Croton plants are colorful and add a vibrant burst of greenery to a space. Also known as Codiaeum variegatum, these plants are native to India and Malaysia. Crotons have a shrub form and grow outdoors in zones 11 and 12, where they can reach up to 8 feet tall. These leafy beauties are more commonly found as houseplants, where they grow to be about one foot high. Croton are excellent houseplants for beginners or plant owners who prefer to be hands-off. Croton care is relatively easy, as these plants prefer to be left alone, but they are particular about temperature.
Types of Croton
Most croton plants have broad leaves that come to a point, although some have thin, narrow foliage. The greenery can be flat or have a slight ripple. The leaves are generally green with yellow, orange, or red variegation. The bold colors can follow the midrib and veining or appear as splashes of color. Some of the more popular types of Croton plants include:
- Bush on Fire croton
- Gold Dust croton
- Goldstar croton
- Mammy croton
- Oakleaf croton
- Petra croton
- Picasso’s Paintbrush croton
- Red Iceton croton
- Sunny Star croton
- Yellow Iceton croton
- Zanzibar croton
Croton Light Requirements
Sunlight is a vital part of croton care. These plants need plenty of bright indirect light to maintain their magnificent variegation. A sunny south-facing window or a west-facing window are both excellent locations for crotons.
Plants grown in medium or low light will lose their color intensity and revert to green. Some croton cultivars can take on a few hours of direct sunlight daily. It’s always a good idea to inspect the plant, but keep an eye on plants that receive direct light to look for signs of sunburn.
How Often to Water Croton
Croton plants prefer even moisture when they are actively growing—water croton plants when the top couple of inches of soil is dry. Let the soil completely dry out before watering during the winter when the plant is dormant.
Best Soil for Croton
Rich, well-drained, acidic soil is best for croton care. These plants do not like wet feet, so soil that allows excess water to drain is ideal. Most all-purpose potting soils work nicely.
Temperature for Croton
Temperature is where these laid-back plants can present a minor challenge. The air temperature is important for proper croton care, with consistently warm temperatures being necessary. Anything above 60° F is suitable for crotons, so most homes are a good fit, but the warmer, the better for these tropical plants.
Cold temperatures and fluctuations are trouble for crotons. Keep houseplants away from drafty windows, exterior doors, and heating and cooling vents. Stress of any kind, including sudden temperature changes, cause croton plants to drop their leaves.
Average to high humidity is necessary for crotons. Generally, 40% to 80% humidity is ideal. These are tropical plants that need extra dampness in the air for their foliage to look its best. The leaves will become crispy along the edges if the air is too dry. Croton plants grown in low humidity are more at risk for spider mites and leaf drop. If several leaves have fallen from the plant, you may need to increase the humidity.
Fertilizer is a great way to keep crotons happy and pushing out new leaves. Feed the plant monthly during the growing season and stop fertilizing during the fall and winter. A balanced fertilizer will support new growth or use a product with 3-1-2 or 8-2-10 ratios. Increased nitrogen will help the croton plant grow abundant foliage.
Plants grown in low light not only run the risk of losing their vibrant variegation, but they also may become leggy. Prune leggy plants to maintain a full and bushy appearance. Trim the plant back to a leaf set or growth node to encourage more growth. Crotons produce a white sap that may cause skin irritation. Be careful when pruning the plant; consider wearing gloves if you have sensitive skin. Clean the shears when you are done to remove any sap.
When to Repot Croton
Repot crotons when the roots appear above the soil or through the drainage holes in the pot. Slide the plant from the existing container and upgrade to a new pot. Choose a container that is one to two inches larger.
Propagate crotons via stem cuttings. Remove a 3″ to 6″ section of stem using clean, sharp shears. The cutting should have a few leaves and growth nodes near the cut end. Croton growth nodes are found right above where the leaves join to the stem. Remove the lowest leaves on the cutting and place the cut end in soil or water.
Croton plants propagated in soil need damp conditions. Keep the soil moist but not soggy until the cutting has roots. Gently tug on the plant after a few weeks; if you feel resistance, then the cutting has set roots.
Water-propagated cuttings can go directly into a jar or container with water. Roots should emerge in about four weeks. The cutting can be planted in soil when the roots are a couple of inches long. Water when the top inch of soil is dry for the first few weeks to help the roots transition from water to soil. After a few weeks, get onto the same watering routine as an established plant.
Are Croton Plants Pet Friendly?
Croton plants are toxic to animals and humans, so they are not the best choice for homes with pets or little ones. Be careful before bringing croton into your home or giving the plant as a gift.
Croton Styling Tips
The colorful foliage of crotons looks stunning in a neutral planter, or create a look by matching the plant with a bold container. Croton is a great option to brighten a desk or tabletop in a sunny room. Feature croton in a centerpiece for some bold color.
Croton Care Tips
Croton plants thrive with a limited degree of neglect. These leafy plants like lots of sunlight and consistently warm temperatures, and as long as they receive those two things, your plants will flourish and put on a colorful display. Zeroing in on the proper location is the most important part of croton care because the spot really influences the plant.