Care of croton plant

Crotons (scientific name for croton: Codiaeum variegatum) are stunning shrubs that grow to be five to six feet tall. The coloration is simply stunning, and it adds an exotic touch to your home or garden. The first time I brought home a croton plant I was thrilled at how it looked in my home, but shortly after the journey home, the plant began to drop its leaves. I was worried that it was being caused by something I did; perhaps I was not caring for the tropical plant properly.

Croton Varieties Include: Sloppy Painter, Gold Dust, Red Bravo, Stoplight and Corkscrew.

I had always heard that croton plants are extremely resilient tropical plants that can be grown in almost any indoor environment, so what happened to my croton? It turns out that they simply do not like to be moved, and the trip caused the plant to go into shock and drop all of its leaves. This guide is designed to share information about crotons that you may not be aware of and help you care for them properly.

Growing Croton Indoors and Outdoors

Crotons are tropical plants that thrive outdoors in warm temperate areas. These plants do not like cold weather, so make sure that the temperature remains above 60 degrees Fahrenheit all year. Humidity is also tolerated by the croton plant, so areas like Florida will present the perfect outdoor growing space. If you live in an area where it gets cold outside for a few months out of the year, then you will need to grow the plant indoors where you can control the environment that the plant lives in. It rarely flowers when grown indoors, but the foliage on a croton is striking.

How to Plant and Care for Croton Plants

Croton plants can be temperamental. They don’t like to be moved, and they love direct sunlight, and when they are cared for properly, they look absolutely stunning.

These tips will help you provide them with the care that they need.

Soil – Croton plants require rich soil. I use a combination of organic compost and peat moss. These plants require soil that drains well; they do not like to sit in a pool of water though, so the pot also needs to be able to drain as well.

Fertilizer – Fertilizing croton plants will encourage growth in these plants, but there is no need to feed them more than once a month. The fertilizer should be high in nitrogen and potassium, but feeding the plant too much can cause the leaves to dull and damage the roots. During the winter months when the plant is dormant, you can decrease the amount of fertilizer you give to the plant as well as feed it less frequently. One feeding every other month should be sufficient.

Water – You will need to water your croton plants rather frequently during the growing season. They require the soil to be constantly moist, so when the top begins to feel dry, the plant must be watered again. In addition, these plants like a humid environment. If you cannot find a location that provides this type of atmosphere, then you need to mist the leaves to create it artificially. During the winter months, the watering requirements will decrease, so be careful not to overwater your plants.

Sunlight – These plants require six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day to produce gorgeous yellow, red, and purple foliage. It is best to position a croton plant in an east or west window to ensure that it gets enough sunlight. If the plant is lacking the light it requires, the leaves will turn green.

Temperature and Weather Conditions – Crotons like warm weather, and they tend to grow best in an environment that is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit or chilly drafts of air can cause the plant to lose its leaves, and it is possible that it may even die.


Croton propagation is simple; all that is required is that you create a cutting from the top of the plant and place it in soil to take root. One caveat though; this new plant will require warmth to take root so you may need to create a greenhouse atmosphere for it to grow. One method of creating this effect is to use a plastic bag to cover the plant. Make sure to water the plant before you put the bag over it; the new plant should not need to be watered again until new growth begins to form and the plant takes root. You can also use seeds to plant new croton plants.

Common Problems That Croton Plants Experience

Mealybugs, spider mites, and caterpillars are all pests that can cause damage to the croton plant, they may cause losing leaves. To get rid of small pests such as these, you can wash your plants with a gentle soap and water mixture, and then rinse the plants to remove the soap.

Croton plants are vulnerable to a series of bacterial and fungal diseases that can hinder the growth of these plants. The plants need moist soil to live, but if the soil is wet, that can create root rot and other similar issues. Once a disease is seen in the plant, you will need to transplant it into a new pot, wash the planter, and make sure the roots are free of disease.

