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Chances are, you’ve seen this multi-colored plant before. Its bright colors draw the eye like a moth to a flame. But how much do you know about it? The experts at Ambius have compiled a list of frequently asked questions about the croton plant and set out to answer them here.
From the croton plant to large trees that reach the tall ceiling of an office lobby, our plant offerings give us the ability to give life to an interior landscape of which you’ve only ever dreamt. Contact us today to discuss your vision with one of our design experts.
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No, it is not a garden staple on the planet Mars. Despite the fact that its name sounds like it came from a space movie, the croton plant, or Codiaeum variegatum, is a perennial evergreen shrub, native to India and Malaysia. The name “croton” comes from a Greek word for tick, as the croton seed resembles a tick in shape. This tropical plant has thick, leathery leaves of varying colors, shapes, and sizes. As it ages, the plant’s color may darken to nearly black.
“Croton” is pronounced “crow-tun” or spelled phonetically, [kroht-n].
Rushfoil is a common name for a particular species of croton plant, the Croton michauxii, or Michaux’s croton. The word “croton” is often used generically to refer to all different species within the genus.
There are many different croton plant varieties. This plant grows in an assortment of shapes and colors including red, orange, purple, pink, yellow, green, and white. Here’s a list of some of our favorite types:
Though it is not the most poisonous of plant varieties, you should not take a chance and ingest the croton plant. If consumed in large quantities, it can cause abdominal discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea, and other like symptoms. Additionally, the croton plant puts off a sap that can both stain and cause skin irritation.
The croton plant can have a similar effect on cats that it does on humans. When ingested, croton sap may make your cat sick, and because its leaves are big and full of beautiful color, they can be very alluring to cats. If you do have both a croton plant and a cat, display your plant in an area that your cat cannot easily access. If your cat, or other pet, is lethargic and vomiting and you suspect that they may have ingested croton plant, take him/her to the veterinarian.
Croton plants can be planted in containers and kept indoors, but they should be put in a location that receives significant exposure the sunlight. Without light, the croton’s colors will fade. A humidifier may be helpful for an indoor croton in the case of a dry interior climate. When kept inside, it is easy for the plant to become dusty. If this happens, you can take the plant outdoors to spray it off or use a wet sponge to remove any dust and pest residue.
At one time, the oil from one species of croton, Croton tiglium, was used medicinally as a purgative. These days, croton plants are used primarily for their aesthetic value. Adding a croton plant brings a burst of color to an otherwise green landscape.
Croton plants are popular because of their stunning colors. Many assume that to add color outside of green to a garden, one must add flowers. But that’s not true. Croton plants offer a colorful, non-flower option that can be planted outdoors (if the conditions are right) or indoors to brighten up a room.
Croton plants can grow up to ten feet high, but dwarf varieties exist that are much shorter. Customarily, the croton plant does not exceed three feet in height. The plant is usually very full, however, as the large leaves cluster together to create volume.
Mature croton plants can produce small, fairly insignificant flowers. The so-called flowers will appear as small bulbs (similar to the size and shape of a holly berry) and may have extensions that shoot out like a tiny firework.
Having originated in a tropical climate, croton plants prefer warm conditions. If temperatures drop too far below 55℉, the plant’s leaves may begin to turn brown. Ideally, the croton plant will do best at temperatures of 80℉ or below, as the plant will not thrive in extreme heat.
Again, the croton plant originated in a tropical environment, so it favors a warm, humid environment. The soil in which the croton is planted should remain moist but not constantly wet during spring and summer when the plant is growing. Feel the soil and if it is dry to the touch, it may be time for watering. In a dry environment, the croton may require misting to maintain healthy leaf growth.
Much like with other plants, watering croton plants can be a delicate science. The croton plant requires frequent watering, but be sure not to over-water. Too much water can cause root rot, but too little water can dry the humidity-loving plant out. You can use new croton foliage as an indicator of water needs, as it will begin to wilt when thirsty.
Croton plants prefer full sun, but depending on the species, some can tolerate partial shade. The amount of sun that the plant receives will correlate to the intensity of its color. In order to attain full, vibrant color, the plant should remain in good light.
Yes, croton plants are perennials. The word ‘perennial’ itself means “through the years.” A perennial plant like the croton will live through many growing seasons. Even if part of the plant dies (usually during the winter), it will use the same root system to regrow in the spring.
Croton plants grow best in soil that allows for adequate draining while still maintaining enough moisture to foster growth. If the growing medium retains too much water, the plant may become subject to root rot.
Depending on the source of the stress on your plant, there are various things you can do to revive a croton plant. If your plant is not in a well-lit area, try moving it to a spot that gets at least 4-5 hours of sunlight each day. Additionally, ensure that your croton plant is not placed in the path of an especially hot or cold airstream. If neither of these is the reason your croton plant is not thriving, make sure that the plant does not have too much or too little water in its soil. Either one can cause problems in the croton plant. You may also want to take special care to wipe or spray the leaves to get rid of any pests that may be lingering around your plant.
Croton plants can lose leaves for a number of reasons. Ordinarily, this plant will lose its leaves due to some sort of stress. This stress could come from moving the plant from outdoors to indoors, or vice versa, or an imbalance in essential nutrients. If the plant is just adjusting to a new environment, give it time. After a couple of weeks, it will settle in and begin to grow once again. If you haven’t moved your plant recently, leaf loss could be due to exposure to extreme temperatures, insufficient light, improper watering, or disease/pests.
Croton plants should only be pruned to remove unhealthy portions of the plant or to maintain a certain shape.Dead leaves or branches should be cut back to their origin, but overgrown leaves or branches can be trimmed just above a node or leaf set. Make sure not to remove more than ⅓ of the stem height at one time. Before pruning again, allow more growth.
Propagating a croton plant is best done with a 3-4 inch stem cutting. The cutting should have 3-5 leaves on it and can be planted in a small pot to start. Keep the plant in a warm environment (ideally 70-80℉) and maintain moisture in the soil. In these conditions, the plant will likely take root within a month and then you can transplant it elsewhere. As the croton plant matures, it will develop color.
Crotons thrive in warm weather, but they do not tolerate hard frosts well. If you live in the southern United States, where it does not often reach low temperatures, outdoor croton plants can be covered to protect from frost. In colder locations, it is best to grow croton plants in containers so that they can be transported indoors when outdoor temperatures become too extreme. They can recover from an intense frost, but you shouldn’t make them endure repeated frosts. If you do take your croton plant indoors, place it in a location that gets a substantial amount of light. These plants also prefer humid environments, so you may want to consider using a humidifier or misting them yourself.
Generally, croton plants do not have many issues with pests or diseases. However, they can sometimes fall victim to common plant pests such as mealybugs, scale, thrips or spider mites. You can remove these pests from your croton plant with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. Keep a close eye on the leaves of the croton so that you are able to catch any potential pest infestation early, before it has the opportunity to do major damage to your plant.
To discover how Ambius can bring life to your business, give us a call at 800-581-9946. Whether you think croton plants would be a good fit for your space or want to explore other options, we have an extensive plant catalog from which to build your interior landscape.