Gold Dust Crotons or Codiaeum variegatum [koh-dih-EE-u, koh-dih-EE-u] is a subtropical, evergreen shrub, naturally occurring in Indonesia, southern Asia, and Eastern Pacific Islands.
A part of the Euphorbiaceae family, Croton plants are known for its showy, shiny bright leaves.
The colorful foliage of this plant has developed a dedicated following of gardening enthusiasts.
They add an explosion of color and this croton variety is known by the common names of:
- Croton Gold Dust
- Sun-Spot Croton
The names are based on the appearance of the leaves.
Gold Dust Croton Care
Size & Growth
In its native habitat, the plant grows at a medium pace up to 10’ feet in height.
Cultivated species grow at a slower rate and are smaller in size at around 24” inches.
Meanwhile, greenhouse species may reach a height between 4’ – 10’ feet.
Flowering and Fragrance
Even though the leaves of the plant are its biggest attraction, it does bloom.
The flowers are insignificant and easy to miss as they hang in long clusters between large leaves.
The long racemes are 3” – 12” inches long with tiny male and female flowers on separate inflorescences.
The male flowers have five white small petals, while the female flowers are yellow with no petals.
Light and Temperature
Bright sunlight causes them to produce brightly colored leaves.
When planted outdoors, they provide partial shade for several hours during the day.
Direct sunlight from full midday sun can damage the plant.
Being subtropical plants, Gold Dust Crotons require humidity.
Mist the plants frequently, especially when potted and used indoors.
Or plant the crotons outdoors near a body of water for optimal growing conditions.
The plant is hardy to USDA Zones 10 and 11 and prefers temperatures between 60° – 85° degrees Fahrenheit (15° – 29° C).
When the temperatures start dipping below 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C), the plant is best moved indoors.
Watering and Feeding
During the growing season, watering should be regular to keep the soil moist.
Avoid overwatering as the plant does not respond well to standing water.
Feeding should also be regular during this period.
Weekly fertilization with a balanced formula fertilizer is sufficient.
Occasional feeding with an acidic formula fertilizer designed for azaleas may also benefit the plant.
Cut back both watering and feeding when winter rolls around.
If the soil becomes too soggy or rich, it may affect the plants negatively.
Soil and Transplanting
Constant moisture in the soil is necessary for a Gold Dust Croton to grow lush.
This is why having it planted in a well-drained, organically rich, and slightly acidic soil is necessary.
It not only retains the necessary levels of moisture but also prevents root rot from standing water, which may be a problem in poorly-drained soils.
Similarly, consistently dry soil is no good.
Use a layer of organic mulch around the stem to help keep the soil moist while cooling the roots.
Repot the plants in the spring, if needed.
Use a planter one size larger than the current one – layer 1” – 2” inches of damp, peat-based soil.
Gently lift the plant from the old container and slide it in the new one.
Fill the area around the roots with potting soil and water the plant.
Grooming and Maintenance
The plant responds to trimming favorably, especially if the growth has become leggy.
When the growing season starts, prune the plant back hard and move it outside, under the sun.
Do not shy away from bright sunlight.
Also, maintain good levels of humidity if you’re keeping the plants indoors.
Overwintering may be a problem.
For this, you need to move the plants inside a greenhouse for some warmth.
Even when left outdoors, a cold night may result in drooping leaves.
Other varieties of Crotons at the garden center:
How To Propagate Croton Plants
Crotons are one of the easiest plants to propagate.
Stem cuttings are easy to obtain and maintain.
This method is the only way to get a replica of the parent plant, in terms of pattern and coloring of the leaves.
The plant also produces shoots, which are dug out and potted individually.
However, these are completely different from the parent plant.
This way, you will have a variety of Crotons.
Propagating with seeds is possible, but not suggested as the plant is not stable.
Also, the offspring won’t resemble the parent plant.
Sun-Spot Croton Pest or Disease Problems
Growing the plant indoors is difficult.
Low levels of humidity make crotons susceptible to spider mites.
The lack of direct bright sunlight also affects the plants, making the color of the leaves not as bright.
Mealybugs may cause an occasional problem.
If you notice woolly patches on the leaves, remove them with a cotton bud loaded with diluted methylated spirit.
If the infestation persists, use a non-toxic insecticide like neem oil.
Also, keep an eye out for scale bugs and aphid attacks and diseases, such as root rot and leaf spots.
Being a part of the Euphorbiaceae family means the Gold Dust Croton has some toxicity.
Contact with the sap from the leaves may cause skin eczema for some people.
All parts of the plant, including leaves, roots, latex, and the bark are poisonous.
If ingested in large quantities, toxins like 5-deoxy ingenol may cause irritation and burning of the mouth.
The plant also contains oil, which has purgative qualities.
It is suspected of being a carcinogen.
Also, the consumption of seeds is potentially fatal for children.
All of this calls for being careful when handling the plant.
Wear gloves and keep it out of children’s reach.
Suggested Uses For Croton Gold Dust
The Gold Dust Croton is a spectacular addition to hedges or as a potted patio plant.
Use it to add a tropical element to your home or garden.
The striking foliage of the plant looks amazing when positioned with other tropical species.
They are often potted and used as houseplants.
However, being a native to tropical climates, the plant is hard to keep healthy indoors.
It needs a high amount of humidity.
Plenty of sunlight and moisture in the soil is also key to have thriving Gold Dust Crotons.