Croton plants are a widely diverse family of tropical and temperate garden plants that grow at maturity as highly medicinal shrubs and trees. They’re also generically called Rushfoil plants and are well recognized by the unique dense outline of their seeds and sizeable fluffy leaves which can be anything between 2-12 inches long.
Crotons (Codiaeum variegatum) are excellent indoor and outdoor garden plants mostly propagated as decorative plants for their colorful green foliage with yellow, red, or orange seams; and their attractive blooms. They can grow as much as 10-15 feet tall when allowed to thrive in the open wild, while those grown indoors might appear quite smaller in size.
Propagating Croton Plants
Propagating garden plants is an efficient way to increase their lifespan and overall attractiveness. Most garden plants live for five years naturally, but by propagating them at the right time, you can make them keep growing and blooming for twice or thrice that long.
The best way to propagate crotons is by rooting stem cuttings in water or a potting medium. I usually prepare my cuttings for planting by late Fall since the best time for their propagation falls between late Spring and early Summer.
Propagating Crotons from Cuttings
Crotons produce what is called Blind Leaf Cuttings, leaf cuttings that won’t root and grow a new healthy plant. It would be best if you didn’t bother to root their leaf cuttings because there’s no recorded chance of success with them.
Stem Cuttings are your best bet for successfully propagating Crotons, and because of the simplicity of the process, anyone can achieve success with them.
Ensure you’re well-kitted before making your cuttings. Use your protective gardening coat and gloves to avoid direct contact with the sap and thistles.
Select healthy stems from a mature Croton plant, preferably one beginning to outgrow its pot or gradually becoming leggy. Each selected stem should ideally be 4-6 inches long with 3-4 leaves on it, and well-exposed leaf nodes.
Gently cut the stems below the nodes using a garden knife or scissors. The closer the stems are to the base of the parent plant, the better. Ensure your cuttings get between a few hours to about two days to heal properly before rooting them.
You can root your fresh cuttings in water or a potting medium. Rooting in water is much easier and faster for the cuttings to grow new roots than in a potting medium. Although the cuttings grow entirely stress-free from rooting to maturity in a pot, you don’t have to transplant them once they’re rooted.
Rooting your Fresh Cuttings in Water
With your transparent glass jar or potting vase filled with water to a depth of 3-4 inches, place the callused cuttings into the jar, dropping them in from the sides.
Ensure you’re using natural water, not treated with chlorine or other chemical treatment compounds that can harm the tender cuttings.
Rooting your Croton Cuttings in a Potting Medium
Place the jar beside a window sill or the best spot in the home with more than 6 hours of bright indirect sunshine daily. Your cuttings will be well-rooted and ready to be transplanted after 4-6 weeks. By now, your pots should be prepared to receive the cuttings. Always change the water in the glass jar once it looks cloudy inside.
A more direct way to root the cuttings is in a potting medium, and with great care and attention, the cuttings will begin to grow new roots and foliage. As a precaution, I always pot the cuttings at a temperature range of 70°F – 80°F (21°C – 24.5°C).
Pour your potting mix into the pot to surface level and make some holes one inch deep for the cuttings.
If you want to preserve your cuttings from infective bacteria and fungi, then rooting hormones might help. I usually use natural rooting hormones such as honey, cinnamon, coconut water, and hydrogen peroxide. Dip the cut edges of your calloused cuttings into the rooting hormone and insert them into the holes in the pot.
It would help if you made the cuttings stronger in position by adding more potting mix, especially into the empty spaces around. It’s best to water the pot thoroughly immediately, either by misting or spraying.
After the excess water runs off completely, place the pot under shade or in a position, it gets more than 6 hours of bright indirect sunshine daily. Your pots should begin to root after 4-6 weeks.
I always make holes about 30-40 mm wide all around the sides and bottom of the pots to improve internal drainage and guarantee easy airflow.
Sunshine Requirements of Crotons
Croton plants require plenty of indirect sunshine due to their historic tropical heritage. Their nativity is traceable to several Indo-Asian countries, including India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia.
The intensity of sunshine they receive daily will affect the beauty and brilliance of their leaves and flowers. You’ll see them growing and blooming bright and colorful foliage whenever they receive sufficient indirect sunlight.
Low-light potting surroundings will eventually fade away their colorful leaf pigments, leaving only the regular greens. Placing them on a Southern or East-facing window with adequate indirect sunshine will do them plenty.
Too much direct sunshine can also cause a lot of damage to their health so ensure you always keep them under shade when the sun intensity is excessive, especially during summer—an optimum temperature of 15°C to 18°C (59°F to 65°F) is best.
Best Soil Potting Mix to Propagate Crotons
Giving your young Croton plants the right soil potting mix will guarantee their successful development and longevity. With the right potting mix, water and sunshine, your Crotons can grow up to 12 feet high and may continue blooming for 2-4 active years. Crotons enjoy growing in a mildly acidic medium with a pH of 4.5-6.5.
Crotons can be propagated successfully in any commercial cactus potting mix or succulent soil mix with good drainage and excellent airflow. They grow well in a soil-based or soilless potting mix with a blend of coconut coir or vermiculite, Peat moss, fine garden sand, organic compounds like compost, and perlite to improve percolation.
Whatever potting mix you choose, ensure it is lightweight and fast-draining because the Crotons will grow poorly if kept in a soggy and damp pot. I always check the pot’s pH levels for indicators, which helps me keep every potting composition in the right range; it’s easy for acidic levels to drop or increase beyond desired levels.
Watering your Crotons
Crotons have an affinity for moist soil textures and will easily show signs of dehydration once the watering cycle gets below their needs. As a historic tropical variety, they’re used to the regular warmth and wetness of the forests. It would help to mimic the same conditions in your private garden to achieve the best results.
As much as they like to be kept in warm moist soil potting, there’s also the risk of over-watering them; especially whenever the atmosphere seems damp and soggy. If you wish to maintain the right watering cycle for optimum growth, always water your Crotons immediately when the Potting topsoil looks and feels dry.
Crotons, when propagated indoors, can be watered by spraying, misting, or using an electronic humidifier. You should keep their brilliantly-colored flowers and leaves moist to maintain their deepness and richness.
I usually follow a predetermined watering plan of only watering them when the top 1-2 inch soil layer appears dry and crumbly, not more than once in 1-2 weeks in their growing season.
Toxicity of Croton Plants
Their extracts are considered harshly toxic to humans and animal pets if consumed; their thorns and leaves may have the same adverse effects on the skin. Some symptoms after contact with Croton toxins include skin inflammations and rashes. Intestinal disturbances might also be experienced, including diarrhea and retching.
In conclusion, Crotons, also called variegated laurels, and Joseph’s Coat is the only well-known garden plant named after a biblical character. Their pink, red, white, yellow, orange, and green spear-shaped, sturdy, elliptical foliage gives them the legendary description. They also bloom magnificent little yellow and white angulated flowers during their blooming season.
Until recently, Croton seed oils were an important laxative and a readily available herbal remedy in many countries; although its use has recently been discouraged and declared unsafe for medical applications.
Their current applications include as windbreakers in desert-prone areas, and also as a source of fuel to local communities.