreaths, or from the Malayan name). Euphorbiaceae. Croton. Variegated Laurel. Tropical shrubs or trees grown for the variegated and interesting foliage, as greenhouse plants or for summer bedding outdoors.
Leaves alternate, simple, somewhat thick and leathery, pinnately veined, glabrous: juice somewhat milky: flowers monoecious, in slender axillary racemes; staminate flowers with petals, calyx imbricate, stamens 20-30, erect in the bud; pistillate flowers apetalous, ovary 3-celled, 3-ovuled. - Six species of Malaya and Pacific Isls., not closely related to any other commonly cultivated Euphorbiacea?. Differs from the true crotons in the erect stamens, glabrous foliage and more or less milky juice.
The almost endless variety of codieums (or crotons of gardens) are probably all from one botanical species, greatly varied by selection and crossing. Although a great many of these bear Latin binomials they inter-grade so that it is often difficult to separate them or to make a reliable classification; however, they may be grouped conveniently as below. Totally different leaf forms and color variations often appear on the same plant. The latest botanical treatment is by Pax in Das Pflanzenreich, hft. 47, and is followed in this article.
The crotons are prized chiefly for the varied and brilliant markings of the leaves. The young leaves are usually green and yellow, changing later to red, although in some the markings remain yellow or with red only in the petiole. They are usually kept not over 2 to 3 feet high, but if given opportunity will grow into considerable trees in the greenhouse. They are good subjects for massing in the open and develop most brilliant colors in our bright hot summers; however, they will not stand frost.
Codieums (or crotons, as they are popularly known in America) are beautiful plants with many forms of handsome and odd foliage of the most brilliant coloring. The colors range from almost pure white to light and deep yellow, orange, pink, red and crimson, in the most charming combinations. In some cases one color predominates, as in Carrierei (yellow), Czar Alexander III. (crimson), Hawkeri (light yellow). These varieties of distinct coloring make beautiful specimen plants for jardinieres; and their beauty is enhanced when used in jardinieres of appropriate color. As exhibition plants they are very effective, and may be grown to specimens 5 or 6 feet high, or even larger. In smaller sizes, codieums are much used as table plants, for which purpose well-colored tops are rooted and grown on until they are from 12 to 15 inches high. The narrow-leaved varieties are most used for this purpose. Codieums are very attractive in vases and window-boxes and for mantel and table decorations. They are also very valuable as bedding plants. Planted in clumps or masses, the effect of the combination of rich colors is charming. They should be planted in any good, rich, not too heavy soil, and regularly syringed to keep down red spider.
They color best when fully exposed to the sun, and should not be planted out until about the 10th of June in the neighborhood of New York and Philadelphia. If something is needed to make the beds look attractive early in the season, it is a good plan to plant pansies in April, to remain until it is time to plant the codieums. Some of the tender varieties, such as Reedii, albicans, and a few others, are inclined to burn in the extremely hot weather, but nearly all the sorts do well bedded out. Among the very best for this purpose are Queen Victoria, Dayspring, Baron Rothschild, Andreanum, Lady Zetland, Carrierei, Barryi, Hawkeri, fasciatum, anietumense. - The house culture of codieums is very simple. It is necessary that a night temperature be maintained of 70° to 75°, and that the air be kept moist by frequent syringings. Cuttings of half-ripened wood may be easily rooted at any time from October until June, a bottom heat of 80° being just what they need. When very fine specimens are desired, root strong and shapely tops by making an incision in the stem and tying moss around the wounded part; it will be rooted ready to pot in about three weeks. By this method all the foliage may be retained, and a perfect plant will result.
The more light the plant receives, the better will be the color; but with some kinds of glass it is necessary to shade lightly to prevent burning of the leaves. They may be grown finely in a house glazed with ground glass, which admits the light and does not require shading. It is well to syringe two or three times a week with tobacco water, to kill mealy bug and red spider. Little's Antipest, or any emulsion of coal-oil, is a good insecticide for codieums. New varieties from seed, the result of crossing existing sorts, are continually being raised. Seed ripens freely under glass in North America, and there is no doubt that the list of about eighty choice varieties now in cultivation will be largely added to in the near future. (Robert Craig.)
Fig. 1016. Codiaeum variegatum Baronne de Rothschild. (An example of form platyphyllum. )