Let’s just take some minutes to appreciate these gorgeous and colorful specimens! With their hypnotic foliage, Croton plants made their way into many gardeners’ hearts around the world pretty fast. Once you set your eyes on one of these beauties, oh, boy! It is almost impossible to resist. Also, they are pretty easy to grow as ornamental houseplants as long as you manage to simulate their natural habitat conditions.
Codiaeum Variegatum, otherwise known as Garden Croton, Fire Croton, Variegated Croton, or simply just Croton, is a species of evergreen plants in the Euphorbiaceae family. Croton plants can be found growing in scrub and the open forests of Malaysia, Indonesia, the western Pacific Ocean islands, and Australia.
About Croton Plants
- These plants belong to the Codiaeum genus that contains about 17 accepted species. There are a few notable Croton varieties, such as C. Variegatum var. Pictum, C. Variegatum ‘Gold Star’, and C. Variegatum ‘Petra’.
- They are often mistaken for species of Croton, a genus that contains about 700 species also in the Euphorbiaceae family.
- Croton plants prefer warm locations with bright, indirect light. If the leaf edges are brown and they start to drop, it may be a result of cooler temperature exposure.
- Like all tropical plants, Crotons are humidity lovers that need regular watering and frequent misting.
- The most common problems with Croton plants are under-watering and over-watering. Pay attention to your Croton because these plants usually show obvious signs of inadequate watering.
- They respond best to fertilizers that are high in nitrogen and potassium, as these chemicals help them develop strong stems and leaves.
- All parts of the Croton plants are poisonous to pets and humans. They produce an irritating sap, so it is better to wear garden gloves when caring for them and keep them away from curious cats, dogs, and children.
Croton Plants Features: An Overview
- They are monoecious shrubs that can reach up to 9.8 feet (3 m) in height. Depending on the variety, the size of these plants can be different.
- Croton plants are pretty challenging to grow indoors. A specimen that grows in a container will surely be much smaller than one that grows in its natural habitat.
- They exhibit a large, leathery, and glossy evergreen foliage that grow alternately arranged. Usually, their leaves are 2 to 11.8 inches (5-30 cm) long and 0.2 to 3.15 inches (0.5-8 cm) wide.
- When their stems are cut or the leaves are removed, Croton plants bleed a milky sap.
- With a vast diversity of shapes, these plants are pretty impressive. Their leaf blades can be elliptic, ovate inverted or spatulate, lanceolate, oblong, or violin-shaped.
- Croton plants display a diverse color palette and appear in various bright blends of green, purple, red, orange, or yellow. Some varieties, like ‘Gold Dust’, are sprinkled with shiny colored spots.
- If you are a lucky owner, these plants may produce male and female flowers in early autumn. Their male blooms are white with five tiny petals, while the female ones are yellow and have no petals.
- They bear small fruits with a diameter of 0.35 inches (9 mm) that contain three seeds.
Growing Croton Plants
Used to the tropical conditions of their natural habitat, Croton plants are somehow pretty difficult to mishandle. They love warm and humid environments, a mix that requires a little extra effort to achieve perfect balance. When it comes to growing croton plants, there’s always something new to learn and you have come to the right place!
If you want to grow your croton plant indoors, plant it in a pot that has one or more drainage holes at the bottom. This will ensure proper drainage and will not keep the soil soggy. When choosing the pot size, look for one that is about one third larger than your specimen’s root ball. These plants do not appreciate shock, so avoid moving your Croton once you have found the perfect spot to place it.
Croton plants respond well to bright and indirect sunlight, as their vibrant foliage color directly depends on the light intensity. They can, however, thrive in dappled sunlight or partial shade, but they will not exhibit the best color overall. For both outdoor and indoor growing, make sure you protect these plants from harsh, direct sunlight. The ideal locations for them to grow would be mostly sunny, such as south, east, or west-facing windows.
