Chances are, if you love plants and gardens, or just like to browse your local garden center, you’ve noticed the striking croton plant, with its colorful variegated leaves. There are many croton (Codiaeum variegatum) varieties, with leaves in an impressive range of sizes, shapes, and colors, including green, purple, pink, red, orange, yellow, and white. When planted in the right environment, croton is a striking statement plant, growing up to ten feet tall, with dwarf plants that top out at three feet. The thick, waxy leaves typically grow in clusters, beginning at the base of the plant, giving it a full, lush appearance.
Crotons are popular houseplants, and not just for their stunning good looks. They are known for cleaning the air, and are prized in feng shui design. Their resilience makes them excellent indoor plants, and a great choice if you’re ordering plants for delivery.
Note: Croton plants are poisonous to animals and humans. Though they aren’t the most highly toxic plants (toxicity level 1-2), skin exposure from the thorns or sap can cause a rash, and ingestion can cause nausea, diarrhea, and rash. Handle crotons carefully, and place them out of reach for pets and children. Learn more about pet-toxic flowers and plants with our guide.
Crotons in the Garden
These tropical evergreen shrubs are native to Southeast Asia, India, and the South Pacific Islands, and need warm temperatures year round when planted outdoors. In zones 9-11, they’re known for their easy maintenance and the burst of color they bring to the garden. When planting in the ground, it’s best to plant crotons in the spring. Don’t despair if you’re in a colder zone, though. Potted plants add texture to outdoor gardens, and the minimal effort is worth the results!
To keep a croton in your outdoor garden in cooler zones, try a potted dwarf variety that can be brought indoors when temperatures drop below 55.Your croton will let you know if it’s too cold by losing its bottom leaves, which typically grow from the bottom of the shrub near the soil. Croton loving gardeners in colder zones notoriously keep these showstoppers in containers on casters, for ease of moving them indoors when the weather turns.
As an indoor plant, croton has a reputation for being temperamental, and that’s unfortunate, because when cared for properly, the croton is quite resilient and even hard to kill. The disappointing reviews stem from croton’s dislike for being moved. Upon its arrival, your croton may even look like it’s on its way out, having lost a few or even most of its leaves.
Croton plants tend to go into shock when moved, so just give a little thought to finding your croton a permanent spot. Most crotons fare best near an east or west facing window, but it’s best to read up on the specific needs of the variety you have. In order to nurture it to full health, make sure you’ve addressed all placement concerns, so that you won’t need to move it again.
Croton Plant Care Tips
It’s important to read the information that comes with each specific variety of croton, so that you’ll know its specific care needs. While most crotons need full, direct sunlight, some fare better with some shade. Just as important is knowing how large your croton will grow, as they can range from three to ten feet tall, and from one to six feet wide. Crotons do not like to be moved or transplanted, so it’s best to address these issues before acquiring your plant to ensure that it will thrive.
Crotons don’t like wet feet, so they need to be planted in well-draining soil. They require less fertilizer when planted in the ground than when planted in containers, and do best in slightly acidic soil with a Ph between 4.5 and 6.5. Many growers prefer using a cactus/succulent soil blend.
Keep the soil moist for croton plants, giving them about an inch of water per week. In winter, reduce watering to once every two weeks, and monitor for dryness. When too dry, the croton’s new foliage will begin to wilt. In dry environments, crotons need misting as well as consistently moist soil.
Most crotons need bright sunlight to bring out their vivid colors, but some varieties like partial shade. They are best planted where they’ll get 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. It is possible for a croton plant to get too much sunlight, which results in scorched leaves.
Potential Croton Plant Pests
Act fast against these critters – they can do a lot of damage, and move to other plants.
These scale insects have a waxy coating resembling tiny cotton balls, which protects them from water-based pesticides. They drain the sap from the leaves, leaving lesions that ultimately cause mold. To get rid of mealybugs, clean the leaves with one of two methods that penetrate their protective outer coating.
- DIY – dip cotton swabs in alcohol, and touch the back of every bug, checking the bottoms and crevices of leaves. It can take a couple of days to completely dissolve the bugs’ shells. Spray clean water on leaves to wash away dead bugs, larvae, and eggs
- Insecticidal soap – carefully follow directions on the label. And make sure to thoroughly cover all plant surfaces.
