Looking for an indoor tree with some color on it? Codiaeum variegatum, also known as just Croton plants, might be just what you’re looking for. These colorful shrubs can grow quite large and are well-suited to indoor growing.
Let’s go into everything you need to know about Croton plant care and growing this popular houseplant in your own home!
|Name(s) (common, scientific)||Croton, rushfoil, Codiaeum variegatum|
|Water||Let top of soil dry|
Croton plant natural habitat
Croton plants are found naturally throughout Southeast Asia and Oceania. These are tropical habitats where the species normally occurs in not too densely forested areas.
Wild Crotons grow as tall as 10 feet (3 meters) and have the appearance of large, lush shrubs.
Note: Don’t confuse the Croton plant (which is from the genus Codiaeum) with the scientific genus Croton. That’s a different plant also known as rushfoil. Yeah, plant naming is confusing.
Croton plant light and temperature
Unlike many popular tropical houseplants that must be shielded from direct sunlight, Croton plants love being hit with bright, full sunlight for about 4 to 6 hours a day. After all, the forests they naturally grow in are rather open, leaving plenty of opportunity for sunlight to shine through.
This light requirement is not too difficult to fulfill for Crotons grown outdoors, but it can be more tricky for those kept in the house. If a Croton plant doesn’t get enough sunlight, it may begin to lose the vibrant leaf colors that you bought it for in the first place. For example, new leaves may be a deep shade of green instead.
While these leaves themselves are gorgeous, if you’re aiming for your Croton plants to be as vivid as possible, definitely make sure you can give them all the sunlight they need.
Tip: Don’t get a lot of sunlight in your home? You might want to look into low-light houseplants instead.
Since these plants come from tropical regions, they thrive in water, humid environments. They like to be kept at a balmy 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 26 degrees Celsius).
This means that in many regions, you can grow your Croton plant outdoors during the summer months only. Your plant will love to soak up the extra sun, but be sure to bring it back inside before temperatures get lower than 60 °F/15 °C!
When it comes to humidity, Croton plants relish plenty of it. Depending on where you live, it may be tough finding the sweet spot in your home. To help create a humid microclimate, you can try setting your plants on pebble trays. You can also opt for bunching them together in well-lit, humid areas like the bathroom.
Did you know? Many sources recommend misting plants. Unfortunately this has been shown not to be all that effective, as it only heightens air humidity levels for a few minutes. That being said, misting can help keep your plant’s leaves free of dust, which in turn helps with photosynthesis.
Croton plant soil and planting
Like most indoor plants, Croton plants do best with well-draining soil. Just about any mixture will do as long as it doesn’t hold onto moisture too much. A mix of regular houseplant potting soil with some added perlite or bark should work just fine!
No matter what type of soil you use, just make sure that the planter has drainage holes in the bottom. Croton plants don’t like having “wet feet,” which can lead to root rot.
When it comes to Croton plant care, one important thing to consider when choosing a pot is that Croton plants can grow pretty top heavy. Indoor dwarf varieties can grow up to 3 feet (1 m) tall with very full leaves.
To avoid finding your prized plants toppled over with soil everywhere, you may want to choose heavier pots. For example, you can keep a Croton plant in a plastic nursery pot nestled inside of a decorative stone one.
As for repotting, you may only need to do so once every couple of years. The best way to know if your plant is ready for more wiggle room is to check the drainage holes. If roots are growing out through the holes, it’s time to repot.
The best time to repot a Croton plant is during the spring, when it’s just gearing up for a new growing season.
Propagating Croton plants
If your Croton is becoming too unruly and lush, you can take some stem cuttings. This is an easy way to turn one large plant into multiple smaller, more manageable ones.
To propagate a Croton plant, you first need to take 3 to 4-inch (7.5-10 cm) stem cuttings from the top of the mother plant. For the best chance of success, make sure that each stem cutting has 3 to 5 healthy leaves. Once you have your stem cuttings, you can use either the water method or soil method.
The water method involves simply putting your stem cuttings into a container of water and letting it grow out its roots that way. All you need to do is change the water out once or twice a week and make sure to keep the stem cuttings in bright sunlight. Once the roots have grown about 2 inches (5 cm), which can take a while depending on the season, you can then repot the stem cuttings into soil.
If you want to use the soil method instead, just take your stem cuttings and gently poke them into a well-draining soil mix. Then, let them grow as normal. Just like with regular Croton plant care, you’ll need to keep the soil moist but not soggy. If possible, it helps to keep the planted stem cuttings at higher humidity, too.
Watering Croton plants
Croton plants like their soil to be moist but not soggy. You may only need to water them once a week, depending on how dry and warm your house is.
To avoid overwatering, you can let the top 2 inches (5 cm) of soil dry out completely between waterings.
Although figuring out the watering schedule for any houseplant can be a headache, Croton plants at least make it a little easier. If you see the leaves starting to droop down, it means it’s time for a drink. After watering, Croton plants perk up in as little as a day!
Croton plant fertilizer
Croton plants aren’t too demanding, though they appreciate a little boost during the growing season (spring and summer).
You can use a diluted general houseplant fertilizer once a month, or even less than that, to help promote new growth.
Buying Croton plant
Although the ‘standard’ Codiaeum variegatum is already a beautiful plant, selective cultivation has produced many more spectacular cultivars. Seriously, there are endless Croton plants out there! Broad leaves, narrow leaves, red, yellow, green, big, small… there’s a Croton for everyone.
You can buy a Croton plant online.
Problems with Croton plants
When it comes to Croton plant care, they have a reputation for being a bit difficult to grow. That’s not necessarily deserved, it’s just that they are prone to leaf loss when disturbed.
Many new owners happily bring home a Croton plant and are then disappointed when the leaves fall off. Luckily, this is natural! It can happen even with the best Croton plant care.
Croton plants don’t do well when being moved around and get shocked easily. The move from a nursery to your home can be enough for a new plant to drop all its leaves. Fortunately, all you have to do is keep taking care of the plant as usual and new leaves will usually grow in.
If you plan to move your indoor Croton plant outside in the summer and then back inside in the fall or winter, again, this may shock it.
You’ll need to acclimate the plant to any sudden temperature and lighting changes to help make the transition smoother. Moving it first into a patio during the day and bringing it back in during the night for a week or so before the big move can helpl.
Are Croton plants toxic to cats and dogs?
Yes, Croton plants are toxic to cats and dogs, and even people! They are members of the family Euphorbiaceae, which excretes a latex-like substance that can be irritating.
Ingesting any part of the plant can cause irritation in the mouth and an upset stomach, which can lead to vomiting. Even though it tastes awful and probably won’t be very appealing, this is definitely still one plant you’ll want to keep away from pets and children.
If you’re looking for non-toxic houseplants, have a look at the article on pet-safe plants.
Did you know? The Croton’s irritating sap actually poses a bit of an occupational hazard for houseplant growers. One study, for example, showed that Croton latex caused contact eczema on the hands of a nursery gardener.Hausen & Schulz, 1977
If you have any more questions about Croton plant care or would like to share your own experiences, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Happy planting! 🌳
Hausen, B. M., & Schulz, K. H. (1977). Occupational contact dermatitis due to Croton (Codiaeum variegatum (L.) A. Juss var. pictum (Lodd.) Muell. Arg.) Sensitization by plants of the Euphorbiaceae. Contact Dermatitis, 3(6), 289-292.