Croton Magnificent Vs. Petra

Codiaeum variegatum, Croton, plant with colorful ornamental foliage. Deciduous plant in the botanical garden.
© IrynaL/Shutterstock.com

Written by Carrie Woodward

Published: December 2, 2022

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Key Points

Crotons are beautiful tropical plants with bold, dramatic leaves and are popularly grown as house plants across North America. Originally from Asia, the many different cultivars of the croton plant, Codiaeum variegatum, can filter the air indoors and bring color inside your home or outdoors on a patio. 

The following article compares and contrasts two popular varieties, “Croton Magnificent” and “Croton Petra.”

Before we dive in, here are a few of the characteristics that the two varieties share:

  • Both are cultivars of Codiaeum variegatum, which is called a “croton,” despite not being a member of the Croton genus
  • Both have leaves that feature at least two colors on their striking foliage, through the veins or in splotches on their leaves
  • Both grow well in warm and bright, sunny conditions of high humidity  

However, there are also quite a few ways in which these two varieties differ: primarily in their appearance and cultivation needs. This article will discuss the details of growing your own Codiaeum variegatum plant and how you can enjoy having a croton in your home or garden. Let’s dive in!

Comparing Croton Magnificent Vs. Petra

CharacteristicCroton MagnificentCroton Petra
Scientific NameCodiaeum variegatum ‘Magnificent’Codiaeum variegatum ‘Petra’
FamilyEuphorbiaceaeEuphorbiaceae
Common NameCroton, Croton MagnificentCroton, Croton Petra, Variegated Laurel, Joseph’s Coat
OriginAsia and the western Pacific region, particularly countries such as modern-day India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sri LankaAsia and the western Pacific region, particularly countries such as modern-day India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka
Description of PlantThe ‘Magnificent’ cultivar has large, green, oval-shaped leaves with pointy ends. These leaves have colored splotches in yellow, pink, and orange shades. These bright patches create a striking look with relatively larger patches of color. The leaves also can change from paler green to darker maroon as they mature. Some describe ‘Magnificent’ as a “semi-cold hardy” cultivar that can withstand slightly cooler temperatures.The ‘Petra’ cultivar is one of the most popular and common varieties. It has glossy, oval-shaped leaves with pointy tips. You will find the leaves in a range of colors! These include red, orange, pink, yellow, and shades of green! The leaves’ light green or yellowish veins create a striking variegated look.
SizeWhen grown as a houseplant, ‘Magnificent’ will often reach heights of about 4 to 6 feet tall.When grown as a houseplant, ‘Petra’ will typically reach heights between 4 to 5 feet tall. Outdoors can grow to be a shrub that reaches up to 8 feet tall.
USDA Hardiness Zone(s)Growing recommendations vary, but the range is typically 11-12, sometimes 9-10Growing recommendations vary, but the range is typically 11-12, sometimes 9-10

Descriptions of Croton Magnificent Vs. Petra

What are the plants known as “crotons”? “Croton” refers to the Codiaeum variegatum species. These plants are evergreen perennials in the Euphorbiaceae family and the Codiaeum genus, including six broadleaf perennials, shrubs, and trees. But don’t confuse them with the hundreds of species in the Croton genus! Codiaeum variegatum is an evergreen shrub with many different cultivars, each with its own distinct leaf color and pattern. The plants are native to Asia and the islands of the western Pacific. They grow happily in tropical and subtropical climates. They can thrive in USDA hardiness zones 9-12, where they can serve as a beautiful addition to outdoor gardens or indoors as container plants. 

Croton grows into a small tree or bushy shrub, reaching 8 to 10 feet tall outdoors in a tropical or subtropical climate. Indoors, it is more common to see crotons reach 3 to 5 feet. They grow large leaves that can reach between 2 and 12 inches long and are thick and leathery in texture. Depending on the cultivar, their leaves vary in shape and color. Some cultivars have oval leaves, while others are linear. Some cultivars have leaves with lobed margins, while others have smooth margins. The color of the leaves also varies greatly. Cultivars can have green variegated foliage or white, pink, orange, red, purple, or yellow leaves. Two of these cultivars are the very popular ‘Petra’ and the slightly less well-known ‘Magnificent.’

