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Houseplant Care for Croton or Rushfoil

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Croton Is More Than a Colorful Houseplant

Croton is an extraordinarily beautiful plant for the indoors, bringing with it a large spectrum of color not usually found on interior plant foliage. Most people do not know this plant by its name, but they do know it by its predominant characteristic, it is often just referred to as "the colorful plant." Color variation in plant foliage is referred to as variegation. There are many houseplants with variegated leaves, but few have as vivid a range of coloration as the Croton.

Croton is most often used as a tabletop or accent plant in arrangements in interior settings. It is readily available at most houseplant retailers at an average price for houseplants in its pot size and design category.

Croton is easy to care for, as long as you are familiar with its needs. There are some things to know about the Croton that will make the difference between having a nice full colorful plant, or a straggly dull plant. When placed indoors, it does have environmental needs, preventative care preferences, and enemies that seek to destroy its beauty.

More About Croton

Tips for Placing a Croton Indoors

Finding a good place in your home or workplace to keep your croton is the primary key to keeping it vibrant and full. Croton will not thrive in just any interior setting. Croton, like most variegated plants, needs a good amount of light to continue to produce the colorful pigments in its plant cells. Ideally, croton should be placed in bright diffused light, but moderate light conditions can work as well. Natural sunlight is best, but croton has also been known to do well when placed directly beneath fluorescents.

Croton in too low of light will begin to lose its color when producing new growth. It may also begin to grow tall and leggy, while losing a significant amount of its lower foliage, and in the end, leaving a stringy barren green-leafed plant. In low light conditions, overwatering symptoms may also begin to appear as brown crunchy tips on the leaves.

Conversely, croton placed in direct high light or heat is almost guaranteed to crop up with a colony of vigorous spider mites, which will ultimately destroy the shiny vibrant appearance of your plant. Spider mites love croton leaves, and croton kept as a houseplant, especially in a hot dry climate, is a prime candidate for a spider mite feast. They have even been known to attack crotons in moderate lighting and temperatures indoors, read on to learn more about detecting and preventing spider mites on croton plants.

Be particular when finding a place for your croton; not too dark, not too bright, not too hot, but just right—moderate or high diffused light is ideal.

Croton Pests and Spider Mite

One of the biggest threats to croton kept as a houseplant is the ever-present threat of the ravenous spider mites. Spider mites absolutely love croton leaves and have been known to weave a noticeable thriving colony on unsuspecting croton in a week's time.

Croton can be a bit tricky when it comes to preventing mites, as they enjoy the same bright light conditions that can produce the dry heat and dry air conditions that spider mites also thrive in.

How to Keep Spider Mites From Attacking Croton

  • First and foremost keep your croton watered regularly, a plant placed under undue stress, like that of being neglected, is less likely to have the ability to stand up to a Pest attack of any kind, and in some ways seems to attract danger.
  • Croton leaves should be hand wiped on a regular basis, with a damp cloth or baby wipe. Both the bottom and top sides of the leaves should be wiped and in suspect cases, the stem should also be wiped to the best of your ability.
  • After a good wipe down going back over your croton with a light solution of leaf shine, neem oil, or liquid soap can add a protective barrier to help prevent future outbreaks.
  • It is also a good idea to fully spray or rinse your croton under cold water from time to time. Spider mites hate cold water.

There are other pests that occasionally attack croton, like mealy bugs, and aphids, but they are much less common in interior circumstances.

Detecting and Treating Spider Mites

It's important to learn how to identify the presence of spider mites on your plants, so you can begin treating them right away, before the problem grows out of hand- which can happen quickly.

Watering and Other Croton Maintenance Tips

Croton is a plant that does require regular consistent watering; if croton is allowed to go too dry it will have a noticeable reaction in which the leaves will lay down, often making the plant look as if it is dead. This dramatic reaction is due to the loss of turgor pressure in the plant cells that hold the leaf upright, it also serves to help the plant conserve its low resources when there is scarcity by making less of the leaf surface exposed to the sun and therefore reducing transpiration (a plant's equivalent of perspiration).

