Croton plants are fairly easy to grow indoors and are great for adding a burst of color to any room or grow tent. This plant is native to tropics of southeast Asia and in the wild they grow as shrubs that can reach 10′ tall. All parts of the plant are poisonous so growing them in tents is preferable if you have children or pets around.
Crotons are native to tropical Southeast Asia so they prefer temperatures between 15 – 35℃. Temperatures below 15℃ cause them to start losing leaves and will eventually kill them. They can be grown in pots outside during the summer and moved inside when the temperature starts to drop. Alternatively, you can grow them inside year-round but you may need to provide supplemental lighting during the winter months.
Crotons like full or part sun and prefer at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. They can tolerate a few hours less than that but their leaves will revert back to a greener color and you will lose the beautiful oranges, yellows and reds that they typically display. If you don’t have a window where they get enough sun, they make for a great decorative plant in a grow tent where the light exposure can be controlled. This also makes it harder for kids and pets to get at them since the leaves, stems, seeds and flowers are poisonous.
Crotons prefer a well-drained soil that is kept consistently moist. If water is pooling on top of your soil when you water, try adding perlite or sand to your potting mix to improve drainage. When the top inch of soil has dried out it is time to water again. An easy way to know when to water is to put the first knuckle of your finger into the soil. If it feels dry, it is time to water. If the soil still feels cool/moist, leave it for another day or two. Crotons prefer high humidity which can be achieved with a humidifier or by spraying the croton leaves with a spray bottle every day.
Crotons should be fed with a fertilizer that is high in Nitrogen and Potassium about once a month if growing indoors with good lighting. If you are growing them outside during the summer and in a window during the winter, reduce the watering frequency to once every two months during the winter. Remember that the amount of food the plant needs is related to the light it receives.
- Crotons can grow to be fairly tall so when choosing a container, make sure it is wide enough to support the plant as it grows and won’t tip over.
- All parts of the Croton are toxic to humans and pets. When the leaves or stem are damaged, they will release a milky white sap that is a skin irritant. Ingesting the plant causes a burning sensation in the mouth and drooling in pets. Depending on the amount ingested, more severe symptoms include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
- If your Croton plant starts to drop it’s leaves when you bring it home, don’t panic. They do not like big changes in their growing environment and will often drop leaves when they are moved from one location to another. As the plant gets accustomed to its new environment it should begin to bounce back.
Propagating (Cloning) Croton with cuttings
Crotons can be propagated by taking cuttings from an existing plant. Here’s how:
- Take a cutting 5-6 inches long from an existing croton plant and sharpen the cut end to a 45 degree angle.
- Remove all but the top leaves from the cutting and cut the top leaves in half.
- Fill a small container with approximately 50% potting soil and 50% sand. I will be using 2/3 potting mix and 1/3 perlite.
- Pre-moisten the soil so it is moist but not soaking wet and muddy. Make a hole a few inches deep in the pre-moistened soil with your finger.
- Dip the cut end of the cutting in a rooting hormone and insert it into the hole you just made. Gently press down around the cutting to ensure good contact between the cutting and soil.
- Cover the cutting and pot with a plastic bag to slow the drying of the soil and maintain a humid environment.
The cutting can take between 4-8 weeks to root properly and start growing new leaves. Make sure to keep the soil moist by watering when the top layer dries out or by misting regularly. Do not remove the plastic bag until you see new leaves starting to grow.