The patterns on the leaves also vary – some cultivars have leaves with splotches or stripes, some have consistent patterns, and others have color blotches in random patterns. Plants grown outdoors also produce flowers, though it is uncommon for crotons grown as houseplants to bloom. Male flowers have five white petals and many stamens, which give the flower a starburst appearance. In contrast, female flowers do not have petals but have three stigmas. The female flowers produce fruit that each contains three seeds.

Differentiating Between “Crotons” (Codiaeum Variegatum) and the Croton Genus

The ‘Magnificient’ and ‘Petra’ cultivars are varieties of the Codiaeum variegatum species in the Codiaeum genus and the Euphorbiaceae family. This species and its many cultivars are collectively called “crotons,” “garden crotons,” and “variegated crotons.” Because of this, they are often confused with the Croton genus. Croton is a genus of flowering plants also in the Euphorbiaceae family. Typically, when people refer to “crotons,” they reference varieties of Codiaeum variegatum.

Descriptions of Croton ‘Magnificent’ and ‘Petra’ 

Codiaeum variegatum ,Close up of Croton, Codiaeum variegatum and blurred background.

Typically, when people refer to “crotons,” they reference varieties of 

Codiaeum variegatum.

©aimpol buranet/Shutterstock.com

Codiaeum variegatum ‘Magnificient’ is also called “Croton Magnificent.” This cultivar is dramatic and genuinely “magnificent,” with large, broad leaves that feature big patches of yellow, pink, and orange. The leaves grow densely when the plant is small, though the plant becomes leggier and more spread out with greater height. Over time, the croton magnificent will reach about 4 to 6 feet tall at maturity. As it grows, the cluster of leaves off of a woody stem. A flower stem will produce small clusters of flowers on the ends. This typically occurs outdoors when a healthy plant has small, star-shaped flowers in white, cream, and yellow. However, these are rare when grown indoors. The flowers will produce small brown fruits that look like berries during summer.

Codiaeum variegatum’ Petra’ also goes by the common name “croton Petra.” This cultivar is one of the most popular Codiaeum variegatum varieties and has oval-shaped leaves with pointy tips. They are glossy and range in colors – you may find some with red, orange, pink, yellow, or green leaves! The leaves have light green, almost yellow veins adding dimension to the leaves and a striking striped look. When grown as a houseplant, ‘Petra’ will typically reach heights between 4 to 5 feet tall. Outdoors, it can grow to be a shrub that reaches up to 8 feet tall.

Croton Magnificent vs. Petra: Origins

Both the ‘Magnificent’ and ‘Petra’ crotons are cultivars of Codiaeum variegatum, which originated in Asia. There, they are tropical jungle shrubs. Some varieties reach up to 10 feet tall. They are native to countries such as modern-day Australia, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. Still, they have been extensively cultivated and now grow around the world.

The ‘Magnificent’ variety is a relatively newer cultivar of Codiaeum variegatum. The ‘Petra’ variety is not patented but has been a parent of multiple new Codiaeum cultivars patented in recent years.

Croton Magnificent vs. Petra: Growing Conditions

Codiaeum variegatum plants need lots of bright light, so ensure that your plant gets direct sunlight for several hours each day. However, they can tolerate some shade and need protection from the sun during the hottest part of the day. Plenty of bright light will ensure that the leaves can shine in their full vibrancy. Keep the plant in damp, well-drained soil and water regularly. Don’t let the soil get too water-logged, however! This can cause the plant to lose its leaves. 

Typically, croton plants grown indoors will live between two to four years. You can cut stems from your healthy plant and propagate them to keep it thriving. This will be relatively easy and typically is more successful than attempting to grow a croton plant from seed. If you grow your plant outdoors in warm, humid weather, it will live for many more years and achieve greater height.

As a plant native to tropical and subtropical climates, your ‘Magnificent’ or ‘Petra’ will thrive in warm and humid conditions. Though the plant can survive in temperatures as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit, it thrives best in temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in USDA hardiness zones 11-12, you may consider keeping your plant outdoors. However, if you live outside of these areas, you should keep your plant inside where it will stay warm. To ensure that the plant experiences adequate humidity, you can use a mister to spray the leaves, use a humidifier to increase the moisture in the room, or keep the plant on a pebble tray with water that can evaporate. Alternatively, place your houseplant in a bathroom or kitchen with higher humidity.