Try to avoid allowing your croton to get to this point, it does like to dry out between waterings, but the drying period should be very brief. Watering croton all the way through to its liner is recommended, it is often necessary to leave some excess water in the liner, then reapply water when the soil surface is dry to the touch. Undue leaf loss is typically the consequence of allowing your croton to be exposed to under-watering.

Croton is considered a heavy drinking houseplant by professionals and does require regular attention at least once a week, to be sure to keep it in good health.

Aside from watering, there are other tasks that should be performed on indoor croton to assist in its overall health.

Tips and Tasks for Keeping Your Croton Healthy

  • If croton is to bloom indoors cut the bloom off. There are few indoor plants that produce blooms that are aesthetically pleasing, or helpful to the plant's health. Croton blooms in indoor circumstances only serve to add stress to the plant, and they are messy.
  • If you have nice full croton and would like to keep it that way, cut back alternating stems to a leaf from time to time to keep the growth compact. Once it grows out and drops undergrowth it will be too late to turn back the clock.

Happy Growing!

Now go and enjoy your croton! Allow it to enjoy life indoors by following the tips mentioned for proper care and maintenance.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Why are my two croton plants dropping their leaves?

Answer: There could be a few reasons for leaf loss on a Croton, the following are some of the most common. If these plants have recently been purchased or moved they might be receiving less light now than they were previously and would shed foliage that can no longer be supported in the new lighting conditions. If the plants have had a spell of being over or under watered they would drop leaves. If the plants are growing rapidly they will often drop some of the older foliage that is not collecting as much light as the new foliage.

Question: My Croton plant has developed small white dead spots on the leaves. What could it be?

Answer: The small white dead spots on a Croton’s leaves, as you describe, sound most like powdery mildew. The surface of the leaves will need to be carefully hand wiped, and the plant should be moved to an area of much lower humidity.

Question: I have spider mites on my croton plant. I have been cleaning the leaves and running under cold water every few days and I can no longer see any mites, however, the leaves have started to fall off. What should I do?

Answer: There are a few possibilities; it may be that your plant has inadvertently gotten too much water in the process of fending off the Spider Mite, the Mites may have damaged the leaf stems causing the plant to shed them, Mites often attack a plant under stress so your plant may be showing symptoms now of an environmental or watering fluctuation that occurred at the time the infestation onset. Check the moisture in the soil, temperature, and placement of your plant do your best to bring all of these elements back into balance for the best recovery result.

Question: My Croton is 4 feet tall. Can I cut it back?

Answer: You should be able to prune back your Croton successfully. Make your cuts just above the last leaf at the desired height you wish the plant to be. Avoid cutting in too deeply, or cutting too much off at one time. I would say only go back 2-3 leafs from the end of the existing stem and hit no more than about 4 stems in a single pruning.

Questions and Comments Welcome!!!

thoughthole (author) from Utah on December 23, 2016:

Susie, if you do indeed have this Croton in decent diffused light it will likely stop loosing leaves. It sounds like it probably just had a bit of a reaction in relation to the repotting. I am not sure the whole story behind this, but it almost sounds typical of what would be experienced when an indoor plant gets moved to a lower light, or cooler location more so than over water. If either of those sound like they fit the situation maybe consider alternate placement. Good Luck!

Susie on December 20, 2016:

I just got a Croton and I re planted it cause roots were coming out bottom of planter now it's leaves r falling of the told me at plant nursery I over watered it so I have not watered it I just hope it not dying does anyone know will it come back I have it inside under light ?

Ilona Erwin from Georgia on October 18, 2015:

Very thorough information- my houseplants are only the very sturdy tolerant ones nowadays. I love the colorful Crotons- they look very good in outdoor containers, too.

thoughthole (author) from Utah on February 06, 2013:

You are very welcome DDE, it is my hope that plants and caretakers everywhere can benefit from this information.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 06, 2013:

A useful hub to such kind of plants thanks for sharing good information to plant lovers.

thoughthole (author) from Utah on March 08, 2012:

Happy to be useful snlee.

snlee from Asia Pacific Regions on March 08, 2012:

Very helpful information. Thanks