Codiaeum Variegatum ‘Croton Mammy’ Care Guide (2022)

Codiaeum variegatum

Croton Mammy is a brilliantly colored evergreen shrub that is a popular houseplant because of its vibrant foliage. It’s also a favorite landscape plant in tropical regions.

Also known as Codiaeum variegatum ‘Croton Mammy’, it can be a little fussy to grow, but the extravagantly hued leaves are worth the trouble.

Scientific NameCodiaeum variegatum ‘Croton Mammy’
Common NameCroton Mammy, Mamey Croton
LightBright indirect sunlight
WateringWater if the top 2 inches of soil are dry
Temperature60 to 80ºF (15 to 27ºC)
Hardiness Zone11 to 12
Humidity40 to 80%
Soil TypeRich, quick-draining, loamy
Soil pH4.5 to 6.5 (acidic to mildly acidic)
FertilizingA balanced feed once in spring, summer, and fall
RepottingEvery 2 to 3 years
PruningIn early spring
PropagationRoot in water or soil
ToxicityToxic to humans and pets
Mature Size42 inches as a houseplant
Bloom TimeSummer and Autumn

What’s Unique About Croton Mammy?

The Croton Mammy plant is native to Queensland, Australia, and the islands lying just north of it, including the Philippines and New Guinea.

The native habitat of Croton Mammy plants is the scrubland and open forests of this tropical and subtropical region.

Its main attraction is the brilliantly colored foliage with its distinctive twisting corkscrew growth habit, which will add year-round color to your home. 

Growing Croton Mammy may be a little challenging for a beginner, but once you understand its needs, you should be fine.

It’s also great at purifying your indoor air, so not only is it beautiful but useful as well!

Croton Mammy Care

In the South Pacific islands where Croton Mammy originates, it grows in the hot, humid environment of the scrubland and forests.

You aren’t expected to recreate the tropics for your Croton Mammy plant care, but you do need to provide some essentials to help it thrive.

Basically, for good Codiaeum variegatum Mammy care, grow it in a warm, humid environment in bright light.

Light 

In its home in the South Pacific, Croton Mammy grows in scrubland or under the dappled shade of open forests.

Croton Mammy light requirements are for bright but indirect light, or between 10,000 to 20,000 lux.

While it might be able to handle brief exposure to full sun, too much will burn its leaves.

You can best accommodate Codiaeum variegatum Mammy light needs on a south-east or south-west window ledge. 

If all you have is a full south exposure, set it back several feet from the direct sun.

A northern exposure will not be bright enough; if you have no other alternative, use a plant light to supplement it.

Watering 

In its native habitat, Croton Mammy is used to rainfall at least every other day, although it’s a little less in its winter season.

Your Croton Mammy watering goal should be to keep the soil moderately moist at all times without ever letting it get sopping wet.

Water Codiaeum variegatum Mammy whenever the top 2 inches of the soil has dried out. Slowly pour tepid water over the entire soil surface until the excess drains out the bottom. 

Always empty the saucer, so the pot is not standing in water.

Croton Mammy’s watering needs are best met with rainwater, as tap water has chemicals that can damage your plant. If you have to use tap water, let it sit overnight to let them dissipate.

Temperature 

In the tropical South Pacific, the average high temperature never falls below 82ºF (28ºC), and nighttime lows stay above 70ºF (21ºC).

In your home, the best Croton Mammy temperature range is 60 to 80ºF (15 to 27ºC). 

You can easily provide a suitable temperature for Codiaeum variegatum Mammy in any space that’s comfortable for you. Just keep it out of drafts.

If you want to give it an extra boost of heat, move your potted plant out to a balcony or patio in the hot summer months.

Just remember that it has little temperature tolerance below 50ºF (10ºC) and no frost hardiness whatsoever.

Humidity 

It is humid in the South Pacific home of Croton Mammy. In fact, the relative humidity stays at or above 80% all year.

While the ideal humidity for Codiaeum variegatum Mammy is around 80%, you can probably get away with a lower humidity level.

The minimum Croton Mammy humidity requirements are around 40%, so if your home is drier than that, it’s a good idea to set your Croton Mammy pot on a pebble tray filled with water.

However, if you start to see Croton Mammy leaves dropping off, that’s a sign that it needs more humidity than it’s getting. 

