Saturday, October 6, 2018

Croton Growin

     Officially, fall has arrived, the weather may not seem like it, but according to the calendar, it has.
Pumpkin spice everything, fairs, leaves changing color, and fall decorations abound.
When it comes to flowers, Chrysanthemums, or better known as mums, tend to top the list. They come in white, yellow, orange, maroon, and brown. You know, all of those 'Fallish" colors.

     What if I told you there is a plant that will not only make itself at home in your home but will retain those fall colors throughout the entire fall and actually all year long!? No more spent blooms. No more plant death because you looked at it wrong. Not to mention it is a houseplant and they have been proven to be beneficial for you and your health.

      Meet the Codiaeum variegatum, or better known as the Croton.

Croton 'Petra'

     This plant has a reputation for being fussy, but, if you know about caring for one properly, it can make for a resilient and hard-to-kill plant. The biggest thing to remember is they tend to make a bad first impression. Sometimes, a person will bring home a new croton from the store and within a few days, the plant will lose some if not all of its foliage. Don't Despair!  It does not happen all of the time and with just a tad of TLC, you will not have this problem. 

     Indoors crotons need lots of light to keep their color. For the very best show of color, your plants need six or eight hours a day of direct sunlight and should sit in an east facing or west-facing window to get good sunlight all day long. If you don’t have a good east or west-facing window, use a grow light to supplement whatever sun you have. Without ample light, your plant will display green leaves and the leaf markings will fade.

Croton 'Zanzibar'

      During growth, which tends to happen when the conditions are warm, you want the soil to be evenly moist for the majority of the time, think wrung out dish sponge. They are somewhat drought-tolerant, due to the waxy coating on their leaves, and it is easy to overwater them. You can wait until the top 2 inches of soil is dry, then water thoroughly. Another sign that it’s time to water your croton plant is that new growth at the ends of the plant stems will wilt slightly. Never allow plants to sit in standing water. 

Croton 'Gold Dust'

     Grown as a houseplant, a container garden plant or used in the landscape in temperate climates. In cooler climates, many gardeners plant it as an annual. They grow anywhere from between 2 – 10 feet tall, depending on climate, soil conditions, and care. They typically stay in a mid-range of 2 – 4 feet. Zones 10 and 11 are the only places that they will get any real height to them.

Croton 'Eleanor Roosevelt'

     As houseplants, croton appreciates high humidity and occasional misting. If the humidity level is low in your house, set your plant on a bed of gravel in a drip tray, just make sure the plant is not sitting IN the water. Use a good commercial potting soil for potted and container plants. When it comes to feeding them,  fertilize with a high nitrogen and potassium mix such as Espoma Palm-Tone Plant Food (4-1-5) about every 6-8 weeks. Water soluble or slow release is fine.

Croton 'Mammey'     

     When keeping your plant as a houseplant in winter, be sure to protect it from cold drafts, which may put stress on the plant. They are tropical and do not like cold temperatures. Don't let them touch cold glass either, they might get a little burned.

You can grow new plants from cuttings. To do this, cut a segment from a healthy stem with a minimum of three sets of leaves. Remove the bottom leaves. Dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone and plant it in a mixture of coco coir or peat moss, sand and vermiculite. Cover your planted cutting with a humidity trapping cover, such as a plastic bag or a plastic soda bottle. Roots should develop within a couple of weeks.

Croton 'Freckles'

     The croton is native to areas of Malaysia, Indonesia, northern Australia, and the Caribbean. They are part of the poinsettia family. All of the plants in this family have a sticky, white sap that drips from any pruning cuts or spots where leaves or petals have fallen off. The sap is mildly toxic for pets and people, but only if it's digested. However, the plant tastes terrible, and accidental poisonings are rare. If any part of the croton is ingested, it would cause vomiting and/or diarrhea, and in large doses could be fatal.

     To be really festive, bunching a few different cultivars together can create quite the effect!

     As always, if you have any questions concerning this or any of my other articles, please feel free to send them to
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Happy Growing!