Croton

Croton is an extensive flowering plant genus in the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae. The plants of this genus were described and introduced to Europeans by Georg Eberhard Rumphius. The common names for this genus are rushfoil and croton, but the latter also refers to Codiaeum variegatum. The botanical name of croton is Codiaeum variegatum. Croton, also called “garden croton,” are native to the tropical forests of southeast Asia and Oceania.



Croton variegatum is known for its bright, colorful foliage that changes color with age, in shades of green, yellow, and fiery orange and red. These colors usually contrast along the plant’s veins, giving the characteristic pattern it is beloved for. Outdoors, these plants can grow many feet tall with densely packed leaves and a widespread. Indoors and in less than optimal conditions, they will only grow to a few feet tall but retain the dense foliage for a colorful display all year round.


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

1 - 8 feet


Width-Circumference (Avg)

1 - 6 feet


Approximate pH

4.5 - 6.5


Types of Croton Plant


Zanzibar Croton



Zanzibar can grow up to 3-4 feet tall. It produces green, red, purple, orange, and yellow narrow leaves and works as a great contrasting plant.


Yellow Iceton Croton



Yellow Iceton shows off mid-green foliage with lush yellow variegation. The plant can reach up to 3-4 feet tall. This type of croton can be grown both as an indoor and outdoor plant.


Superstar Croton



The bright green leaves of this croton splashed with yellow spots definitely make it look like a superstar! The plant can grow up to 3-5 feet tall.


Red Iceton Croton



Red Iceton produces yellow leaves that mature in a striking shade of red and pink hues with bright veins. It attains a height up to 7-8 feetwhen grown outdoors.


Sunny Star Croton



Sunny Star features large elliptical light green leaves, dashed in gold color near the base of each leaf. It also works as a great houseplant and can attain a height of 4-6 feet.


Petra Croton



Native to Southeast Asia, the plant features large wide leaves in the shades of yellow, green, orange, bronze, and burgundy red. It can grow up to 4-5 feet tall.


Oakleaf Croton



The Oakleaf croton exhibits tri-lobed leaves in shades of burgundy, red, green, orange, and yellow. You can plant it on walkways or grow it indoors near a good light source as well!


Mother and Daughter Croton



This exotic croton variety shows off long narrow leaves that end at a point and interestingly give an appearance of holding another small leaflet. The leaves have deep green to deep purple leaves splashed in small yellow or ivory dashes.


Mrs. Iceton Croton



This beautiful specimen displays light green leaves shaded with yellow, golden, orange, and red tones. It can reach up to 3-6 feet tall. This is one of the best types of crotons on the list!


Mammy Croton



Mammy produces thick, glossy, large curly leaves in the shades of red, green, purple, and bright yellow. You can grow it outdoor as a shrub and indoors as a houseplant. It grows up to 4-6 feet tall. It is one of the best Types of Crotons you can grow!


Lauren’s Rainbow Croton


The long, narrow leaves of Lauren Rainbow have shades of yellow, green, and deep purple. It grows up to 4-5 feet tall with a similar spread. It is humidity and drought tolerant, making it an ideal choice as a houseplant.


Gold Star Croton



This beautiful, slow-growing variety has narrow dark green leaves patterned with shiny yellow splashes. This evergreen plant is very low demanding and easy to grow. It can reach up to a height of 3-6 feet.


Florida Select Croton


This showy plant has smooth and medium-sized velvety green leaves with orange, red, and yellow veins. The plant is poisonous if ingested, so keep your pets and children away from nibbling its leaves.


Gold Dust Croton



Also known as Sun-Spot Croton, it features bright green oval-shaped leaves sprinkled with golden yellow spots. You can also grow it as a houseplant, but it needs full exposure to bright indirect sunlight.


Bush on Fire Croton



This croton produces leathery leaves in the shades of pink, green, red, orange, and yellow. The color of the leaves changes with age. It can grow up to a height of 3-5 feet.


Eleanor Roosevelt Croton



“Eleanor Roosevelt’ displays green to purple, long narrow leaves sprinkled with golden yellow hues. Henry Coppinger originated this variety in the year the 1920s. It attains heights up to 4-6 feet.


Banana Croton



Bring colors to your interior by growing this bright croton variety with lance-shaped green leaves splashed with banana-yellow. It can grow up to a height of 3-4 feet.


Andrew Croton


‘Andrew’ is a popular croton variety that produces narrow, long green leaves with creamy white streaks. It reaches up to 3-5 feet tall. You can grow it on hedges too!


Magnificent Croton



It is a compact plant with huge dark green-colored variegated leaves spotted with pink, red, orange, bright yellow, and purple. Usually, it reaches 5-7 feet on maturity when grown outdoors and 3-4 feet when grown indoors.