Croton Plants Can be Poisonous (Caution)

Crotons can be harmful plants to have around your home, especially if you have children or pets living with you. The milky sap that is inside the stem of the plant is toxic. The sap will cause indigestion distress, but it is typically not fatal for dogs, cats, or small children. Ingesting the sap-filled seed pod can be a fatal mistake, so keep croton plants away from toddlers and pets who may be curious.

Croton plants have breathtaking foliage, but they can be more than you bargained for. This plant tends to have a temper when it is moved, and it can poison small cats, dogs, or children with its sap. If you have a croton in your home, make sure that it is placed in a location where its beauty can truly be appreciated.


Gold Dust Crotons or Codiaeum variegatum is a subtropical, evergreen shrub, naturally occurring in Indonesia, southern Asia, and Eastern Pacific Islands.

A part of the Euphorbiaceae family, Croton plants are known for its showy, shiny bright leaves.

The colorful foliage of this plant has developed a dedicated following of gardening enthusiasts.

They add an explosion of color and this croton variety is known by the common names of:

  • Croton Gold Dust
  • Sun-Spot Croton

The names are based on the appearance of the leaves.

Gold Dust Croton Care

Size & Growth

In its native habitat, the plant grows at a medium pace up to 10’ feet in height.

Cultivated species grow at a slower rate and are smaller in size at around 24” inches.

Meanwhile, greenhouse species may reach a height between 4’ – 10’ feet.

Flowering and Fragrance

Even though the leaves of the plant are its biggest attraction, it does bloom.

The flowers are insignificant and easy to miss as they hang in long clusters between large leaves.

The long racemes are 3” – 12” inches long with tiny male and female flowers on separate inflorescences.

The male flowers have five white small petals, while the female flowers are yellow with no petals.

Light and Temperature

Bright sunlight causes them to produce brightly colored leaves.

When planted outdoors, they provide partial shade for several hours during the day.

Direct sunlight from full midday sun can damage the plant.

Being subtropical plants, Gold Dust Crotons require humidity.

Mist the plants frequently, especially when potted and used indoors.

Or plant the crotons outdoors near a body of water for optimal growing conditions.

The plant is hardy to USDA Zones 10 and 11 and prefers temperatures between 60° – 85° degrees Fahrenheit (15° – 29° C).

When the temperatures start dipping below 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C), the plant is best moved indoors.

Watering and Feeding

During the growing season, watering should be regular to keep the soil moist.

Avoid overwatering as the plant does not respond well to standing water.

Feeding should also be regular during this period.

Weekly fertilization with a balanced formula fertilizer is sufficient.

Occasional feeding with an acidic formula fertilizer designed for azaleas may also benefit the plant.

Cut back both watering and feeding when winter rolls around.

If the soil becomes too soggy or rich, it may affect the plants negatively.

Soil and Transplanting

Constant moisture in the soil is necessary for a Gold Dust Croton to grow lush.

This is why having it planted in a well-drained, organically rich, and slightly acidic soil is necessary.

It not only retains the necessary levels of moisture but also prevents root rot from standing water, which may be a problem in poorly-drained soils.

Similarly, consistently dry soil is no good.

Use a layer of organic mulch around the stem to help keep the soil moist while cooling the roots.

Repot the plants in the spring, if needed.

Use a planter one size larger than the current one – layer 1” – 2” inches of damp, peat-based soil.

Gently lift the plant from the old container and slide it in the new one.

Fill the area around the roots with potting soil and water the plant.

Grooming and Maintenance

The plant responds to trimming favorably, especially if the growth has become leggy.

When the growing season starts, prune the plant back hard and move it outside, under the sun.

Do not shy away from bright sunlight.

Also, maintain good levels of humidity if you’re keeping the plants indoors.

Overwintering may be a problem.

For this, you need to move the plants inside a greenhouse for some warmth.

Even when left outdoors, a cold night may result in drooping leaves.

Other varieties of Crotons at the garden center:

  • Croton Mammy
  • Croton Petra

How To Propagate Croton Plants

Crotons are one of the easiest plants to propagate.

