How to Plant and Grow Croton

This easy-care houseplant adds plenty of color to any space through its foliage.

Croton, a perennial with woody stems and roots, features leathery, smooth-edge, oval- or lance-shape leaves in bright colors. These colors are often combined in patterns involving blotching and striping, and sometimes the color changes as the plant ages. Native to Malaysia, the Pacific Islands, and northern Australia, crotons are most often grown as houseplants but can be brought outdoors for the summer. In warm climates, croton can also be planted in the landscape to be enjoyed year-round.

All parts of the plant are toxic to humans and pets.

Croton Overview

Genus Name Codiaeum
Common Name Croton
Plant Type Houseplant, Perennial
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 1 to 8 feet
Width 1 to 6 feet
Flower Color White
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Chartreuse/Gold, Purple/Burgundy
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 11
Propagation Stem Cuttings

Where to Plant Croton

If your winters are mild enough for croton to be planted in the landscape, you can plant it outdoors. As croton needs sun but does not do well in the scorching sun, choose a location with partial or dappled shade. Make sure the soil provides excellent drainage, with a pH between 4.5 to 6.5.

Single specimens add a splash of color to the back of a perennial flowerbed. A line of croton planted alongside a walkway, driveway, or pool makes an attractive cheerful hedge or barrier. As the plant likes dappled shade, you can also plant croton in groups below a palm tree.

How and When to Plant Croton

As a houseplant, croton can be planted any time of the year. Select a container that is about one-third larger than the root ball of the plant to allow for growth. Fill one-third of the pot with potting mix, then place the plant in the pot and backfill with potting mix to about 1 inch below the rim.

Spring is the best time to plant croton in the landscape. After carefully selecting the site to make sure the soil has excellent drainage, dig a hole that is at least twice as large as the root ball. Backfill the hole with original soil and mulch around the base of the plant, which keeps the soil moist and weeds out.

Whether it’s a container plant or an outdoor shrub, water it slowly and thoroughly after planting.

Croton Care Tips


Indoors, find a sunny window for the plant. While croton can tolerate medium light, bright light is necessary to bring out the most intense and vibrant colors. In too much shade, the colors can become washed out and muted and the plant's leaves will be much greener.

If you are planting a croton outdoors, select a spot with dappled light. Too much direct sunlight can cause leaf burning and scorching, especially on the lighter-color varieties.

Soil and Water

Crotons enjoy being kept evenly moist during summer months, with reduced watering during winter months. Choose a well-draining potting mix and make sure not to overwater the plants, as that can lead to root rot. Let the top 2 inches of soil dry out slightly between waterings.

Temperature and Humidity 

Crotons appreciate higher humidity, so if they are grown in a dry environment, try placing the pot on a bed of pebbles with water just below the top of the rocks to increase humidity around the plants.

Keep in mind that crotons are from tropical climates and will not tolerate cold temperatures. It is best to keep them above 60 degrees at all times; any cooler than that and they will start losing leaves. 


During the growing season in the spring and summer, feed your potted crotons with either slow-release pellets or liquid fertilizer every two weeks. In the winter, when the plant growth slows down, feeding the plant about once a month is sufficient.

Croton in the landscape only requires occasional fertilization in the spring and summer.


Croton plants only need occasional pruning to cut back the plant when it is getting too tall, or to remove bare stems. Cutting the stems back at the desired height encourages new growth. You can also snip off the growing tips of the stems to encourage bushy growth. 

Potting and Repotting Croton 

Crotons will need to be repotted occasionally when they outgrow their pots. Choose just one pot size larger than the current pot and fill it with well-draining potting mix.

Pests and Problems 

Overwatering or poor drainage can lead to root rot. Another problem associated with soil that is too wet is fungus gnats, tiny flies that infest potting mix.

How to Propagate Croton

Croton is easy to propagate from stem cuttings. Using gloves, cut a stem 3 to 4 inches long with 3 to 5 leaves. Dip the cut end of the cutting in rooting hormone powder and insert the cutting in a 4-inch pot filled with damp potting mix. Keep it moist at all times but not soggy. At a temperature between 70 and 80 degrees F, roots should form in about one month. Wait until you see some vigorous vegetative growth before transplanting the cutting to a larger container.

Types of Croton

You'll find a kaleidoscope of colorful leaves on a croton plant, including yellows, pinks, oranges, bronzes, reds, purples, and greens. While most plants may feature a simple variegated leaf with a clean edge of cream or gold, crotons go all out. The variegation comes in an endless variety of patterns. The most common, though, is a croton leaf boasting brightly colored veins and margins with the bulk of the leaf being a deep green. Other types feature spotting or speckled foliage with a backdrop of green, while still others develop leaves that emerge one bright color and fade as they age. 

Popular varieties include:

'Petra' croton

Gold Dust croton plant
Denny Schrock

This selection of Codiaeum is one of the most common varieties of croton. It has large leaves with veins in reds, oranges, and yellows.

'Gold Dust' croton

Gold Dust croton plant
Denny Schrock

Codiaeum 'Gold Dust' is a smaller-leaf variety with deep-green leaves splashed with specks of gold on well-branched plants.

'Andrew' croton

Andrew croton plant
Doug Hetherington

This variety of Codiaeum variegatum pictum is variegated with a wavy creamy yellow band around its leaf margin and a two-tone gray-green central leaf body.

'Red Iceton' croton

Red Iceton croton
Doug Hetherington

Codiaeum variegatum pictum 'Red Iceton' has foliage that emerges yellow or chartreuse, and gradually turns gold with a wash of red.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is the croton plant toxic?

    All plant parts contain a sticky sap that oozes out when a leaf or a stem of broken or cut off. Therefore, you should aways wear protective gloves when handling croton plants.

  • Do all crotons have large leaves?

    Most crotons have large leaves, but there are some small leaf types and very narrow leaf types that can add lovely texture to a garden.

  • Why does my croton plant drop its leaves?

    A common reason for croton defoliation is that that the plant is overwatered or underwatered. Temperatures that are consistently below 50 degrees F or sudden temperature changes can also cause the plant to drop its leaves.

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  1. "Croton." Pet Poison Helpline.

  2. "Codiaeum variegatum." North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension.

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