Last Updated on October 31, 2021 by Phil
Crotons are easy to grow houseplants with amazingly mesmerizing leaves. As you would guess, they’re grown for their variegated foliage which comes in a variety of beautiful colors, including orange, red, yellow, pink, and white among many others.
But what many people don’t know is that these lovely plants have a hidden benefit, they clean the air you breathe. This makes them perfect for your living room or bedroom since they get rid of contaminants in the air.
Learn how to grow and care for these lovely houseplants below.
About the Croton Plant
Crotons are native to Southeast Asia and the Oceania region. As such, they enjoy tropical and subtropical conditions. This makes them prevalent in USDA zones 9, 10, and 11.
They’re a favorite indoor houseplant because many of them are small in size. But, they can likewise be seen outdoors where they’re often used as hedges and shrubs.
Their colorful foliage makes them focal points or at the very least points of attention.
Like many other plants, it has a lot of varieties. These range from shrubs to trees, with the smaller ones standing about 3 feet tall while the bigger ones growing up to 10 feet in height.
Like most plants keeping them indoors in small containers limits their growth. Thus, it makes their size more manageable.
Besides their beautiful variegated foliage, one of their biggest selling points is that they’re easy to grow and care for.
And, if you treat them right, these tropical perennials will live on can live on for as long as 20-40 years.
These are just some of the reasons why they make a good houseplant.
All said, one thing worth noting about crotons is that they don’t like to be moved. They’re happy staying put once they’ve established themselves.
So, do pick where you want to place them and let them be. If you keep moving them, the shock of the transplant can make them lose their lovely leaves.
Last, but not least, it’s important to know that crotons are poisonous. All parts are toxic when consumed. And at large quantities, it can cause stomach discomfort and other unpleasant symptoms.
Thus, it’s not a good idea to put them within reach of playful pets and children who might be curious enough to try.
And, if you plan on keeping them inside your home, do know that their leaves attract a lot of dust. So, do take the time to wipe their leaves whenever you vacuum or clean.
Croton Plant Care
Now that you know a little about this popular houseplant, here are the details on how to properly take care of them so you can enjoy their lovely, colorful foliage for many years to come.
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Croton Plant Light Requirements
Crotons like a lot of bright sunlight. As such, both the east, west and south-facing windows work well for it.
But, be careful with being too generous, since too much intense sunlight burns their leaves. This is a bigger risk during summertime, mid-afternoons with hot climates and dry conditions.
This is less of a problem for east-facing windows. But, for south and west-facing locations, you can use a cloth or fabric to protect them during the hottest times of the day. This ensures that they don’t get too much direct, intense sunlight.
On the flips side, too little light also reduces the vibrancy of the colors of its leaves making them look dull. The plant itself will grow towards the sun and end up looking tall and lanky.
Croton Plant Temperature & Humidity
Because of their tropical origins, crotons like warm climates. As such, they thrive in temperatures between 55-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
But, it’s also worth noting that you don’t want to go past either end of that range.
Going any lower will likely cause their leaves to turn brown. And, very hot temperatures are likewise problematic as well.
As you would expect, these perennial shrubs like high humidity as well.
Add to the fact that they help purify the air in your home, this makes them ideal for the kitchen and bathroom.
Both locations have humid conditions due to the moisture. And, they’re also prone to either smoke (from cooking) and odors (bathroom).
The downside to putting them there is that you and your guest don’t get to admire their beautiful foliage.
So, a good compromise would be to either use a small humidifier or place them above a “water bath” of pebbles. Both allow you to increase the humidity levels.
For younger plants, misting is an option. But, it can get quite tedious when you have a lot of them and when they get bigger.
If you happen to live in areas with hot, humid summers, you can grow them outdoors as hedges or colorful focal points.
Crotons are not heavy drinkers. So, you don’t need to water them too frequently.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to water them when the soil starts to dry. This allows them to stay hydrated before there’s not enough water.
One way to tell is to put your finger into the soil between half an inch to an inch deep. If the soil is dry, then it’s time to water.
When you do water them thoroughly.
Keep pouring water onto the soil until it starts leaking out from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
Once you’re done, you can step away. Then, just wait for the next time when the soil nearly dries up again.
Like most houseplants, too little and too much moisture is both problematic. So, here are a few symptoms to watch out for.
- If you see its leaves start to wilt, you’re likely overwatering.
- If its foliage start dropping or drying out, then you’re giving it too little water.
From above, you can probably already guess that crotons like well-draining soil. That said, they enjoy moist soil. But, you don’t want to get too generous with watering to the point where the soil gets soggy.
Like most colorful plants, these compact houseplants like soil with lots of organic matter. That’s because they need the nutrients in order to create energy which they use to produce their lovely foliage.
The good news is, most potting mixes work well. You do want to get something more acidic since they enjoy soil pH levels of between 4.5 to 6.5.
And, do avoid soil that’s calcium-rich as well.
Since many crotons are grown in containers as houseplants, it’s also worth mentioning that you should container a pot that’s wide enough and good weight. This is so that it can accommodate the plant as it gets bigger since crotons don’t like being moved from where they are.
Additionally, it also prevents it from tipping over when it grows and becomes top-heavy.
Fertilizing Croton Plants
Crotons don’t need frequent fertilizing. once during the spring and another during summer.
Choose a slow-release acidic fertilizer which will provide them with the nutrients over a longer period of time.
However, it’s worth noting that you can make them grow faster if you fertilize more often.
This is the case for younger crotons which may need extra feeding around July.
Pruning is likewise low maintenance with crotons.
The only time you’ll really need to prune them is when you see diseased or dead foliage. Besides that, it’s just to keep their size small.
However, there’s one important thing to keep in mind when doing so.
When you cut it, crotons will release a milky sap that irritates the skin and can cause stains.
As such, it’s a good idea to wear gloves and use an old shirt that you don’t worry about getting stained.
As always, make sure to use only clean cutting tools, be it scissors or shears in order to avoid transferring any contaminants.
Croton Plant Propagation
Stem cutting is a very simple way to propagate croton. This allows you to grow your own plant without having to buy one from the garden center. Thus, saving you money with just a little bit of work.
Here’s how to propagate crotons at home.
- Choose a stem that’s about 3-4 inches long. Pick one with at least 3 leaves.
- Once you cut off the stem you have two options.
- One is to place the stem in a glass of water. Or, you can dip it in rooting hormone then plant it into a pot with soil.
- Because humid conditions help it grow, you can cover it with plastic to produce these conditions.
- Within a few weeks, you should start seeing roots grow. At this point, you can move the stem from the glass of water to a container.
Repotting Croton Plants
Crotons aren’t the fastest-growing plants. This, along with the fact that most of them are quite compact in size, makes them ideal as houseplants.
But, at some point, they’ll start outgrowing the pot they’re currently in.
When that happens, it’s time to repot.
- The best time to do it is during early spring.
- Choose a pot that’s about 1-2 inches wider in diameter bigger than the container it’s currently in. This gives it some extra room before you have to repot.
- Be careful when taking the root ball out of the container. You don’t want to jar or be too aggressive that you end up shocking it.
- Check the roots. If they’re bound around the ball, then gently separate each of the root tops and let them extend outwards.
- Add potting soil to the new container. The goal is to get enough soil underneath so that the plant gets up to the same level where it was in the old pot.
- Insert croton into the new pot.
- Fill in the sides with soil to help stabilize the plant.
- Water the soil thoroughly. Stop when the water starts dripping out the bottom of the pot.