The Croton is a popular tropical houseplant known for its bright and vibrant variegated leaves in shades of green, red, yellow, pink, cream, and orange. It is relatively easy to grow and take care of once you learn what it likes.
Croton Plants (scientific name Croton tiglium) are a tropical perennial native to South America. A member of the Euphorbiaceae family, they are related to the popular poinsettia we often associate with Christmas time.
As you may have guessed, being close relatives to the poinsettia plant, Croton plants are toxic to humans and pets. For this reason, we don’t recommend growing Croton if you have cats, dogs, or small children who might ingest the leaves.
That being said, it’s a beautiful plant and can add a pop of color to any room. It can be a little challenging to grow indoors because it requires a good bit of sunlight, but overall they are disease resistant and will grow well with proper care and maintenance.
Croton Types and Varieties
There are many different Crotons varieties, so it’s helpful to know which type you have because some Crotons may have different requirements.
The main differences between the various cultivars are the size, leaf shape, and colors. Some have more narrow leaves, while others may produce different colors than others.
Croton plants can grow to be quite big – with the biggest plants being nearly 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Of course, most indoor crotons will not grow to be this big, but it’s always good to know it’s possible!
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Here Are Some Popular Croton Codiaeum Cultivars:
- Gold Star
- Eleanor Roosevelt
- Mother and Daughter
Now that we know about the types of Crotons let’s get into the most important part – how to take care of a Croton houseplant!
How to Care for Croton
When you first bring home your Croton plant, it’s important to establish the best environment possible to grow well.
Crotons don’t like sudden changes, so be patient while the plant takes a few weeks or months to settle in from the shock of moving. It’s very common for a new plant to lose a few leaves at first, so don’t panic right away. Usually, as long as you give the Croton plant everything it needs, it will soon start to thrive in its new home.
Soil for Croton Plants
Like most houseplants, crotons need well-draining soil. They also do best with nutrient-rich soil. You don’t need any special kind of dirt for your Croton plants – you can use just about any indoor houseplant potting soil mix; make sure that it includes perlite to help with the draining.
How Much Sun Do Croton Plants Need?
The Croton needs a good bit of sun. You want it to get direct sunlight for at least 6 hours a day, which can sometimes be challenging when growing it indoors. Supplementing direct light with grow lights is usually ideal.
If your Croton plant isn’t getting enough light, you will notice that the color of the leaves will fade. Moving the plant to a sunnier location or adding grow lights can help remedy this problem.
How Often to Water Crotons?
There is no set schedule for how often to water your Croton plant, and it will vary greatly depending on other factors such as how much sun it gets and the levels of humidity in the house.
The Croton doesn’t like too much water, so it’s important to let the soil dry out completely between waterings to prevent root rot from happening. However, there’s a bit of a balance to this, as you don’t want it to dry out for too long.
Temperature and Humidity
As a tropical plant, it’s not surprising that a Croton loves high humidity. This makes it an ideal plant to keep in naturally humid areas of your home, like a bathroom with a shower.
We have very humid summers where I live, but the winters can be brutally dry. So we usually run our AirCare humidifier that helps us keep all of our plants and the people that live here quite happy.
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You will also want to make sure that your Croton plant isn’t exposed to cold air. It needs temperatures above 60 degrees to survive. Be careful that it is not too close to an air conditioning vent in the summer or too close to a drafty window in the winter months.
What Fertilizer is Best for Croton Plants?
The best fertilizer to use for your Crotons is a slow-release fertilizer that has a low nitrogen content. Don’t use liquid plant food. Never give your plant more fertilizer than it needs.
Croton plants should only be fertilized 1-2 times per year at most, typically in the spring and then again in June. Most people will agree you shouldn’t fertilize your plants in the winter, as they need this time to rest in their natural plant cycle.
New croton plants can be started with 4- to 6-inch stem cuttings. Remove the bottom leaves and place the cutting in a glass of water. After roots have formed, plant in a small pot.
Propogating and Pruning Crotons
The Croton plant can be easily propagated with a stem tip cutting. Make sure that the cutting you use has an ample amount of leaves, but no more than 5 leaves.
Crotons can also be propagated by dividing the root ball into two or three sections depending on the size of the plant. Dividing the plant should be done in the fall after it’s gone through its main growing season.
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You should not need to prune your Croton very often, although you should remove any parts of the plant that may be dying or dead as needed. It’s important that you never prune more than 1/3 of the plant at a time.
Troubleshooting Common Croton Problems
The croton plants aren’t especially likely to have diseases or carry pests, but you can occasionally have issues with mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects. You can use Neem oil or insecticidal soap to get rid of these unwanted pests.
Your croton plant may attract quite a bit of dust, so be sure that you gently wipe the plant’s leaves at least once or twice a month to keep them clean. This is also a good time to check whether there are any issues with your plant that need to be addressed.
Root rot can occur when the plant is overwatered and can oftentimes be fatal if not caught early. If you suspect root rot, carefully dig up the plant and cut off any roots affected by the fungus. Repot in a new pot with completely different soil.
Most common problems with Croton plants all go back to whether it’s getting too much or too little water and too much or too little sun. A good moisture meter can be quite helpful to ensure you are giving your plant the right amount of water it needs.
Do you have any croton plants in your collection? Any tips you would like to share or questions you may have? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!