Picasso’s Paintbrush Croton



Picasso’s Paintbrush is a variety of thin leaves that lives up to its artistic name with a brilliant pastel color pallet. The narrow leaves also make it look similar to ornamental grass. It is one of the best Types of Crotons you can grow!


Dreadlocks Croton



With deep dark green-colored, curled, and twisted leaves, the name suits this variety of croton. The leaves gradually change into bright red, orange, and yellow colors with time.


Planting Croton

  • When choosing a container for your croton, keep in mind that the plant will grow upright, which eventually may cause it to become top heavy. Pick a container that won’t easily tip over when the croton gets larger. Or, plan to pot up to larger pots over time.

  • Use a well-draining potting mix. Croton like to be kept moist, but not wet.

  • In areas with warm, humid summers, croton can be grown outdoors as a unique and colorful landscape plant. They work well in tropical-themed containers or alongside annuals in the ground. When nighttime temperatures drop to around 50°F (10°C), croton will need to be taken indoors.


How to Get Croton to Bloom


All crotons are capable of making tiny star-shaped flowers on long thin stems when grown outdoors. However, croton plants rarely flower when grown indoors. The flower stem looks like a feathery vine, and the tiny blooms don't have a scent. They can flower any time of year, but it will likely happen when conditions are ideal, such as bright sun, enriched and acidic soil, moist but not soggy soil, and temps in the 70 to 80 F range. Also, relocating an indoor plant outdoors when the temperatures are warm may spur flower production.


Croton Care


A well-grown croton keeps its leaves down to the soil level—and the trick to this is to provide steady warmth. Even in outdoor settings, crotons drop leaves after a cold night. Vibrant leaf colors depend on the quality of light; they need lots of bright, shifting sunlight.


Low humidity inside the house makes crotons particularly susceptible to spider mites. Mist the plants daily to avoid an infestation. Crotons can be brought outdoors when temperatures remain above 50 F, provided they are properly acclimated to the light and temperature conditions.


Light


Crotons need bright, indirect light. Some may not tolerate unfiltered, direct sunlight and tend to thrive in dappled sunlight. Vibrant colors depend on if it gets sufficient bright light. If the plant lacks the light it requires, the leaves will turn green.


Water


Keep them evenly moist in the summer. Croton plants need about one inch of water per week. Reduce watering in the winter to biweekly. Watch the plant for signs that it needs more water, such as wilting young foliage. Increase watering if the wilting noticeably happens during hot weather, but check the top couple of inches of soil with a finger for moisture before you increase water. If it's still moist, hold off on watering. Mist frequently during the growth period.


Soil


A well-drained, moist soil that has been enriched with compost is ideal. This plant prefers humus-rich, acidic soil.


Temperature and Humidity


Keep the room above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and do not expose the plant to cold drafts. Humidity, along with the lack of bright light, also affects the color of the leaves. Keep the humidity level at 40 to 80 percent. If the humidity isn't high enough, the plant may drop some of its leaves. If you have trouble maintaining the moisture in your home at this level, run a humidifier in the room or set a humidity tray beneath the plant and group it with other plants.


Fertilizer


Apply slow-release pellets three times per growing season: early spring, mid-summer, and early fall. Or, you can use a liquid fertilizer every other month during the growing season from early March to the end of September. Since fertilizers vary widely by type, read the package instructions for feeding quantity. In most cases, if you intend to feed on a regular schedule, you can reduce the package-suggested amount by half strength. Then, observe the plant's growth rate over the next month; you can adjust and add or reduce fertilizer depending on how vigorous you want your plants to grow. Stop giving fertilizer during the winter months.


Since this plant prefers slightly acidic soil, use acidifying fertilizers that contain ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, or sulfur-coated urea. Your best target NPK ratios are 3-1-2 and 8-2-10 (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium).


Pruning and Propagating Croton Plant


Pruning


These plants respond well to trimming, so if your croton plant becomes leggy, prune it back hard at the beginning of the growing season. Remove unhealthy leaves and branches or if you want to maintain a specific shape. Trim just above a node or leaf set. Try not to remove more than 1/3 of the stem at one time. The plant will regrow from the cut portion. If pruning an indoor plant, move it outside once it's been hardened off or gradually introduced to outdoor conditions for a week.


Propagating Croton Plant


You can propagate croton plants any time of year; the codependent factor is temperature. In tropical locales where the temperature remains consistently in the 70 to 80 F range, you can propagate croton plants year-round outdoors. Similarly, you can propagate indoors or in a greenhouse if you can maintain those temperatures. Crotons do not grow well from seed, as the plant is unstable, and the offspring won't resemble the parent. Crotons are easily propagated with stem cuttings. Stem cuttings encourage new growth and will control the size of the plant. Use a rooting hormone on your stem-cut ends to increase the odds of rooting success.


