How to Grow Croton Plants

Rainbow-hued croton plants add rich, vibrant splashes of color to any room with a sunny window. Learn how to grow and care for them right here!

The rainbow-colored foliage of croton plants makes them a standout for houseplant enthusiasts. (If you live in zones 10 to 12, they also make wonderful outdoor landscape plants for year-round enjoyment.) Croton plants are available with a variety of leaf colors; most are multi-colored with variegated leaves in shades of red, green, yellow, orange, and purple. There are a few varieties that only have bi-color leaves (green and yellow, or red and green). Two distinct leaf shapes are common: narrow, long, and strap-shaped, and wider oval or oblong.

Here's how to grow croton plants.

Croton on kitchen counter top

Where to Grow Croton Plants

Croton plants develop their best colors when grown in bright light. As houseplants, they must be situated in a sunny window. They will tolerate medium light indoors, but won't grow much and foliage may revert to plain green.

Plant croton plant in container

How to Plant Croton Plants

Controlling soil moisture is important when growing crotons in order to ensure that you don't overwater, which can lead to root rot. Plant indoor croton plants in Miracle-Gro® Indoor Potting Mix, which contains coconut coir. This material holds and releases water as the plant needs it, and helps soil easily re-wet. It has also been formulated to be less prone to fungus gnats (a frequent problem with houseplants such as croton plants), as it contains no compost or bark, two ingredients which are known to shelter those particular pests.

Select a container that is 1/3 larger than the plant's root ball. Fill it 1/3 of the way with Miracle-Gro® Indoor Potting Mix, then place the plant in the container so that the top of the root ball is about an inch below the rim. (This will leave room to water the plant without overflow.) Fill in around the root ball with more potting mix. Thoroughly water the plant and let it drain, then move it to its permanent location in the house.

Watering croton plant

How to Water Croton Plants

Croton plants are somewhat drought-tolerant, due to the waxy coating on their leaves, and it is easy to overwater them. Wait until the top 2 inches of soil are 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.

How to Move Croton Plants Outdoors for the Summer

While croton plants thrive in bright light indoors, they will go into shock if you simply move them from your front room into the baking hot sun outside on the patio. If you want to enjoy croton plants outside during the summer, you need to get them ready for the move first (a process called "hardening off"). Start by placing them in a sheltered area such as a porch or patio during the day and bringing them inside at night. After 3 or 4 days, begin leaving them outside full time. A few days after that, move them to the desired outdoor location in full or dappled sunlight. When bringing croton plants back inside during the fall, be prepared for them to lose a few leaves as they adjust to their new surroundings.

Feeding croton plant with indoor plant food

How to Feed Croton Plants

A month after planting, use Miracle-Gro® Indoor Plant Food to give croton plants the nutrition they need for best growth. Once a week, apply directly to the soil and water as normal, following label directions. Use 1 pump for small pots and 2 pumps for larger pots (over 6 inches in diameter). Cut feedings back to once per month in the winter, when growth slows.

How to Prune Croton Plants

You don't have to prune croton plants, but if lower leaves have fallen off and you want to encourage fresh growth, simply snip off the branches or stems at the desired height and the plant will soon fill out. To encourage a bushier plant, snip off the growing tips of each stem.

Crotons 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. Always wear gloves when pruning these plants, as the sap may cause a rash for some people.

Ready to start growing croton plants? Click on any of the product links above for more information, to purchase the product online, or to find a retailer near you.

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