Stem cuttings are easy to obtain and maintain.

This method is the only way to get a replica of the parent plant, in terms of pattern and coloring of the leaves.

The plant also produces shoots, which are dug out and potted individually.

However, these are completely different from the parent plant.

This way, you will have a variety of Crotons.

Propagating with seeds is possible, but not suggested as the plant is not stable.

Also, the offspring won’t resemble the parent plant.

Sun-Spot Croton Pest or Disease Problems

Growing the plant indoors is difficult.

Low levels of humidity make crotons susceptible to spider mites.

The lack of direct bright sunlight also affects the plants, making the color of the leaves not as bright.

Mealybugs may cause an occasional problem.

If you notice woolly patches on the leaves, remove them with a cotton bud loaded with diluted methylated spirit.

If the infestation persists, use a non-toxic insecticide like neem oil.

Also, keep an eye out for scale bugs and aphid attacks and diseases, such as root rot and leaf spots.

Known Toxicity

Being a part of the Euphorbiaceae family means the Gold Dust Croton has some toxicity.

Contact with the sap from the leaves may cause skin eczema for some people.

All parts of the croton plant is poisonous, including leaves, roots, latex, and the bark.

If ingested in large quantities, toxins like 5-deoxy ingenol may cause irritation and burning of the mouth.

The plant also contains oil, which has purgative qualities.

It is suspected of being a carcinogen.

Also, the consumption of seeds is potentially fatal for children.

All of this calls for being careful when handling the plant.

Wear gloves and keep it out of children’s reach.

Suggested Uses For Croton Gold Dust

The Gold Dust Croton is a spectacular addition to hedges or as a potted patio plant.

Use it to add a tropical element to your home or garden.

The striking foliage of the plant looks amazing when positioned with other tropical species.

They are often potted and used as houseplants.

However, being a native to tropical climates, the plant is hard to keep healthy indoors.

It needs a high amount of humidity.

Plenty of sunlight and moisture in the soil is also key to have thriving Gold Dust Crotons.

Is My New Croton Okay Around Kitty?

Ask The Plant Expert:

I got a plant for Mother’s Day. It’s name is Croton, it’s a black waxy leaf with red veins in it. I went online and on one web site it stated that it is highly poisonous to pets and people. I have it on my enclosed patio and my cats go out there all the time. So i was wondering if i should return it? If you could please email me back asap, cause I’d like to keep the plant, but I love my cats and myself more. Thank you for any help, or if your not sure if you could maybe have any ideas on who i could contact. Thank-you, Anneke

Flower Shop Network:

Yes, the croton house plant is toxic for plants and people, but only if it’s digested. If you’re cat has a habit of chewing on plants, you may want to try a different plant. However, the plant tastes terrible, and accidental poisonings are rare.

If any part of the croton is ingested, it would cause vomiting and/or diarrhea, and in large doses could be fatal. It is also a good idea to wear gloves when pruning, and wash your hands after touching the plant.

Although crotons are toxic, they are a beautifully colored house plant that requires little care to maintain. As long as you leave it alone and teach kitty to not crave croton salads, you can live happily with your new plant. However, if you think your cat is prone to chewing on leaves, you might consider a different plant. Be sure to check the FSN House Plant Toxicity List for help.

Codiaeum variegatum or Croton plants are evergreen perennials belonging to Euphorbiaceae family of plants.

Other popular Euphorbia plants include:

  • Crown of Thorns flower
  • African Milk Tree (Euphorbia trigonia)
  • Firestick plant (Euphorbia tirucalli)

These natives of the tropical lands of India, Malaysia, and the Pacific grow readily in USDA hardiness zones of 11 through 12.

Croton plants, known by its common names garden crotons or Variegated Laurel, comprise of a range of shrubs and small trees with brilliantly colorful foliage.

This eye-catching plant is praised for its vibrant leaves painted by nature in glossy shades of reds, oranges, bronzes, yellow, purple, and green.

The striking hues are a result of anthocyanin, the secret ingredient found in the leaves of croton house plants.