Crotons sometimes produce "sports," or shoots, that are entirely different from the parent plant. These offshoots can be potted up independently, and only cuttings reproduce a plant identical to the parent. Here's how to propagate your croton by division:

  1. You will need sterile pruners, well-draining commercial potting soil (sand, peat moss, and a vermiculite mixture), a growing pot, and rooting hormone (optional). You do not need a pot if you plant directly in the ground in tropical environments.

  2. Using sharp, clean pruning shears, cut a 4- to 6-inch stem with the circumference of a pencil at a 45-degree angle right above a leaf node. The cutting should have at least three leaves.

  3. Optional: For a higher rate of rooting success, dip the cutting in rooting hormone at the cut point.

  4. Plant the cutting in moistened soil about 1 to 1.5 inches deep. Put the plant in a warm, sunny spot away from cold drafts. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. You can enclose the pot in a clear plastic bag to create a greenhouse atmosphere to increase rooting success. After one week, remove the plastic bag.

  5. Roots should develop in four weeks. If you notice new growth, the plant has rooted. You can also test rooting by giving the cutting a gentle tug. If it feels taut, it has set roots. Once a plant has rooted, it's ready for transplanting to a larger pot or a spot inground.

Potting and Repotting Croton Plant


Repot a young croton every year in the spring or early summer for the first three growing seasons. After that, only repot when you notice roots growing out of the drainage holes or see roots growing at the soil level. Get a container with ample drainage holes. It should be only one size larger than the plant's current container. Put one to two inches of damp peat-based potting soil into the bottom of the new container.


Remove the plant from its old container by turning the croton on its side and gently sliding it out of its container. Set it in the center of the new pot. Fill in around the roots with potting soil. Water the plant and add additional soil if needed to bring the soil level to about one inch below the rim of the new container.


Overwintering


Crotons are sensitive to cold weather. If you live in a location that sometimes gets freezing temperatures or infrequent cold snaps, you should consider maintaining your plants in pots and bringing them indoors during temps that plunge lower than 50 F.


To protect in-ground specimens during unexpected cold weather, add about two inches of mulch around the base of the plant to insulate the roots. Use gardener’s blankets to keep the frost away. Use stakes to keep the blankets from weighing down the leaves and branches. These coverings keep in the warmth and protect against ice and harsh winds. Ensure the coverings are staked well or weighted down, so they do not blow away with the wind.


Pests and Plant Diseases


Croton is susceptible to a few plant diseases and pests. Crown gall is a common bacterial infection that affects croton. Crown gall appears like thick, swollen growths on the croton's stems and the veins of its leaves. If your plant gets this disease, it's recommended that you pull up the plant, discard it, and sterilize the container and gardening tools. It can spread to other plants and leave a wake of destruction in its path.


Anthracnose is a fungal infection that is sometimes called leaf spot or leaf blight. It makes tan-colored spots on the leaves. Cut off any infected foliage and avoid letting the leaves touch other plants since its spores can spread. If most of the plant looks affected, treat the plant with a standard copper-based garden fungicide.


The insects that like croton include mealybugs, spider mites, scales, and thrips. Use pesticides to remove these pests or less harsh alternatives like horticultural oil or insecticidal soap. If left untreated, leaf growth may get stunted, leaves will drop, and the plant can eventually die.


Common Problems With Croton Plant


Crotons are finicky plants. Cool breezes, insufficient humidity, and poor soil or insufficient nutrients will affect the health of this plant and can invite a host of problems, including pests, diseases, and a lackluster appearance. Control its environment as best as you can to keep your plant thriving.

Dull Leaf Coloration


The plant's most vibrant colors come with bright light, but the temperatures must not be sweltering. Summer in tropic zones might be a little too much for some croton. Reduce or hold off on applying fertilizer during a heatwave or higher temps. Intensely hot days will stress out croton and may cause graying or flat colors. Fans or air ventilation can cool down the leaves and will help preserve the health of the leaves. Check water levels and don't let the plant dry out during periods of high heat.


Curling or Rolling Leaves


Leaves can roll or twist when the leaves get large and the color is flat or full. To fix this, reduce fertilizer. The plant is likely growing too quickly and may need more light to grow properly. Move the plant to a location with more lighting if you can.


Leaf Drop


Crotons will drop their leaves at any hint of cool temperatures or cool drafts. Bring in the plant if your plant is in a pot outdoors and the forecast calls for temperatures dipping below 50 F. Insect activity can also cause leaves to fall, namely mites and mealybugs. Inspect the undersides of leaves closely for tiny eggs or insects. You'll need to clean off the leaves with insecticidal soap or treat the affected areas with horticultural oil to remove the pests.


