Croton Care – How to Grow Codiaeum Variegatum)


Want one of these spectacular beauties in your home?  Let’s discuss the details of croton care which will help you grow gorgeous plants…there’s a lot to unpack!

Croton plants (Codiaeum variegatum) have a reputation of being a bit fussy. They enjoy having lots of sunlight, but not a full hit of the sun’s rays for hours on end. They like moist, but well-draining soil, plenty of humidity, and warm temperatures.

Crotons (also called variegated laurel) are native to tropical forests and scrub in Malaysia, Indonesia and the western Pacific Ocean islands. This explains their exacting environmental requirements.

These plants are very popular and have extraordinarily varied foliage. Often, the plant will have variegation across the leaves, and the leaves come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. This is a richly colored plant, with marbles, mottling, spots, and even stripes on some varieties.

The croton is best kept indoors to ensure that it does not get chilled, so unless you live in a particularly warm environment with high humidity, this is a houseplant only.

proper croton care resulting in muticolored leaves of pink, yellow and green

Light Requirements

Your croton will not grow well if it does not have access to enough light. It will cope with a little bit of shade at times, but on the whole, it prefers to be in full sun throughout the day. However, it will not cope with really strong, burning hot sun.

This means it can be a little tricky to balance the light levels for this plant. You may find that it needs to be moved to different parts of your home at different times of the year. In the winter, you should find it a windowsill with as much sun as possible, but in the summer, you may need to pull it away from the window a bit.

An alternative solution is to put up a sheer curtain that will block at least some of the sun’s rays in the summer. This can then be taken down or pulled back when you want to give your plant access to more light.

Temperature Requirements

Your croton will start to suffer if it is exposed to temperatures below 50oF, and it generally prefers to be kept warmer than this. Ideally, it likes to be between 60-76oF (15-25oC) most of the time, so it’s important to check that your home is warm enough for this plant before you buy one.

Find a snug room, away from cold drafts, to put it in. It should not, however, be placed on or near a radiator or heater, as it will get dried up and too hot. Protect it from sudden drafts, and don’t have an air conditioner running in the same room.

Watering Requirements

Watering should always be done based on your environment and your plant’s individual needs, rather than a specific schedule. A croton plant likes to be kept moist most of the time, but it will need to dry out a bit occasionally, or it will be vulnerable to root rot.

To check whether your plant needs watering, you should press the tip of your finger into the surface of the soil, until it is about an inch down. If the soil still feels damp around your fingertip, the plant does not yet need a drink.

Your croton will wilt dramatically if it gets thirsty, so if it seems to be going limp, check whether its pot has dried out.

Special Care

An important aspect of croton care is humidity. You may find it useful to get a hygrometer so that you can check how humid its environment is. If your home is too dry for a croton, it may start to lose its leaves, so do be careful about this.

If the humidity is below 40 percent, it is too low for your plant. If it is around 40 or 50 percent, your plant may still benefit from a little misting. The sweet spot is around 70 percent, but this plant will be happy right up to around 80 percent humidity.

To increase humidity, get a plant mister or stand it on a humidifying tray if it is too dry. There are also room humidifiers that are worth considering for this plant.

Another peculiar aspect of caring for your croton is that they do not like to be moved. Once happily established in your home, try not to move your plant about too much.

Propagating

Crotons are reasonably easy to propagate, and stem cuttings are the best way to get a plant that is true to the adult. Seeds will rarely be true to the parent plant, so if you want the same plant again, a stem cutting is the best way to go.

You should sterilize some pruning shears and identify a healthy stem with at least three leaves. Cut this to around four to six inches long, at a 45-degree angle.

Moisten some compost and bury the end of the stem about an inch down. Next, place the pot somewhere warm and sunny, and keep it damp. It should develop roots in about a month. If it doesn’t, try again with a fresh cutting.

Pests & Problems

All the common pests, such as mealybugs, thrips, scale insects, and spider mites can be a problem for a croton plant. You should regularly inspect its leaves for invaders. You can remove most of these pests with soapy water, but scale insects will need to be wiped with vodka.

Fungal infections can also be an issue; look out for Anthracnose, which will create tan colored spots on the plant. Cut off infected leaves and treat the plant with fungicide.

Toxicity

Crotons are toxic to pets and people, so it’s best to keep them well out of reach. They are classed as mildly toxic, but even in small quantities, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Always wash your hands after dealing with this plant.

Common Questions About Croton Care

Q: How long do crotons live?

A: A croton that is well cared for should live for up to four years. You can take stem cuttings to ensure that you get young plants that will keep going.

Q: How often should I fertilize a croton?

A: Around once a month should be fine for keeping this plant fed.

Q: How big will a croton get?

A: These plants can grow to ten feet tall in the wild, but most houseplant varieties are significantly smaller than this.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you now understand all the important aspects of croton care, so you can ensure that your plant will flourish. Looking after your croton well will encourage it to produce the large, bright foliage that makes this plant so popular in homes.

About the author 

Paul - Better Houseplants

Loves orchids and foliage houseplants. Always trying to be a better plant parent. Let's get growing!

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