If you live in a warm climate, such as those from the hardiness zones 10 and 11, it is possible to grow a Croton plant into your garden. In cooler climates, it is better to grow your plant indoors where you can control the environment. During the daytime, Croton plants do well in temperatures that range from 70 and 80 °F (21-27 °C). Make sure you keep the room temperature above 60 °F (16 °C) and not expose them to cold drafts or frost, as they will not survive to anything that drops below this value. At night, the room temperature should be around 65 °F (18 °C).
Generally, Croton plants are not magnets for pests, but spider mites like feeding onto their leaves. A plant that is infested by spider mites will show yellow or brown spots, pale colors, or white webbing on their leaves. If you notice any sign of infestation, you can easily treat your Croton with what you already have in your home. Mix a little quantity of warm water with a teaspoon of hand soap or liquid dish and dip a cotton cloth into it. Clean the leaves with the cloth and repeat the process daily until the spider mites are gone.
Repotting Croton plants
Croton plants will grow healthy in any neutral and well-draining potting soil that is rich in organic matter. For optimal results, it is suggested you spoil your Croton with regular fertilizing during the active growing period. From spring to early autumn, feed your plant with powder or liquid fertilizer once a month to provide it with lots of nutrients. During dormancy periods, skip the fertilizing.
Repot your Croton plants once they start to outgrow their current container. Due to their sensitivity to shock, these plants may lose some leaves in the process. If you want to minimize the leaf drop, you should repot these plants in mid or late spring only.
Make sure you move your Croton to a pot that is one or two inches (2.5-5 cm) larger than the current one. To maintain the current size of your plant, you can repot it into the same container or just prune it regularly.
Fill the pot halfway with fresh potting soil, remove the plant from the previous one, and place it carefully into the new one. Instead of store-bought potting soil, you can also prepare your own by mixing half peat moss and half compost. Add more potting soil enough to cover the roots and water it thoroughly.
Watering Croton Plants
If you provide your Croton plants with well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes, watering them is nothing but a piece of cake. Keep in mind that they respond well to lukewarm water, as thus you avoid shocking the roots.
During the warm periods, Croton plants prefer a constantly damp soil and frequent misting. Like all tropical plants, they love moisture but do not appreciate a soggy or wet soil. To give them the proper quantities of water, make sure you check the soil in-between waterings. When the top half-inch (1.3 cm) of soil feels dry to the touch, you will know that is watering time.
Throughout their dormant periods, you should cut back on watering. Allow the first 1 inch (2.5 cm) of soil to dry out before watering again and remove any excess water.
If the leaves of your plant have brown tips or they start to drop off, it may be an indicator that the plant does not receive enough water. In this case, provide your croton with more water and mist the foliage more often to make your plant healthy again.
Although these plants require moist soil, they can be over-watered sometimes. If you notice some wilting leaves on your plant, you can correct the problem by cutting back the plant.
Croton plants love lots of humidity. They thrive in humid locations with values that range between 40% and 80%, but the preferred level is somewhere around 70%. You can maintain the ideal humidity levels by using a humidifier or misting your plant once every one or two days. Many growers also place their Crotons’ pot above a tray that is filled with pebbles and water.
Propagating Croton Plants
If you want to surprise your friends with a special gift, Croton plants are easily propagated through stem cuttings. They produce small shoots that can be removed from the mother plant and planted independently.
Take a cutting using a sharp knife and dip it into rooting hormone for better results. Fill a pot with fresh potting soil and plant the cutting gently. Move the container into a sunny location and water it regularly to keep the soil damp. Once the cutting has developed a strong root system, it can be considered a baby Croton. And how cute it is!
Croton plants are fascinating to have around. With their unique appearance, they will attract many admirers throughout their life. And the best thing about them is that they are not difficult to care for! All you have to do is to provide them with bright and indirect light, a warm and humid location, and a little extra attention from time to time. And this, my friend, will keep your croton happy for a long time!