The leaves, having a leathery texture, multi-colored and shiny appearance, grow 4” – 6” inches, while the plant reaches a height of 20’ feet.

The plant grows in various shapes and sizes and turns darker with age.

These plants get their name from the Greek word “croton” meaning tick due to their tick-like seeds.

Being an epitome of tropical beauty, croton tropical plants are grown as popular houseplants to accentuate the interior of a modern house.

Since the plant is as attractive to pets as to humans, it is important to ensure whether it is poisonous or not.

Is The Croton Plant Poisonous or Toxic?

Yes, Codiaeum variegatum like these popular varieties are poisonous plants.

  • Mamey Croton
  • Gold Dust Croton plant

While their toxicity levels are not as high as some other species of toxic plants, it is advised to be cautious when keeping them as houseplants.

Croton plants are found to be poisonous for humans, dogs, and cats.

These broadleaf evergreens contain toxic ingredients that are harmful in two ways.

The sap from the leaf or stems contains a skin-irritant which when comes in contact with the skin stain and cause contact dermatitis, a type of skin rash.

Secondly, if the plant is ingested in any way, humans may experience symptoms of gastrointestinal problems.

Similarly, it can cause serious abdominal discomfort for your furry friend, if ingested.

What Parts Of The Croton Plant Are Poisonous or Toxic?

All parts of the Croton, including the leaves, stems, roots, and flowers are poisonous.

Since the leaves and stems are the most exposed parts of the plant, it is important to steer clear of the milky sap produced in them.

The white sap, when touched, can lead to severe skin irritation.

The plant is inedible, but it can lure your baby or pet with its appearance.

Babies, dogs, and cats may chew on the leaves, bark, or blooms of the plant.

More about Poisonous Plants For Cats

This causes a poisonous reaction and they may start showing symptoms.

What Are The Symptoms Of Croton Poisoning?

While the symptoms might not be fatal, Croton plant ingestion causes a burning sensation in the mouth.

You might notice excessive salivation in pets and they may paw at their mouth as a sign of discomfort.

The burning might stop anyone from going for a second bite, but if the plant is ingested in larger amounts, it results in abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms of an upset stomach.

Croton poisoning also makes your pet appear restless, tired, and moody.

Additional symptoms may include staining and painful irritation of the skin, called dermatitis.

How To Protect Yourself While Handling the Croton Plant?

Avoid coming in contact with the sap from the broken leaves or stems.

Wear protective gloves when pruning and trimming the plant or engaged in plant care.

If the toxic liquid comes in contact with you or your pet’s skin, wash the area thoroughly with soapy water right away.

If the plant is ingested or any symptoms of croton poisoning are experienced, contact a doctor, veterinarian, or a poison control center immediately.

While croton is a great ornamental plant, grow it outdoors with lots of bright light or keep the pots away from the reach of children and pets.

Croton Houseplant

Croton Petra, Codiaeum variegatum

Size: 2 to 6 feet

Light Exposure: bright light

Soil: well drained Miracle Gro Potting Mix

Watering: Do not keep wet. Water when the top 2 inches of soil is dry.

Feeding: feed monthly with Miracle Grow Indoor Plant Food

Ideal Temperature: 70° to 80°F

Safe for pets: no, plants are poisonous to cats, dogs and children

Crotons come with a variety of leaf shapes and colors. With so many different varieties, you can find some for medium light and some for high light. Rule of thumb is that the more colors the plant has, the higher its light needs. This plant is known for its bad temperament when it is moved. It will drop some or all of its leaves if moved and this includes when you bring it home from the store. Too much or too little water will also make it lose leaves.

Croton likes humidity but do not do well with temperatures below 60°F, as it grows outdoors in tropical climates. Keep away from cold windows in the winter. Your plant will get its leaves back if you be patient and care for it properly. Then you may find it to be a fairly easy plant to care for. Just don’t move it around.

For plants that like humidity like Crotons, set it in a pebble filled tray with water in it.

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