How to grow croton (Codiaeum variegatum)

Croton (Codiaeum variegatum pictum). Getty Images

Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) are beautiful house plants, grown for their bold and striking foliage. They’re also known as Joseph’s coat as their thick, oval, pointed leaves are splashed with many colours, including red, pink, burgundy, orange, yellow and green. In summer, small white or yellow star-shaped flowers may appear.

Crotons have a reputation for being a little fussy. They’re evergreen shrubs native to Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia, which gives plenty of clues about their care – they need lots of bright light, warmth and humidity in order to thrive.

Crotons are members of the Euphorbiaceae family. All parts of the plant are toxic, including the sap, so keep plants away from children and pets and wear gloves when handling. Avoid getting the sap in your eyes.

How to grow croton

Crotons need need plenty of bright light, a consistently warm spot and high humidity. They can take some direct sunshine but keep them away from direct midday sun. Keep the soil moist from spring to autumn, and provide some humidity by misting regularly or standing on a tray of moist pebbles.

Crotons: jump links

Where to grow a croton plant

Vivid gold, orange and green foliage of a croton
Vivid gold, orange and green foliage of a croton

Crotons do best in bright light and can take some sunshine – this will ensure their leaves stay colourful. Avoid direct midday sunlight, as this will scorch the leaves – a spot near an east or west-facing window is ideal. Provide a minimum temperature of 15°C and avoid rooms with regular temperature fluctuations or draughts.

How to plant a croton plant

Plant in soil-based compost in a pot that is the same size or a little larger than the root ball. Repot every two or three years in spring if rootbound, into a slightly larger pot. Wear gloves when handling.

Where to buy croton online

Caring for a croton plant

Keep the soil moist (but not soaking wet) at all times from spring to autumn. Use tepid water and make sure any excess has drained away. Water less in winter, allowing the top few centimetres of compost to dry out between waterings.

Mist the leaves daily with tepid water or stand on a pebble tray that’s topped up with water.

Feed every two weeks with a balanced house plant fertiliser.

Wipe the leaves occasionally with a damp cloth to remove dust.

How to propagate a croton plant

It is not particularly easy to propagate a croton plant but you could try taking softwood cuttings.

  • Wearing gloves, remove a stem that’s around the thickness of a pencil – around 12cm long. Cut it at a 45° angle, just above a node. You could try dipping the end of the shoots in powdered charcoal to stop the sap from bleeding
  • Remove the growing tip and most of the leaves
  • Place in a small pot of gritty compost, covering with a clear plastic bag to keep humidity high. Water in well.
  • Keep in a warm spot, ideally with some bottom heat.

Growing crotons: problem solving

Dropping leaves – this occurs if there is something wrong with the plant’s growing conditions – for example, the soil is too wet or too dry. It can also happen if it is moved to a new spot.

Fading leaves – the plant needs more sunlight. Ensure that it receives around 4-5 hours of direct sunshine (but avoid midday sun).

Brown leaf tips – the surrounding air or compost is too dry.

Brown edges on leaves – the room is too cold.

Red spider mite can affect crotons. The leaves and stems of the plant will be covered in fine webbing and the upper surface of the leaf becomes mottled. If you look carefully, using a magnifying glass, you will see mites and eggs on the undersides of the leaves. Improve air circulation boost humidity. Alternatively, use sprays containing, fatty acids or plant oils.

Scale insect can also be a problem – you will see raised brown spots on the leaves. Wipe them off with a damp cloth or cotton bud that has been soaked in an insecticide that contains fatty acids or plant oils.

Advice on buying a croton plant

  • Crotons aren’t cheap, so before you invest in one, make sure you can give your plant the growing conditions it needs 
  • Specialist house plant shops and online house plant retailers usually have the best selection of cultivars
  • Check that the plant has lush foliage, with no signs of damage or pests

Where to buy croton online

Varieties of croton to grow

Codiaeum variegatum ‘Mammy’ (or ‘Mammi’) – attractive colourful and ruffled foliage. Height x Spread: 1.5m x 1m

Codiaeum variegatum ‘Petra’ – richly coloured leaves with distinctive, pale green veins. H x S: 1.5m x 1m



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