Buying a small humidifier for all your tropical plants is the best long-term solution.

Soil 

Croton Mammy soil needs to be both high in organic matter and well-draining to keep your tropical beauty healthy.

Croton Mammy needs a loose, rich soil mix that stays consistently moist but is never sopping wet.

The preferred pH level for Codiaeum variegatum Mammy is 4.5 to 6.5, or acidic to mildly acidic. You definitely do not want soil that is neutral to alkaline.

You can use any peat or coir-based soil for Codiaeum variegatum Mammy. It’s also helpful to throw in some extra perlite or vermiculite to loosen it up and well-rotted compost to add nutrients.

Fertilizer 

When it comes to Croton Mammy fertilizer, more is definitely not better.

In fact, you should only apply fertilizer for Codiaeum variegatum Mammy 3 times a year, at the beginning of spring, summer, and autumn. Never fertilize in winter when it is dormant.

Use a granular fertilizer with a fertilizer ratio of 20-3-19.

Simply sprinkle it on the surface of the soil before watering. That will release the nutrients slowly over the 3 months before you add more.

If you see the green shades fading in your Croton Mammy’s leaves, that’s a sign that you should add a bit more fertilizer.

Potting & Repotting 

Because it is a fairly slow-growing perennial, you should only need to do Croton Mammy repotting every 2 or 3 years.

When you start to see roots growing out of the drainage holes or the sides of a plastic pot bulging, you know that it’s rootbound and it’s time for repotting Codiaeum variegatum Mammy.

Only move up 1 pot size when you repot. You are not doing your Croton Mammy any favors by giving its roots too much room; in fact, it can set back its growth. 

Good drainage holes are essential, and always use fresh potting soil to prevent the build-up of pathogens in the soil.

Pruning 

There’s not much Croton Mammy pruning to do, but you may want to control the growth or shape of your plant. Do this in early spring.

The other reason for pruning Croton Mammy is to remove dead or damaged leaves. They can harbor disease and attract pests. This maintenance task should be done year-round.

When cutting Codiaeum variegatum Mammy, don’t just trim off the leaves, but cut where the petiole meets the main stem. Use a pair of sharp, sterilized scissors.

Never remove more than one-third of the foliage in a season, as that can cause serious damage to your Croton Mammy.

Propagation 

Croton Mammy propagation is easy and a great way to create more plants for you and your friends.

The best time for doing this is in spring, at the start of its growing season.

To propagate Codiaeum variegatum Mammy using stem cuttings, cut a 5 to 6-inch stem with a few leaves and a couple of nodes.

Strip all but the top leaves, and stick the cuttings into either a jar of water or a tray of moist soil.

Keep the cuttings warm and humid and out of the direct sun. 

Within a month, you should have newly-rooted little Croton Mammy plants to pot up on their own.

Common Problems of Croton Mammy

Usually, your first sign of Croton Mammy problems is that the leaves are not looking their vibrant best.

Like any living thing, your Croton Mammy can be susceptible to pests and disease, especially if its growing conditions are less than ideal.

Once you’ve determined the reasons for your problems with Codiaeum variegatum Mammy, you should be able to solve them.

Pests 

Croton Mammy pests include most of the bugs that commonly infest houseplants.

You can protect your Codiaeum variegatum Mammy from insects by wiping down the leaves every month with a neem oil solution. This will also help keep the leaves clean and glossy.

Thrips are little pale yellow bugs under the leaves.

Spider mites are hard to see, but their webs and the little yellow bumps they leave on the leaves are obvious. 

Rinse both of these bugs off in the sink or shower.

Mealybugs hang out on the underside of leaves in fuzzy groups. Wipe them away with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol.

Scale insects look like brown bumps on the stems or leaves. Scrape them off.

Diseases 

You can usually prevent Croton Mammy diseases by controlling the moisture in the soil and on the leaves.

Root rot is a common fungal disease caused by soil that is kept too wet. Leaves turn yellow and droop, and stems start to rot. The roots themselves turn black and smell bad.

Crown gall is a bacterial disease that causes knobby growths on the roots and leaves of Codiaeum variegatum Mammy.

For both of these diseases, cut away all infected parts, and replant your Croton Mammy in fresh potting soil and a new pot.

Powdery mildew can develop when leaves are wet. You should be able to control it with neem oil.

