Croton were originally an outdoor decorative plant and have only become a popular indoor plant within the last 15-20 years. They have beautiful multicolored hard leathery leaves that come in red, yellow, green, orange, and black. The leaf shapes can be long and narrow, or wide and elliptical. These leaves and entire croton branches can be used in flower arrangements. Croton leaves easily root and can then be added to dish gardens. This plant is a little temperamental and not as forgiving as some others, but the lovely color it provides is well worth the effort.
LIGHTING REQUIREMENTS: Crotons need bright light to keep their multicolored leaves looking their best. The new leaves will be green not predominantly yellow, red, or orange, if there is insufficient light. Too much direct sun causes phototoridation a condition that makes the leaves gray and dull looking.
CARE INSTRUCTIONS WATER: Allow the top 25-30% of the soil to dry out before watering. Crunchy leaves indicate over-watering. Leaves become soft and droop when the plant needs water. If the plant is severely over- or under-watered leaves fall off.
FERTILIZER: Fertilize monthly in the spring and fall and every two weeks in the summer with a basic houseplant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. If your Croton is in a bright sunny spot, but the new leaves are coming in green, cut back on your plant food. Over-fertilizing also causes the leaves of a Croton to curl under.
TEMPERATURE: Household temperatures, 60-80 degrees, are fine.
HUMIDITY: Crotons will do best in high humidity.
FLOWERING: The flowers are small and inconsequential. Remove them as soon as they appear so they don't drain the plant's energy.
PESTS: Crotons are susceptible to Mealy Bugs, scale, and Fungus Gnats but it is spider mites that do the most damage. Because a Croton has mult-colored leaves, it is often difficult to see the spider mites. Thoroughly spraying the plant with the green solution once a month is a good preventative measure.
DISEASES: Fungal and bacteria infections occur because of the humid environment and moist soil Crotons need in order to grow.
SOIL: Use a rich potting soil that drains well but is not so loose that it does not retain water.