The croton (Codiaeum variegatum) is a houseplant that many nurseries and houseplant suppliers have in stock during the fall months. The variegation of colors on the leaves adds a bright touch to the dreary days of fall and winter. Especially during the time between the appearance of mums and the display time of Christmas cactus, poinsettias and/or amaryllis.
Outdoors, the croton can reach a height of 6 foot but in an indoor environment one can expect the plant to reach a few feet. Once you get your croton home, remove it from its plastic wrap and take it out of any decorative foil sleeve. After this is done, the next step is to find the perfect location for your plant. The directions below will aid you in finding the best location along with additional care tips.
- Location, location, location is very important when it comes to the croton. This plant requires a lot of bright light that is indirect. Exposing the plant to the correct amount and type of light with improve the scope of the colors that are displayed. But remember to keep the light indirect. Direct light will burn the leaves.
- Humidity is also an important factor. Once the plant is placed outside in the late spring to early summer, it can be misted several times a week to increase humidity. In the indoor environment, humidity can be increased by misting and/or placing the plant on a tray of pebbles and water. If you use the later approach, make sure to monitor the water level.
- Watering ones croton during the fall and winter months is easy. This plant only requires a biweekly watering schedule. During the spring and summer, increase the watering schedule to once a week but always check the soil moisture before watering.
- Temperature is another limiting factor. Crotons do not like to be in an environment that is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, do not place near exterior doors or leaky windows. They dislike any type of draft.
- Fertilizing the croton should only be done during the growing season. To encourage leaf growth, apply a slow-release fertilizer that is high in nitrogen.
- Soil for a croton consists of a well-drained variety.
- Propagation of the croton is easily done by a stem cutting or through “suckers” that are transplanted into another container. Any type of replanting should only be done in the spring. While croton seed is sold, do not take the time to try to grow them. The germination rate is low and the seedlings appearance will be questionable.
Crotons that do not receive enough sunlight and/or get cold will drop their leaves. If this happens do not fret. The plant can be pruned back in the spring. The plant will leaf out again from where it was cut. Another surprise the croton will present its owner shows up in the spring and summer as a tiny white flower about ¼ inch long will appear. Keep in mind, that when you move the croton outside do it gradually and place in a location that receives a lot of filtered light.