Codiaeum variegatum can be sensitive to relocation or significant changes in temperature or other conditions. Because of this, you can expect your plant to lose some leaves after a move or dramatic environmental change. Otherwise, it is normal for your croton plant to lose some of the color in its leaves during the winter. If you notice this, it may be that your plant is not getting enough bright light due to the winter months. It could also be due to cooler temperatures indoors or near your window. Keep your plant vibrant and thriving by keeping it near a sunny window at least 3 feet away from the window glass, or give it access to a grow light.

Croton Magnificent Vs. Petra: Growing Differences

Codiaeum variegatum, Croton, plant with colorful ornamental foliage. Deciduous plant in the botanical garden.
Codiaeum variegatum 

can be sensitive to relocation or significant changes in temperature or other conditions.

©IrynaL/Shutterstock.com

Though ‘Petra’ and ‘Magnificent’ require similar growing conditions, one difference is in the amount of light they will tolerate. The ‘Magnificent’ cultivar thrives best when it is sheltered by some afternoon shade, where it can gain a reprieve from the bright sun during the hottest time in the summer. Ensure that your ‘Magnificent’ receives dappled sun while still having bright sunlight. Otherwise, you may notice that its leaves actually fade due to receiving too much direct light. In that case, you will want to find a space where it can gain some reprieve during the afternoons by allowing it to enjoy shade or dappled light.

Croton Magnificent Vs. Petra: Toxicity

Both the ‘Magnificent’ and ‘Petra’ cultivars of Codiaeum variegatum produce a white latex sap. This will exude from leaves or stems when broken or otherwise damaged. If your hands come into contact with this sap, you may find that your skin becomes irritated. Be careful to wash your hands, and do not touch your face until you have cleansed them thoroughly. 

In general, Codiaeum variegatum is considered to have “low” poison severity. You likely will only have temporary skin irritation and do not need to worry about becoming ill unless you consume parts of the plant in large quantities. Suppose you accidentally consume the bark, flowers, fruit, leaves, roots, or other parts of the plant. You may manifest symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or nausea in that case. In general, it is best to keep the plant out of reach of small children and in areas where it may not be accessed by pets.

Croton Magnificent Vs. Petra: Uses

In North America, Codiaeum variegatum brings a tropical flair to a garden or indoor greenhouse. It is a popular houseplant because its variegated foliage brings visual interest and a tropical look to indoor atriums or home patios. If you want to grow it outdoors on a patio or in a garden, ensure that you live in USDA hardiness zones 11-12. Alternatively, you can bring it inside in the cooler months when the temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night or during the day. Throughout most of the United States, it is grown indoors. Those who have the greatest success cultivating healthy, vibrant-colored crotons will grow them in places with lots of bright sunlight and humidity (as described above). 

Codiaeum variegatum is also an air purifier! It adds moisture and filters the air, so it can help remove toxins and make your home’s air cleaner for you to breathe.

Consider adding either ‘Magnificent’ or ‘Petra’ to your home if you:

  • Are looking for a tropical-looking jungle plant. The bright colors and patches of color will add a vibrant, tropical vibe.
  • Have spaces with high humidity, such as a bathroom or kitchen. If you like the look but don’t have humidity, consider some of the tips above to increase the moisture in the air!
  • Want to find a plant that can tolerate bright light. If you have a lot of light but not much afternoon shade, consider choosing ‘Petra’ over ‘Magnificent.’

In Summary

This article discusses how you can grow two types of “crotons,” cultivars of Codiaeum variegatum. Though both have bold, brightly-colored and vibrant foliage, the two are set apart by slight differences in their appearance and the colors of their leaves.

  • The ‘Magnificent’ cultivar requires slightly more shade and dappled light than the Petra cultivar.
  • ‘Magnificent’ has green leaves with large orange, yellow, and pink splotches. In contrast, ‘Petra’ has leaves in various colors, including pink, red, purple, and green. These leaves are variegated with light green veins.
  • ‘Petra’ grows slightly taller than ‘Magnificent’ and can grow up to 8 feet tall outdoors, compared to the 6 feet that ‘Magnificent’ can achieve and the 4 feet that is more typical.
  • ‘Petra’ is one of the most popular varieties of Codiaeum variegatum, so you may find it more readily available at your local plant nursery.

Regardless of your choice, both need warmth, humidity, and bright light. With those right conditions, either will be a wonderful addition to your home or garden patio.

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About the Author

Carrie is a writer and fan of all types of plants and animals. Her apartment is home to more than dozen different houseplants and she aspires to adopt more in the near future. You can find Carrie taking long walks or reading a book under the trees in the park.

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