Benefits of Croton Plant


Air Purifying


If you’re a regular participant in the houseplant community, you’ve likely heard of the 1989 NASA Clean Air Study. In this study, researchers tested several houseplants and their potential to clean the air of harmful chemicals known as volatile organic compounds.

Many houseplants showed positive results, removing compounds like benzene and ammonia from the air in a controlled environment. The impacts are less significant in our own homes than they were in these controlled environments, but the more plants you have, the better.


Unfortunately, as they are not one of the more common houseplants, Crotons were not part of this initial test. However, it’s clear most houseplants have some air-purifying properties, even if there are some that are more effective than others. Even the microorganisms in the soil have the ability to remove benzene from the air, making a difference in its quality indoors.


To get the most out of these air-purifying properties, you’ll need to pack your home with Crotons. Choose a wide variety of cultivars in different colors to fill out the space and create continual interest.


Feng Shui


For those interested in interior décor and how it can impact your response to your space, Feng Shui is for you. This philosophy aims to use various principles to create balance and harmony, largely involving your choice of items and their arrangement in your home.


Houseplants play a prominent role in Feng Shui. Many positively impact the energy, adding life and uplifting the space. Others negatively impact the energy, such as spiky plants like cacti and dying plants that negatively influence the flow within a room.


Croton plants can make a wonderful positive addition to your space if cared for correctly. They are also believed to positively influence relationships within your home and brighten darker areas with their captivating color.


Keep your plants healthy and happy to stop them from producing negative energy. Make sure they get enough light and plenty of water to avoid stress.


Adding Structure


Along with these positive impacts on air and energy in the home, Crotons also have fantastic ornamental value. Their large and pointed leaves stand upright on strong stems that give the plant an amazing structure. They can also grow several feet tall, filling corners and adding interest to dull spaces.


Adding younger Crotons to a taller pot cover will give them the height they require to shine, but older ones typically stand out on their own when placed on the floor. Combine them with softer houseplants, such as Monsteras, to contrast in shape and make their structural beauty stand out even more.


Pop of Color


The structure is not the only ornamental benefit these plants have. What they are most sought-after for is their wonderful fiery colors unlike any other houseplant around. With shades of flames complemented by pops of green and pink or purple, there is never a dull movement when decorating with a Croton.


The combinations of colors are unique to each plant and per each leaf, meaning there is always something to look at. These leaves also change color as the plant ages, creating a kaleidoscope of unique patterns throughout the year.


If you’re a lover of flowers for the pops of color they add but lack the light needed to grow flowers indoors, Croton is your answer.


Plenty of Variety


The interesting varieties and shapes only extend with the many Croton cultivars available on the market. Some of these are rare and difficult to find, but that makes them all the more worth collecting and filling your house with.


‘Petra’ is one of the more popular options, with large and colorful leaves representing the classic Croton look. For something a little more different, try ‘Zanzibar’, with its elongated bright red and orange leaves.


If variety in color is not enough, there is also variety in pattern. The Superstar Croton is one such example, with splashes of bright yellow along with captivating green leaves. ‘Gold Star’ features the same spotty pattern but with greater intensity.


There are even more muted options for those who want to tone down the color. ‘Yellow Iceton’ is restricted to shades of green and yellow, while the ‘Sunny Star’ only has dashes of yellow at the base and along the central vein.


Mental Health


Crotons don’t only come with physical benefits like air purification. They also come with mental benefits too, like many other houseplants. Merely owning a few houseplants and having them around your home has been proven to improve mental health and happiness overall. Interacting them increases those benefits, having a great impact on overall wellbeing.


Plants have such a positive impact on mental health that they’ve even spawned a new area of therapy known as therapeutic horticulture. Researchers use nature as a form of treatment for patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other ailments, with many positive and promising results. Adding just one or two plants around your home is enough to lift your spirits and give you the feeling of being closer to nature, even when you’re indoors.


Boost Productivity


A Croton in your home office may be the answer for those looking for a way to get more work done. Houseplants have been proven to significantly improve productivity levels while also impacting memory retention and focus.


Not only that, but studies conducted on employees in offices have shown that having plants around improves work happiness too. There’s no better way to brighten a dull workday than with a colorful, thriving Croton.


Low Maintenance


Whilst Croton plant care has sometimes carried the reputation of being a little tricky, with a few well-followed tips, these plants will thrive in most homes.


Croton plants do best in a slightly acidic, well-draining soil base. Aim to water your croton plant when the top two inches of soil feel dry to the touch and provide the plant with ample bright, indirect light throughout the course of the day in a warm and humid environment if possible. Remember to prune, repot, and fertilize periodically for optimal croton plant growth and health and keep on top of any common croton plant pests and diseases and dropping leaves.

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