What you're learning
Highly attractive because of its colorful foliage, croton plant (Codiaeum variegatum) is a perennial ornamental that’s definitely a must-have. The variegated leaves are a combination of green, yellow, orange, red, and even black colors. It’s a tropical shrub that can be planted outdoors as hedgerows because of its height and woody stems.
Croton plants are easy to maintain outdoors. However, it’s a bit challenging when you bring the plant inside your home. If you’re eager to add this foliage into your indoor collection, be ready to pour your sweat out.
|Scientific Name||Codiaeum variegatum|
|Similar to||Japanese laurel|
|Native to||Tropical Asia and Pacific regions|
|Shape||Depends on the variety|
|Maximum size||Depends on which variety
(1 to 3 feet 3 to 8 feet 8 to 20 feet)
|Light requirements||Bright, indirect light|
|Preferred temperature||60 and 85 F (15 to 29 C)|
|Soil||Fast-draining, sandy, rocky or loamy soil|
|Fertilizer||Fertilize once or twice during the growing stage (Spring and Summer)|
|Propagation method||Stem cuttings|
|Toxicity||Toxic to cats, dogs, and humans|
|Vulnerable to||Mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects|
Croton Plant Overview
The croton plant’s origin can be traced back to tropical Asia and the Pacific regions. It belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family of flowering plants. Croton, however, is less popular for its flowers because they’re quite tiny for anyone to notice.
What makes croton appealing is the colorful leaves that come in various shapes making it look extravagant. They’ll surely add color to your indoor setting. To learn how to take care of croton, know its natural growing conditions, and see how you can pull it through inside your home.
Croton loves regular watering. Whenever you see the soil partially dries out, you have to give water again. There’s no exact frequency to follow within a week but make sure to observe and test the soil’s moisture.
Don’t water superficially where only the top portion of the soil gets wet. You have to deeply water the pot until the soil is evenly moist. Make sure that water drains out well before you set it back to its usual location.
Be sure to place your croton in a space where there’s a generous light source. Croton does best in bright, indirect light. If the light isn’t sufficient, the leaves won’t show its highly attractive array of colors.
The east to a west-facing window is the best spot to harness enough bright light. Use your curtains to serve as a barrier to prevent direct contact with sunlight. Don’t get the leaves too close to the window glass to avoid the heat draft.
Keeping in mind that croton is a tropical plant, you can expect that this shrub will require a highly humid environment. There must be a high level of moisture in the air inside your home. A dry, arid condition is a big no, no.
That’s why you have to use humidifiers once in a while to keep the air moist. Or, if you have the time, you can manually mist water around the plant every morning. You can also make use of pebble trays or simply group the plants together to benefit from each other’s moisture.
Plant Food and Soil
Plant your croton to a fast-draining, sandy, rocky, or loamy soil. It’s crucial that the potting mix to have a good draining capacity. It would be easy to get rid of excess water when the soil isn’t compact so the danger of developing root rot is minimized.
Fertilize the plant during spring and summer only where there’s active growth happening. Croton won’t demand so much fertilizer so you can apply only once or twice for each season. Both slow-release and fast-release fertilizers are applicable so it’s up for you to choose which.
You may also opt for organic fertilizers to avoid the build-up of salts in the soil.
Additional Care for Croton Plants
It’s in croton’s nature to grow tall. If you want to maintain a relatively smaller version of this plant, you’ve got to prune the foliage more frequently.
You can reduce the plant’s density by cutting off some of the branches. If you want new foliage to grow, you can cut the plant down to the base of its stem. Don’t worry because your croton will grow anew in time.
Cutting off the top portion will encourage lateral growth. This is a good technique if you want to maintain shorter yet denser croton.
Croton is a large indoor plant. As expected, it will also grow lavish roots inside its pot. When the size gets too big for the pot to handle, you should begin repotting the plant.
Gently remove the whole plant out of its existing pot. Trim the upper portions as well as the roots. Prepare a well-draining potting mix and replant the croton there.
Water thoroughly and drain well before placing it in a more shaded location. Wait until the plant established itself in its new pot before fully exposing it to bright light. The transition should be gradual to allow the plant to acclimatize.
Propagating croton is rather an easy job. All you need are stem cuttings to plant new babies.
- Cut a stem that’s 3 to 4 inches long with at least 3 leaves on it.
- You can plant the stem directly unto the potting mix or you can use a rooting hormone to induce rooting first before planting.
- Keep the soil moist but do not overwater. The croton stem will start developing roots within a month. Don’t be surprised when the leaves start drooping or even falling off because it normally happens.
Another method you can utilize to propagate croton is through marcotting or air layering. One advantage in using air layering as propagation method is that you can readily produce mature plants.
- Choose a mature croton branch and create a wound by removing the bark, at least an inch of size.
- After the bark is removed, scrape the next layer to remove the cambium tissue. This will ease the formation of adventitious roots.
- Wrap the wound using moist coconut husk or moss to serve as potting medium. Cover the potting medium with plastic and securely tie both ends.
- Wait for a few weeks for roots to develop. Once enough roots are seen through the plastic cover, you can cut the marcotted portion and plant it separately.
Croton is a sturdy plant and rarely does it get infected with pests. If it does, mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects are the common unwanted visitors. To get rid of them, you can manually pick them out of the plant or prune the infected parts.
It would help to prepare a DIY solution of diluted detergent or insecticidal soap with neem oil. It will come as a handy treatment you can use when pests start attacking the croton plant. You may also use it with other indoor plants.
You have to be careful not to allow your pets ingest parts of the croton plant. It’s mildly toxic to pets and humans. Signs of toxicity include drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. Contact with the plant sap can lead to skin irritation.
As much as possible, keep it away from your pet’s reach to save them from any danger. To protect yourself, always use gloves when handling the plant. The least we want to happen is you getting hurt by your own plant.
Typical Questions for Caring Croton Plants
Why is my croton plant not producing vibrant colors?
Lack of light contributes to the brightness of the croton’s foliage color. When the location is dark, the tendency is for the leaves to have color that’s mainly green. Relocate the plant to a brighter spot so that the other colors would show.
Why my croton plant’s is leaves falling off?
If you’ve observed that your croton leaves are dropping, go check the temperature. Cold temperature can often lead to leaf drop. Make sure that your croton isn’t near a cold draft.
Other reasons include insufficient light and low humidity.
Why is my croton plant wilting?
A wilting croton plant is an indication of lack of water or high temperature. If you water the plant too little, it will suffer dehydration. Cells will lose its turgidity and so the plants will drop its form. Water the plant immediately and wait until it bounces back to its firm appearance.
A temperature that’s too high can also cause the plant to wilt. Too much heat can take a toll on your croton leading to heat stress. One response plants exhibit with extreme heat is wilting.
Though raising a croton is more challenging when done indoors, it’s not an impossible thing to do. You just have to be extra patient in checking and modifying your indoor conditions to make it suitable for croton to thrive.
The most important factors are light and water. So, make sure you hit these two right. There are also a number of croton varieties you can choose from. Always choose a variety that’s more suited to your existing place to avoid too much hassle.