Growing Problems 

Other growing problems are caused by poor growing conditions, so all you usually have to do for your sick plant is move it to a better location.

Green leaves are a sign that your Croton Mammy is growing in too low a light level. 

On the other hand, brown leaves mean it’s getting too much direct sun.

Brown edges to the leaves indicate overwatering, while brown leaf tips may mean the humidity is too low or the temperature is too cold.

Dropping leaves are a warning that you need to water more often to keep the soil moist.

However, water blisters on leaves mean you’re watering too much.

Toxicity of Croton Mammy

Codiaeum variegatum Mammy is toxic to humans and animals.

It falls into toxicity level 3, and therefore is considered one of the more dangerous plants. 

The toxic chemicals called diterpenes and 5-deoxyingenol are found in all parts of the plant, including the sap.

Extreme care should be taken when growing these plants around children or pets.

For Humans 

Croton Mammy is toxic to humans. 

Even exposure to the sap can cause a rash, so it is recommended that you always wear gloves when handling the plant and wash off any sap that gets on your skin.

Children are more of a concern. There have been cases of children eating seeds and dying, so it’s vitally important to keep these temptingly bright plants away from little hands.

If your child tries eating a leaf, they’re unlikely to eat much because they will immediately experience localized pain. However, severe cases can involve vomiting and diarrhea, as well as swelling of the mouth. 

Take them to the emergency room if you observe these reactions.

For Pets 

Your pets can suffer severe consequences from ingesting Croton Mammy foliage. 

If your cat or dog eats some of the leaves, they may develop vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive drooling. You may also observe swelling around the mouth and distress, indicating that it’s in pain.

Do not attempt to treat these symptoms at home. Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately for professional care.

While Croton Mammy is a stunning plant, you need to decide whether the risk of growing it in a home with toddlers or pets is worth it.

If you do want to grow it, find somewhere well out of reach to keep it.

Croton Mammy Appearance

Like all the croton family members, the Croton Mammy appearance can best be described as bright and vibrant.

Croton Mammy has the added visual interest of its wildly twisting leaves as they reach upward.

While it can flower, the small blossoms are insignificant when compared to the extravagantly colored foliage.

Foliage 

The foliage of Croton Mammy is absolutely stunning in its display of color.

Each leaf is different, splashed with a combination of brilliant shades of pink, red, gold, orange, and green.

The leathery, glossy leaves grow upright, twisting into corkscrew shapes. They grow to 8 inches long and 1 inch across.

You will get the most intense colors in the brightest light short of full sun, which can damage the leaves.

The long-lasting leaves should be wiped down once a month with a neem oil solution. Not only will this keep them looking their best, but also fend off insects.

Flowering 

While it is not uncommon to see a Codiaeum variegatum Mammy flower, it’s really not anything worth waiting for compared to the vibrant foliage.

Croton Mammy flowering occurs in summer or fall, followed by the formation of small seeds. 

Blooming consists of small, star-shaped flowers that are either white or yellow. They have no scent.

The seeds are extremely toxic and have actually led to fatalities in children. Even if you have your Croton Mammy in a spot they can’t reach, a seed may fall and get picked up.

You may simply choose to cut off the flowers before they bloom or certainly before they set fruit.

Size and Growth 

Outdoors in a tropical climate similar to its native habitat, the size of Croton Mammy can be as high as 8 feet with a spread of 3 or 4 feet.

However, an indoor potted plant usually reaches a full height of 36 inches with a spread of 18 to 24 inches.

Croton Mammy has a moderate growth rate, growing about a foot a year. 

It grows into a thick, bushy shape with dense foliage. It naturally grows upright and does not require any staking.

Because it is an evergreen perennial, it retains its leaves even during its dormant period in fall and winter, providing year-round color.

Croton Mammy Fragrance

There is no Croton Mammy fragrance, either from the occasional flowers or the evergreen foliage.

However, even though Croton Mammy has no scent, it has still been proven to improve the quality of your indoor air, as it filters out harmful chemicals. 

Even better, it also deals with airborne mold and bacteria which can cause illnesses.

As well, scentless plants are preferred in public locations such as nursing homes or shopping malls, where people with allergies to fragrances may encounter them.

Even in your own home, a plant that delights your eyes without a potentially overwhelming scent is probably preferable.

Suggested Uses for Croton Mammy

Croton Mammy makes a big splash wherever you use it, indoors or outside.

