croton

Croton Plant Care

Today's Gardener (todaysgardener.com) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to them.

Taking care of crotons can be challenging, but it helps if you know how to do it properly.

Where and how to plant crotons?

You can grow crotons both indoors and outdoors. In either way, make sure that soil drains well and is richly organic. Plant in soil-based mix in a pot large enough to accommodate the root ball.

Mulch bed plantings with ground bark, but don’t mulch potted crotons.  Mulching around the plants outside allows air circulation and will cool the microclimate.

The best time to plant crotons is during warm weather, but you can also lift the plant from its bed and pot it in the fall. Alkaline soil is a must, plentiful mulch and acid fertilizer.

Repotting

Repot every 2-3 years and position the pot in bright filtered light and protect it from draughts and heaters. Maintain constant warmth that never gets below 15 degrees C.

Light

Provide bright or filtered light indoors and a spot away from drafty windows and heating vents. East or west windows are ideal, but keep your crotons at a respectful distance and don’t give them a front-row seat. This can scorch the leaves and you don’t want to see that sight. Outdoors, find a site in partial shade or dappled sun.

Related: Best Grow Lights For Indoor Plants

Temperature

Temperature between 15-21 degrees C is ideal for crotons. Unlike most tropical plants, crotons prefer relatively cool temperatures.

Bear in mind that winter temperatures should be cooler than the summer temperatures, and nighttime temperatures lower than daytime temperatures.

Locate the plant in a bright understory or group them with other plants that will shelter them from the sun in summer. If the plant is in shade, it can be susceptible to fungal diseases.

It tolerates periodic dry conditions in winter but requires regular moisture when hot.

Humidity

Croton plants require high humidity levels. To increase it, put the plant on a tray of damp pebbles. Refrain from misting the leaves since this can invite fungi.

Watering

Keep the soil evenly moist from spring to autumn. Allow the top surface to dry out between waterings.

Overwatering can cause crotons to drop their leaves and rot at the roots. To prevent that, let the pots or plantings dry out somewhat before water application.

However, if you totally neglect it for extended periods of time, the plant will drop a few leaves in protest.

Fertilizing

Fertilizing is best done once in two weeks using a balanced liquid fertilizer. Repeat this process from spring to autumn. Fertilize four times annually with an all-purpose formula, preferably one with major and minor elements and trace minerals included.  

Maintenance

Wearing gloves, trim the plant to keep it to size. Remove discolored, dead or dying leaves just below a leaf node and inspect crotons regularly for insects and diseases.

They do not produce new leaves on old growth, so the lower branches turn to bare sticks. Remove long or unruly branches close to the ground, and nip the leafy tips only lightly. 

Make sure you dust the leaves regularly. Some people like to use a banana peel and wipe the leaves for additional shine. You can also soak a banana peel in water overnight and water the plant with it the next day. This acts as a natural fertilizer. You can also apply products for leaf shine on some plants.

Do not water the plant with coffee or any beverage since some plants are sensitive to the substances they contain.

Propagation

Propagate by dividing clumps or take stem cuttings. Using a sharp knife or shears, cut a stem with 3 leaves, apply some rooting hormone and then plant it in a small pot.

Maintain warm temperatures and regular moisture. It will take around a month to root. When that happens, transplant the cutting elsewhere.

Toxicity

All parts of crotons are toxic, so keep them away from your pets and wear protective gloves when you are repotting or examining the plant. Protect your furniture from the sap crotons produce.

Companion plants

You can pair them with schefflera, dumb canes, bush lilies, ivies, slipper orchids, dracaenas, aglaonemas, ficus and others. Zebra plant shares the same care pattern as crotons, so it makes an ideal companion plant, too.

Common issues

Generally speaking, croton plants are not fertile ground for fungus or disease infection. However, if you don’t maintain clean hygiene of the growing environment, mealybugs, spider mites or scale insects can find a way to your plant. Mites are active in hot weather and lead to leaf loss.

In that case, wipe the leaves with a cotton pad soaked in rubbing alcohol and isolate the infected plants so that other plants wouldn’t get infected, too. Alternatively, use an insecticidal spray of water weekly in hot weather and that will help to get rid of insects.

Bonus care tip: Avoid overwatering and provide partial shade.