Croton is a striking tropical plant, ideal for growing in warm regions where the temperature ranges between 60°F (15°C) and 70°F (21°C). Suitable for growing both inside your house and outside, many believe it to be a high-maintenance plant. But, it only requires extreme care during the first few years of growing; once settled, crotons are quite hardy.
Croton Plant Types and Varieties
There are several species and cultivars that can have different leaf shapes and colors. However, they more or less require the same growth conditions and caring methods.
|Croton Petra Plant – Large and bright foliage|
|Croton Mammy Plant – Corkscrew-like foliage|
|Croton Magnificent Plant – Mottled yellow and green foliage|
|Croton Zanzibar Plant – Narrow and multicolored foliage|
|Eleanor Roosevelt Croton Plant – Dense and compact foliage|
|Gold Dust Croton Plant – Medium green/yellow and variegated/spotted foliage|
|Andrew Croton Plant – Long, narrow and creamy white foliage|
|Banana Croton Plant– Lance-shaped and green foliage with banana yellow spots|
|Bush Fire Croton Plant – Long and red/orange/purple/gold foliage characterized by long thin leaves|
|Florida Select Croton – Medium-sized and green foliage with yellow, red, and orange veins|
|Gold Star Croton Plant – Green foliage with bright gold spots|
|Lauren’s Rainbow Croton Plant – Long and narrow foliage|
|Mother and Daughter Croton Plant – Dark green/purplish green foliage with red and yellow streaks/spots|
|Mrs. Iceton Croton Plant – Medium-green foliage shaded with yellow, red, and orange|
|Oakleaf Croton Plant – Lobed and dark green foliage with red, yellow, orange veins and strips|
|Red Iceton Croton Plant – Yellow foliage with shades of red and pink|
|Sunny Star Croton Plant – Light green foliage with gold dots|
|Superstar Croton Plant – Bright green foliage with splashes of yellow|
|Victoria Gold Bell Plant – Grassy foliage variegated with yellow, purple, and orange|
|Yellow Iceton Croton Plant – Mid-green and lush yellow foliage|
How to Plant Your New Croton
When you are growing the plant in a pot, either indoor or outdoor, select a large container with good drainage so the soil remains aerated, and do not flood after watering. You may pierce a few more holes as well if needed. You may use a commercial quick-draining potting soil as greater the soil porosity, the better is the drainage. Once the pot is filled with soil, place the plant carefully, and water thoroughly.
To increase the richness of the soil, you can add some finished compost. A combination of organic compost and peat moss/coco coir can also be used as a replacement for soil for potted plants.
If you want to plant it directly into your garden, make sure the soil is loamy and fertile, allowing adequate drainage and moisture retention.
Why does a croton lose its leaves after planting
Losing of leaves might be a natural response of the new plant to change of place and other environmental factors. Crotons do not take well to moving and transplanting. With proper care though, there will be new leaves growing within 3 to 4 weeks.
How to Take Care of a Croton Plant
Following a Proper Fertilizing Schedule
Use a granular fertilizer with a high nitrogen and potassium content (8-2-10 mix) to feed the plants twice in spring, once early in the season (late February or early March) and once in the latter part (late May). However, young plants may require a third application around mid-summer (July).
As croton hardens up its leaves in autumn, stopping to produce any new leaves in preparation for winter, the plant does not need fertilizing during this time of the year.
Houseplants growing in containers need to be watered regularly to keep their soil moist and promote proper growth. When you find the top layer of the soil to be dry, apply a lot of water so it drains out through the bottom of the container. This will make sure that the water has moistened the soil thoroughly.
Outdoor plants may not need frequent watering if there is sufficient rain. But, if they receive less than an inch of rainfall in seven days during the growing season, apply 1 inch of water for it to penetrate 6 inches deep into the soil to keep it damp. Water the ground underneath the plant’s canopy, and approximately 12 inches beyond its outer perimeter to keep it properly moist.