If you garden in a tropical climate, anywhere from zone 11 and above, you can grow Croton Mammy outdoors year-round.

Its natural shrubby shape makes it an excellent plant for foundation plantings or landscaping. Just make sure it gets some afternoon shade to protect its leaves from the hot sun.

Indoors, Croton Mammy will love the extra humidity in a bathroom, where it will also help keep the air clean of mold and bacteria that may be more prevalent there.

As a pure decor element, a single Croton Mammy can be showcased in a white contemporary setting to great effect.

FAQ

What is Croton Mammy? 

Croton Mammy is an evergreen tropical and subtropical perennial shrub native to Queensland, the Philippines, and New Guinea, where it grows in forests and scrublands.

How to identify Croton Mammy? 

Croton Mammy has long, narrow leaves that grow into corkscrew shapes and are noted for their brightly colored leaves splashed with irregular patches of red, orange, and green.

How to care for Croton Mammy? 

Croton Mammy should be grown in bright conditions but protected from the afternoon sun in a warm and humid environment with regular watering and occasional fertilizing.

How to grow Croton Mammy indoors? 

Croton Mammy can be grown in regular indoor temperatures but will need some supplemental humidity for the best growth and color. It needs bright light short of full sun.

How to grow Croton Mammy outdoors? 

Croton Mammy can be grown outdoors as a landscape plant in zones 11 and 12 or brought outdoors as a potted plant in summer in temperate zones. 

How fast does Croton Mammy grow? 

Croton Mammy has a moderate to slow growth rate, growing about 12 inches in a growing season and taking around 3 years to reach its full size indoors.

How tall does Croton Mammy grow? 

Croton Mammy can grow to 3 or 4 feet tall as a potted plant indoors or up to 8 feet when grown year-round outdoors in a tropical climate.

How to make Croton Mammy grow faster? 

Croton Mammy will grow its fastest with humidity around 80% and temperatures around 80ºF (27ºC), in very bright but still indirect light. Extra fertilizer is not recommended.

How to stake Croton Mammy? 

Croton Mammy naturally forms an erect bushy shape and does not require any staking to achieve that. However, rotating the pot 90 degrees every time you water it will help it grow evenly.

How to pot Croton Mammy? 

Croton Mammy should be planted in rich but well-draining soil in a container with good drainage holes to allow all excess water to drain away.

How to revive Croton Mammy? 

Croton Mammy may lose its leaves if it’s too cold or suffers from transplant shock. Give it optimum warmth and humidity, as well as bright light, and it should bounce back.

Why is my Croton Mammy dying? 

Your Croton Mammy may be too wet or too dry, or in a draft or in a direct line of hot air. Check the soil moisture levels and move it to a better location.

Why is my Croton Mammy drooping? 

Your Croton Mammy is probably drooping because it has dried out. Plunge the whole pot into a pail of tepid water and let the soil get thoroughly saturated before draining the excess.

How cold can Croton Mammy tolerate? 

Croton Mammy is a tropical plant and has little tolerance below 50ºF (10ºC) when it will start to drop its leaves. Freezing temperatures will kill it completely.

How to get rid of pests on Croton Mammy? 

Croton Mammy pests can be controlled by wiping down its leaves once a month with a neem oil solution. This will remove any bugs already there and prevent more from arriving.

Is Croton Mammy toxic to cats? 

Yes, Croton Mammy is toxic to cats.If your cat eats some foliage and has vomiting and diarrhea, and seems to be in pain, take it to the veterinarian immediately.

Is Croton Mammy toxic to dogs? 

Yes, Croton Mammy is toxic to dogs. If your dog has vomiting and diarrhea, or is drooling and has a swollen mouth, take it in for medical attention.

Is Croton Mammy toxic to children? 

Yes, Croton Mammy is toxic to children. There are cases where ingesting seeds have been fatal. If your child has vomiting and diarrhea or a swollen tongue, take them to the emergency room.

Is Croton Mammy toxic to humans? 

Yes, Croton Mammy is toxic to humans. The sap can cause painful rashes, so always wear gloves when handling the plant and rinse off any sap that gets on your skin.

Does Croton Mammy have a scent? 

Neither the Croton Mammy foliage nor the flowers have any scent, making this plant suitable for installations in public buildings where fragrant plants are not permitted.

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