Codiaeum Variegatum – A Tropical Beauty Inside and Out

David's recent trip to Peurto Vallarta

Credit: David Tarrant

Codiaeum variegatum – beautiful outside in tropical settings and (with a little TLC) equally lovely as a houseplant

Last week I headed off on a trip to Puerto Vallarta, a 10-hour bus ride from here. Basically I went to feel some ocean breezes and get a little humidity, as here in San Miguel de Allende right now we are at the height of our dry season.

In Puerto Vallarta, along with many other tropical seaside resort towns and cities around the globe, this gorgeous shrub is used widely in home gardens and hotel landscapes. One of the many cultivars of Codiaeum variegatum, native to Malaysia and the larger tropical islands of the Eastern Pacific, it is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family, which of course includes poinsettias.

Codiaeum variegatum
The Codiaeum variegatum needs some special care if you want it to look like this.

In tropical settings it can reach a height and width of 2 m (6½ ft.) or more, and as you can see has eye-catching broadleaved foliage and fascinating little flowers. It is also used quite commonly as a houseplant, but be warned – to have Codiaeum variegatum perform as it does in these pictures, it requires a bit of special treatment:

  • Being one of those tropical plants sensitive to fluctuating temperatures and drafts, it needs to be grown in a room where the temperature is pretty constant around 20°C (68°F) or so.
  • Humidity is another requirement and daily mistings are recommended throughout the summer months, along with free waterings as soon as the pot shows any sign of drying out. Also during this time a light feeding of a balanced liquid fertilizer every two weeks is required. During the winter months water less frequently, but enough to prevent leaf drop.
  • And the key to maintaining the bright colours in the foliage is good light – not direct sun but close to a south- or west-facing window so that it can receive good indirect light.

As with all houseplants, repotting to a slightly larger container each year in early February is beneficial. One word of warning – as with many members of the Euphorbiaceae family, the sap of this plant can trigger rashes on those with sensitive skin.

So if you have this problem, using gloves when handling would be a good thing. If you have a heated solarium off your house this would be a must-have plant.