Crotons (Codiaeum variegatum) are hardy evergreen tropical shrubs with brightly colored leaves available in many different colors and forms. Many varieties are large shrubs, suitable for landscape use. Compact dwarf cultivars are also available, suitable for planters and indoor culture. Although all crotons are considered a single species, they are distinguished by an informal horticultural classification system, based on the shape of their leaves. There are eight recognized cultivar varieties.
Broad Leaf Cultivars
Broad leaf crotons are large plants, with broad, elliptic leaves. Broad leaved cultivars are commonly used to make dense privacy hedges. Cultivars in this group include Broad Spotted Guinea, General Paget, Mrs. Iceton and Petra.
Oak Leaf Cultivars
The oak leaf croton’s leaf closely resembles a three-lobed oak leaf. The leaves are symmetrical. Irene Kingsley and Royal are oak leaf type cultivars.
Semi Oak Leaf Cultivars
Semi-oak leaf crotons have leaves with indistinct, often asymmetrical lobes. There are many semi-oak leaf varieties, including Sybil Griffin, Evening Embers and Royal Like.
Spiral Leaf Cultivars
This cultivar group has long leaves that are twisted like a corkscrew. Some varieties twist to the right, while others twist to the left. There are also varieties with partially twisted leaves. Dreadlocks and Spirale are spiral leaf types.
Recurved Leaf Cultivars
Crotons in this group have leaves that fold back on themselves. It is the rarest of the cultivar groups. Ramshorn is a recurved croton.
Narrow Leaf Cultivars
Crotons in this cultivar group have long, straight, strap-like leaves that are 2 to 4 inches wide and about two to four times as long as they are wide. A sub group of very narrow leaf crotons has long droopy leaves that are only about ½ inch wide. The varieties known as Stoplight, Johannah Coppinger and Gold Star are narrow leaf varieties. Sunray and Majesticum are very narrow leaf types.
Small Leaf Cultivars
Small leaf croton cultivars have elliptical-shaped leaves, which are 2 inches or less in length. They resemble miniature broad leaf cultivars. Aureo Maculatum is a small leaf cultivar.
Interrupted Leaf Cultivars
Crotons in this group have leaf blades that taper abruptly down to the midrib for about 1 inch and then continue at their previous width. The leaves this cultivar group may be interrupted once or several times. Interruptum is a common interrupted type of croton.