The croton plant, sometimes called the garden croton, is an absolutely stunning plant prized for its beautiful foliage. Botanically, it’s known as Codiaeum variegatum.
Crotons are a bit slower growing plants. However, although not speedy, they do produce steady growth. At least, that’s what I’ve observed with mine. They sometimes have a reputation for being a bit finicky. But, with this easy guide, you’ll have little fuss with your croton plant care, leaving you to enjoy this beauty for years.
Crotons are tropical plants, and though many people enjoy them as houseplants, in hotter climates they can be grown outdoors. They rarely flower indoors. Outdoors, however, they’ll produce pendant-style clusters of tiny yellow blossoms. Even still, the blossoms pale in comparison to the croton’s impressive foliage.
There are more than 100 varieties of crotons with colours ranging from greens to pinks, to creams, to all the colours of autumn – red, yellow, copper, orange, brown. The leaves are thick and leathery, and can be short, or long, or twisted. Some plants can even have a combination of shapes and colours. When it comes to crotons, there really is a variety for any décor.
Fun fact – the name croton itself comes from the Greek word kroton, or “sheep tick” because the croton seed resembles a tick in shape.
Guide to Croton Plant Care
Water & Humidity
Crotons like moist soil, but they don’t like it soggy. In fact, they can be susceptible to over-watering. Give them a good watering, then let the top inch or two of the soil dry out before watering again. Changes to the leaves, such as drooping, yellowing or browning, becoming crunchy, or leaf loss can be signs of improper watering. If this happens, take close note of how often you’re watering and adjust your schedule.
Being tropicals, crotons like humidity. You can promote a more humid environment by grouping your humid loving plants together, sitting your croton on a pebble tray, or by misting your croton on a regular basis. Personally, I mist my croton and he seems to like it!
Light & Temperature
Crotons need a sunny location. Bright, indirect, or dappled light is the key to keeping these guys cloaked in their vibrant colours. If the spot is not bright enough, the leaves will revert to green and the plant’s growth will slow. This is usually one of the biggest problems with crotons. In fact, even in sunny inside locations, it’s hard to fully keep those bright colours.
Sadly, this was the case with my little guy. Originally, I had him in a northwest facing window. Though a large window, as you can see from the picture, the light wasn’t enough to keep his colours going.
I’ve since placed him in a large southwest window. This has helped, but even here he’s not reaching his full brightness. Next year, I’m going to place him outside for the summer to see how much of his flashy self returns with the additional brightness. And a little side note here, I’ve noticed new leaves start green and then age into more colour.
Periodically rotate your plant to keep it growing evenly. This will prevent one side from stretching toward the light.
As for temperature, Crotons like it a bit on the warmer side. Keep them in spots 60 degrees F and above. And keep him away from drafts or cold spots.
An all-around, well-draining potting mix with organic matter, such as peat moss, will be fine for your C. variegatum.
Crotons don’t like to be moved much, so you may find them losing a leaf or two when you first bring them home. This is another reason why they are sometimes considered fussy. If you do find them looking a little peaked after a move, give your croton a little TLC and have a little patience. Within a month, you should see it bouncing back.
You can fertilize in the spring, then again in early summer.
If you notice your croton’s growth has slowed, or that the roots are poking through the soil, it’s time to re-pot your plant. It’s best to do this in the spring. Choose a pot only an inch or two larger than the current pot. Keep in mind, crotons can become top-heavy, so as it grows make sure you are re-potting into a sturdy pot.
Generally, a croton plant doesn’t require a lot of pruning except to remove dead, unhealthy, or overgrown foliage. If you want your plant a bit bushier, snip the stem back to where you’d like to see the new growth. Make sure you use sharp, clean pruners and wear gloves as a croton produces a sap from pruning cuts that can cause a rash for some people.
Occasionally wipe down your croton’s leaves to keep them dust free. This will help with photosynthesis, which in turn will help maintain the vibrant colours.
Overall, crotons are usually pest & disease free, but they can occasionally fall prey to common bugs such as spider mites or mealybugs. Speckled discolouration of the leaves (sometimes difficult to tell on a croton!), webbing between the branches, or leaf loss can indicate a pest problem, so keep an eye for these signs and treat immediately.
Avoid over-watering to prevent root issues. And it’s best to water from the base as powdery mildew can develop on leaves that are regularly wet.
All parts of the croton plant are poisonous, especially the seeds. The plant will need to be kept away from curious children and pets. Also, the milky sap that drips from any cuts or damaged areas can be irritating to the skin.
Bright light, moderate watering, and a warm temperature. By taking a little time to learn proper croton plant care, you’ll find yourself rewarded with gorgeous colours and a happy houseplant!
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