There are several popular houseplants that have stolen the names of unrelated genera.
The most infamous of these is Epipremnum aureum (masquerading as pothos), but another infamous imposter is Codiaeum variegatum (koh-dih-EE-um var-ee-GAY-tum).
While not a member of the Croton genus, this tropical plant has hijacked the name, and almost all crotons on the market are actually Codiaeum variegatum.
Sometimes referred to as garden croton, this perennial plant is native to the islands of Southeast Asia and Australia.
A popular member of the Euphorbiaceae family, the garden croton has a number of varieties bearing different colors and leaf shapes.
One of the harder to find ones is Codiaeum variegatum ‘Luna’, the luna croton.
While there’s not a lot of care information out there, the beauty of this plant makes it well worth investing in if you stumble across one.
Luna Croton Care
Size & Growth
Luna crotons are moderately slow growers, adding only about 12” inches to their height per year under the right conditions.
Crotons can grow to 10’ feet tall in the wild, but your luna croton will likely peak out at 4′ to 6’ feet tall.
It’s important to find out your plant’s personal preferences, as they can live quite a few years if you manage to tame their often fickle nature.
Garden Crotons are treasured for their colorful leaves, which can vary greatly from one cultivar to the next.
In the case of luna croton, the variegated foliage is long and straplike, and their dark green leaves have a dark orange stripe up the middle.
Flowering and Fragrance
It’s not common to see this cultivar bloom and is especially rare indoors.
However, you’ll find tiny white-petaled male flowers and yellowish female flowers that lack any petals growing on tall racemes when it does bloom.
Bloom season is in the autumn, and fertilized flowers will give way to tiny 1/32” inch seed capsules.
Bright Light and Temperature
One of the most confusing aspects of garden croton care is the fact that cultivars tend to have a wide range of light preferences, so experimentation tends to be the best solution.
Start off by putting your ‘Luna’ in bright, indirect light or filtered light for about 4 hours per day and keep an eye on the leaves.
If the leaves begin to lose their variegation or the lowest leaves start dropping, you will need to increase the amount or duration of light exposure. Many Croton varieties do great in full direct sunlight.
Conversely, if the leaves begin to yellow or bleach out, you’ll need to increase the amount of shade.
Finding the perfect light exposure for new croton can be frustrating, but once you find that perfect spot, your plant will thank you for years to come.
‘Luna’ enjoys moderate humidity, so a kitchen or bathroom spot can be perfect.
You may also wish to augment the plant’s humidity levels with a pebble tray or humidifier.
Luna croton can be grown outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 9b to 12 but is best kept indoors due to its sensitivity to cold.
The ideal temperature range is between 60° and 85° degrees Fahrenheit, with the ideal temperature range being 68° to 71° degrees Fahrenheit.
Avoid temperatures below this, as it can lead to leaf drop, and temperatures below 50° degrees Fahrenheit can harm or even kill the plant.
Also, sources of drafts should be avoided, such as air conditioners or heaters.
Watering and Feeding
As with most plants, the soak-and-dry method is best for keeping this plant happy and healthy.
Stick your finger into the soil and water slowly and liberally when it feels dry 1″ to 2” inches down.
Stop when you see water beginning to seep from the drainage holes.
Note that you will be watering the plant far less during the winter months when it’s resting.
Finally, try to avoid tap water, as crotons tend to be sensitive to the minerals and chemicals present.
Instead, room temperature distilled water or, ideally, natural rainwater should be used whenever possible.
Feed the plant with a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer monthly during the growing season and stop feeding for the fall and winter.
Cut the dosage of fertilizer by half if you see the leaves beginning to curl or develop brown tips.
Soil and Transplanting
Garden crotons require a well-draining potting mix with a slightly acidic pH.
Organically rich mixes designed for tropical flowering plants with a pH of around 6.5 tend to work best.
A homemade alternative is to mix 6 parts peat moss, 3 parts ground pine bark, and one part coarse sand.
More on the Best Soil for Croton plants.
Your luna croton will need to be repotted every 1 to 2 years in the spring.
Take this time to replace the soil and graduate to a container size higher if the plant is becoming rootbound.
Be sure to put it back in its original spot, as garden crotons hate change, and a new spot may prolong your plant’s transplant shock.
Grooming and Maintenance
You will need to wipe down the leaves with a moist cloth 1 to 2 times per month to remove any dust to improve both looks and photosynthesis.
The plant may also be pruned in the spring to encourage new growth and remove damaged or diseased leaves.
However, be sure never to remove more than ⅓ of the leaves and always cut above a node.
How to Propagate Codiaeum variegatum ‘Luna’?
Luna croton is primarily propagated through stem cuttings, although air layering is also an option for the more adventurous gardener.
Propagation through seed is not recommended unless you don’t mind being surprised at what sprouts.
Luna Croton Pests Or Diseases
‘Luna’ is very sensitive to cold and sudden changes in environmental conditions.
Although caterpillars may also become a problem for those planted in the garden, aphids, mealybugs, scale, and spider mites are the most common croton pests.
Root rot is the most common disease risk garden crotons face, although fungal infections such as powdery mildew are also known to occur.
Luna crotons are considered mildly toxic to both humans and pets.
The latex sap is also known to be a skin irritant and allergen for many people. More on the question – Are Crotons Toxic?
Codiaeum variegatum ‘Luna’ Uses
Luna croton makes a wonderful accent in any well-lit room but will need to be kept away from pets and children.
As with all garden crotons, ‘Luna’ is considered a clean air plant, meaning it removes toxins from the air.
They make for excellent accent plants in the garden, as long as the necessary care conditions are met.