In both cases, overwatering should be avoided to prevent wilting of the leaves. On the other hand, if the plant gets less water than it needs, it may cause the lower leaves to dry and fall off.
Providing Sufficient Sunlight
When exposed to 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily, the plant would be able to display its natural bright colors. Although most varieties can tolerate partial shade, adequate exposure to sunlight is necessary for the leaves to develop their characteristic coloration.
When indoors, place it near an east- or west-facing window for maximum exposure to the sun. Take help of artificial lights if your plant is not getting enough sunlight.
Your outdoor plants should be grown in those areas of your garden, having maximum exposure to the sun for the most part of the day, but providing ample shade when it gets too hot, especially in the afternoon. Alternately, you can cover the plant with a shade cloth if it’s too sunny.
Pruning the Leaves and Branches
Yellow or wilted leaves should be trimmed off with a clean pruning shear as close to the base of the plant as possible. Cut off 1/3rd of the long and overgrown branches near the base. Then, after about a month, when the plant has new leaf growth up to an inch long, again cut back about 1/3rd of the longest branches.
Repotting an Overgrown Plant
If your plant has outgrown its container, transfer it to another pot that should be no more than 1 to 3 inches larger. Take the plant out of its old container carefully, as the root ball often gets quite tightly bound. Patiently separate the roots with your fingers, or use a potting knife if they are too firm.
When you place the plant into the new pot, make sure there is sufficient potting soil below so that the plant sits about an inch below the rim of the pot. Fill the sides with some more soil and water thoroughly until it flows out from the bottom, helping the soil to moisten and settle well into the new container.
Since Croton does not like to change its place, it is better to use as large a pot you can, so it can grow in it for longer.
Problems Associated with Croton Growth and Ways to Prevent Them
Unless the plant is taken care of properly, it may develop quite a few pests and diseases. Here are some problems you should be well aware of when growing the plant:
While inadequate sunlight causes the leaves to remain green, too much of it causes fading of the colors. Make sure your plant receives the required amount of sunlight to prevent such problems.
Your plant may display curled leaves as a result of over-fertilization. So, stick to the normal fertilizing schedule as mentioned earlier to avoid excessive feeding.
Spider mites, causing yellow spots on the leaves, can be a common pest for plants grown indoors. They are often not easily detected due to the natural splashy markings on the leaves. Maintain high humidity levels inside your house to prevent this. Rubbing the leaves with a moist paper towel removes the spider mites as well as prevents further infestation.
Your leaves may often be infested with mealy bugs, causing extreme damage to the plant. Dab the leaves with a cotton ball dipped in isopropyl alcohol to kill the bugs. If several leaves have been attacked, get rid of them with a heavy stream of water mixed with neem oil/insecticidal soap.
Croton caterpillars, eating away the leaves of your plant can be a huge problem. Application of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) insecticide liquids is effective as it contains the bacterium Bt that helps in killing those caterpillars. The method works better when applied during the spring.
As a general method of elimination and prevention of a pest attack, regularly clean the leaves with organic neem insecticide oil.
Edema is a common problem caused when the roots absorb water beyond their capacity, leading to blistering of leaves. Reduce watering until the blistering subsides, and avoid overwatering to prevent it.
Crown gall is a bacterial condition of the plant characterized by swollen growths on the veins and stems of the plant. Use a pruning sealer to cut off such growths. However, the problem may recur since the bacteria come from the soil. So, re-potting could be a more effective solution.
Damp leaves are often subjected to powdery mildew that appears as white powdery deposits all over the leaves. Rubbing a mild solution of neem oil regularly on the leaves should keep it under control. Watering the base of the plant instead of spraying the leaves may help prevent this problem.
Can Croton be Harmful to You
They are not usually harmful or poisonous unless your skin remains in direct contact with its sap for a prolonged time, in which case, it can lead to irritation. Additionally, if the sap gets into your mouth, it may cause vomiting, nausea, and stomach upset. So, always wear gloves when working with the plant, avoid touching your face or mouth without washing your hands, and keep your kids, and pets away from it.