Another scale insect, croton scale, discovered in 2008, infests about 72 varieties of croton. Aside from the methods to address mealybugs, Neem oil, a common all-natural pesticide, can be effective, although it may not be enough for some infestations.
Red Spider Mites
Spider mites are attracted to crotons grown indoors in dry heat. Mites are especially hard to spot on crotus’ variegated leaves, as the most visible evidence of their presence is small white spots, and eventually thin webs, on the undersides of the leaves. If undetected, they can cause big problems. Chasing them off is pretty easy – they hate water, especially cold water! Simply wipe the leaves with cold water, and spray consistently to keep the air from drying near the plant.
Tiny thrips are hard to see, but you won’t miss the damage they cause. If you see brown streaks, or gray or white spots on the leaves of your croton, chances are you have thrips. Thrips can decimate your croton and spread disease to other plants. Because they fly, they can be hard to get rid of. Washing leaves with insecticidal soap or coating them with neem oil can be effective. Like spider mites, thrips prefer a dry, dusty climate, so avoid them by keeping your plant’s leaves clean and misted.
Croton Plant Diseases to Watch Out For
Croton plants are resilient survivors, but they aren’t immune to certain diseases. While it’s rare for a healthy croton to develop a disease, it’s good to know what to look out for.
Oedema is a result of overwatering, a possible pitfall with a plant that likes moisture. The result is blistering on the leaves due to over absorption. The fix is simple – stop watering until the symptoms disappear, and then adjust the watering regimen.
This common plant infection looks like gray or white dust, appearing on both sides of the leaves. Untreated, it stunts new leaf growth. Treat it with neem oil or potassium bicarbonate to kill bacteria. To keep mildew away, avoid getting leaves wet and reduce humidity around the plant.
Also called bacterial leaf spot or leaf blight, antracnose causes beige colored dead spots on leaves. To remove it, carefully prune diseased leaves, being careful to avoid contact with healthy leaves. Sterilize tools after use. For heavy infections, spray copper fungicide.
This bacterial disease actually injects its own DNA into vulnerable plants, causing tumors that disrupt normal growth. More likely to be found in plants that were propagated through cuttings, crown gall is treated with K84 antibiotic.
Nectrella Pironii (Kutilakesa Pironii)
This fungus attacks foliage leaving brown-ringed sunken spots with pink spore masses in the center. Eventually it will cause the leaves to turn brown and fall off. Similar to antracnose, remove with careful pruning. You can follow this up with a broad spectrum fungicide.
Croton Plant Varieties
There are over 100 croton varieties, each with unique features – where do you start? Take a look at a few popular croton types to get a feel for what appeals to you.
Gold Dusted Croton has bright green leaves dotted with yellow and white flowers that bloom year round, making it a popular houseplant. It grows three to six feet tall, with 2 -3 inch long, 1 inch wide leaves.
A stunning ornamental plant, Petra Croton reaches 4 – 6 feet high, and boasts large richly variegated leaves in orange, bronze, and burgundy.
The long, narrow leaves of the Zanzibar Croton display a range of colors as the plant matures, from bright yellow to deep burgundy and purple. Zanzibar Croton can rhea up to 6 feet when mature.
As the name suggests, this croton variety is rare, for those exotic plant collectors. Croton Rare Thai’s large, gracefully curled leaves are usually red and yellow, the colors intensifying with ample sunlight.
The large, oblong leaves of Sunny Star Croton seem to erupt in golden yellow from the base, giving them a sun-dappled appearance. Sunny Star grows to 4 – 6 feet in ideal indoor conditions.
Croton and Other Plants from the Bouqs
Croton is an ideal plant to give as a gift or add to your own collection. Its year round splash of color makes it a true decor element. A low maintenance plant due to its resilience and durability, croton is also a high performing air purifier.
Check out The Bouqs for croton and similar plants for delivery, and for all your plant care information. If the croton caught your interest, you might want to read on for more on prayer plant care as well as how to care for lucky bamboo plants. We’re your source for sustainable delivery of live plants and the freshest bouquets, from the farm to your door!Shop All