Croton Plant Care
Crotons are easy-to-care tropical houseplants of the Euphorbiaceae family. Crotons caught my eye due to their beautiful variegated foliage with a mix of hues (green, yellow, orange, red).
If you read this article completely, you will be an expert in Croton plant care, how to grow and propagate, what Soil to use, Repotting, Pruning and how much Water, Sunlight and Fertilizer is needed. You will know the best and most recommended ways to care for your Croton plant.
Croton General Info
- Origin: Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pacific Ocean islands
- Genus: Codiaeum
- Scientific Name: Codiaeum variegatum
- Common Names: fire croton, garden croton, or variegated croton
- 👪Family: Euphorbiaceae
- 🌵Type: Tropical
- 🌼Flowers: Yes
- 🍃Leaf Colors: variegated foliage with a mix of hues (green, yellow, orange, red)
- 🌵Climate: Tropical
- 🌡️Temperature: 60F to 80 F (15 C to 27 C)
- 🌼Growing season: Spring
- 💧Watering: When top soil is dry
- ☀️Light: indirect sunlight for about 4-6 hours a day, can survive low-light conditions.
- 🐛Pests: Spider mites, Aphids and mealybugs.
- ☠️Toxicity: Saponins, Toxic to pets (dogs, cats) and kids.
- 🧴Use: Indoor plants as an air purifier, ornamental, for making bowstrings
- Propagation🌱: Leaf Cuttings in soil/water
- Height📏: 365-455 cm (12-15 ft)
- Soil: Well draining & moist, sensitive to water clogging.
- Fertilizer: NPK 20-10-10 every month in Summer and Spring
How to water💧
When Crotons are thirsty, their top leaves start to wilt. When you see drooping croton leaves, it's time to water your Croton. They like the soil to be a little moist but not water clogged at the same time, so it’s important to have a well draining soil.
The best way to know when to water is to do the classic finger test where you stick your finger and see if 1-2 inches of the topsoil has dried out completely before giving it more water. If it's still moist and granules of the soil are sticking to your finger, don't water it.
Pro Tip: Better to be on the side of under-watering than over-watering. Most of the plants can recover from severe under-watering but die if over-watered.
Sunlight Requirements ☀️
Crotons require bright indirect sunlight for about 4-6 hours a day. If you give them direct sunlight, the leaves may burn. On the contrary, if you do not provide them enough sunlight, the leaves will turn green. They come from the tropical regions so they need a good amount of light. If your croton is turning green, it is an indication that it is not getting enough light.
The location of keeping your Croton plant is extremely important. Too much sunlight and it starts to wilt. Crotons also don’t like to be moved much as it causes stress and shock to the plant. You can place it anywhere except a north facing window as it won’t provide enough light that Croton needs.
Crotons are also tolerant to somewhat darker spaces (if they are placed under a shade where they don’t get enough bright light). However, if you want them to grow and bloom, put them in a spot where it is brighter but does not get direct sunlight.
Note: Make sure you don’t keep the plant very close to the glass window, as it can intensify sun rays and burn the leaves. Too much direct sunlight will burn the leaves
Croton needs well-draining moist soil. Crotons are very sensitive to water clogging.
- ⅓ Garden Soil
- ⅓ Compost
- ⅓ Cocopeat
- 2 tsp Bonemeal
- 2 tsp Neem cake
- 3 tsp wood ash
- 1 tsp epsom salt
NPK 20-10-10 works well. You can also use Vermicompost. Fertilize once a month in the spring and summer. The plants are dormant in the autumn and winter so do not fertilize them during these seasons.
Temperature and Humidity 🌡️
- Ideal temperature is between 60F to 80 F (15 C to 27 C). Temperature should not be too cold: cannot survive in heavy frost and snow, as it is a tropical plant.
- Humidity between 40% to 50%.
Crotons dying after purchase
Crotons hate being moved around. Have you just purchased a Croton and the next day found the plant losing its leaves? That’s because they have been moved from their environment. With proper care they get adjusted to the new environment within a few weeks to a month.
Crotons not growing
It could be pest infestation or it needs repotting. You can also try to propagate. If you don't give enough sunlight, it will not grow as much and the leaves will turn green as well.
Reason and Solution
Leaves turning green
Not enough Sunlight
Leaves turning brown/yellow
Too much direct Sunlight
Too much direct Sunlight or
Plant experiencing shock because it was moved to a new location
Pests 🐛and Diseases🦠
Spider mites, aphids and scaly bugs attached on the stems. You can easily get rid of these pests and diseases.
Keep spraying neem oil once every month.
If you see roots coming out of the pot through the drainage holes, and you notice slow growth, it’s time to re-pot in a slightly bigger pot. The best time for Crotons to be repotted is in the spring season. Also beware that Crotons don't like moving and repotting them can cause a bit of a shock and the leaves could start to fall. That is totally fine and giving them proper care, they should start to adjust and grow more within a few weeks to a month.
How to Prune✂️
To maintain the shape of your croton, pruning is necessary and can be done in the growing season (February).
If you want your plant to become bushier and not grow so much to the top like a tall leggy plant, you can actually make that happen using the pinching method. When you have a new leaf growth on top of the plant, just pinch it out and this will encourage your plant to grow at the bottom. When you do this though, make sure to wear gloves because when you pinch, the sap can come out and touch your skin that causes skin irritation.
How to Propagate🌱
Crotons can be propagated by leaf cuttings, air layering or with flower seeds. The best time to propagate Crotons is in February.
Steps for propagating Croton in Soil or Water:
- Cut about 6-7 inches of the stem from the top which has 3-5 leaves on it. Cut at a 45 degree angle.
- From the back, scrape off the brown part of the stem (bark) with a knife to give more space for the root to grow.
- Remove all the lower leaves and cut the upper leaves into half to reduce the amount of nutrition needed by the cutting and to make it focus on root growth.
- Dip the 1-2 inches of the stem in the rooting hormone (optional).
- Place 2-3 inches of the cutting into soil/water.
- If you are propagating in winter, and humidity is low, cover the plant in a plastic bag for moisture.
- If you are propagating Croton in soil, keep the soil moist for the roots to grow. Water using a spray when the soil is dry. Don’t water too much or else the cutting might rot.
- It takes about 1-2 months for the roots to start growing.
Steps for propagating Croton Leaf in Water
- Remove some leaves out of the Croton plant
- Fill some water in a glass and dip the tips of the leaves in it.
- Keep the glass near a window where it gets some sunlight for 2-3 hours.
- Change the water once a week.
- After 30-40 days, you will see roots.
- Once the roots have grown 1-2 inches, you can pot the leaf in a pot with soil.
How fast does Croton grow
Got to have patience. It can take upto 4 months until you see considerable bushy growth after propagation. Crotons can grow upto 365-455 cm (12-15 ft).
Croton and Cats / Dogs☠️
- Crotons are categorized as toxic to humans and pets
- Keep the crotons away from pets and cats/dogs/other pets.
- If ingested, it could cause irritation in the mouth and stomach and cause vomiting.
- The sap can irritate the skin. Use some gloves if you are pinching for bushier growth.
How to buy a Croton Plant
Croton is so basic, you will find Croton plants from supermarkets to your nearest nursery. But when you do reach your nearest nursery, Look for the following attributes when buying your plant.
- Look for bright colorful foliage that is not too yellow or brown or too green.
- Look at the pot and if you see a lot of dead foliage, don’t buy that Croton
- Look closely at the leaves for any pest infestation and chewed up leaves or brown tips. Pick one that is free from all the above.
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