A croton plant (Codiaeum variegatum pictum) was originally an outdoor, decorative bush growing in tropical regions where temperatures never went below 50°F (1o°C). Croton plants come in 100 different varieties and have become a very popular houseplant within the last 15-20 years. An indoor croton is an upright plant with beautiful, multicolored, hard, leathery, shiny leaves that come decorated in vivid patterns of red, yellow, green, orange, purple, and black. Leaf shapes can be long, short, narrow, wide, oval, curly, twisted, or oak- leaf. Individual leaves and entire croton plant branches can be used in flower arrangements.
Croton Plant Varieties
Croton “Petra” is the croton we most frequently see. It has wide, large, oval, vividly patterned leaves in yellow, red, green, orange, and other autumn colors.
Croton “Gold Dust” has smaller, shorter green leaves covered in yellow (gold) specks.
Croton Icetone (Red Iceton): This artistic looking croton variety has glossy, pointed, oval leaves that start out light green and yellow and then become pink and red as the plant matures.
Croton “Mammy” (Mamey): The croton mammy has long, narrow, curling and twisting leaves. The leaves are dark green with splashes of yellow, red, orange, and sometimes even some purple.
Croton Dreadlocks: The narrow, curly leaves of a croton “dreadlocks” hang down like bunches of long hair in colors ranging from dark green to red to green leaves with yellow specks.
Croton Revolution: The curling, narrow leaves of this croton are usually dark green with a few yellow dots.
C. Icetone C. Gold Dust C. Revolutions C. Mammy C. Dreadlocks
Croton Plant Problems
Leaf Loss: Can be caused by over watering, severe under watering, temperature too low
Loss of Leaf Color: Leaves may revert to all green when there is not enough light
Plants pests: If the color in the leaves looks faded, check for spider mites
A croton plant is a little temperamental and not as forgiving as some other houseplants; but are a bright addition to any home or office if you remember a few important are tips:
Warm temperature and high humidity if possible
Water less and do not fertilize in winter
Wash leaves often and examine for spider mites
Croton plants are poisonous and must be kept away from children, cats, dogs, and other pets. Read more about common houseplants that could harm children and pets in my book Don’t Feed Me to Your Cat: A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants.
How much light for a croton plant: Very bright, indirect light is necessary for the leaves to stay colorful. When there is not enough light, new leaves are green and not predominantly yellow, red, or orange. Too much direct sun causes phototoridation, a condition that causes gray and dull looking leaves.
Allow the top 25%-30% of the soil to dry out before watering. The hard, leathery leaves become soft and flexible when a croton needs water. When the plant is over watered or severely under watered, leaves drop off.
How to fertilize a croton plant: Fertilize monthly in the spring and fall and every two weeks in the summer with a balanced plant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. If your croton is in a bright sunny spot, but the new leaves are coming in green, reduce the amount of plant food. Too much fertilizer also causes leaf curl.
Warm temperatures between 60°-80°F (15.6°-26.7°C) are best for a croton. If the temperature drops below 50°F (10°C) leaves may drop off.
High humidity helps a croton plant grow faster and look better. but also encourages plant diseases. This plant still grows well in basic, household humidity.
Croton flowers are small and inconsequential. I recommend removing them as soon as they appear so they don’t drain the plant’s energy and hinder leaf development.
Croton plant pests: Mealy bugs, scale, and fungus gnats can all be a problem, but it’s spider mites that do the most damage. Because of the multi-colored leaves, it is often difficult to see spider mites on a croton. These plant pests suck the color from the leaves and ruin the plant appearance. Treat a spider mite problem by thoroughly spraying the inexpensive, non toxic “Green Solution” (recipe in the Glossary) once a month as a preventative measure. See a picture and learn how to identify and treat mealy bugs, scale, fungus gnats, and spider mites in the Glossary of the website.
Fungal and bacteria infections may occur because of the humid environment and moist soil a croton plant requires. The most common diseases to look out for are powdery mildew and leaf spot disease. See a picture and read more about these diseases in the Glossary of the website.
Use a rich potting soil that drains well, but still retains water. for a croton plant.
When to repot a croton plant: Re-pot when the roots have filled the existing container; use the next size pot and nothing larger. Be sure there are drip holes in the bottom of the pot so excess water can drain out; and never allow the plant to sit in the excess water.
How to prune a croton plant: Trim the stem tips to encourage new growth and keep the plant bushy and full.
A croton plant can be propagated using stem cuttings or by air layering. Individual leaves can be rooted and used in dish gardens. You can read more about these propagation techniques in the Glossary of the website.
Poisonous Plant Info
Crotons are very poisonous plants with a #3 toxicity level. They are toxic to small children, cats, dogs, and other pets so please keep them well out of reach.
Croton leaf color develops best in a bright but cool location. Move your plant to a location that is not quite as warm and reduce the amount fertilizer you are using.
Croton plants are extremely poisonous houseplants. The sap from a Croton Plant will irritate your skin and stain your clothes. More importantly, a croton has a #3 toxicity level, which means ingesting any part of the plant can cause serious digestive and respiratory problems.
I recommend removing the croton flower and its stalk as soon as possible. Flowering hinders leaf production and the sap from the flowers may cause plant diseases and attract plant pests.
Since the roots are probably still intact, I think you may be able to save your croton. Cut the bare stems back to about 2” above the soil. Move your plant to a bright location and keep the barely soil moist but not soggy. Use a product called superthrive every time you water. Be patient, the plant should eventually look better than ever.
The fine webbing indicates that your croton has spider mites, a very harmful plant pest that sucks the color from the plant leaves. Spray your croton with the ” green solution.” This is a mixture of 1/2 water,1/2 alcohol, a few drops of mineral oil, and a few drops of biodegradable soap. Repeat the spraying in 10 days.