The Colorful And Easy To Grow Croton Plant
To say that the Croton plant displays all the colors of the rainbow would not be too much of an exaggeration. Different species of the Croton plant, and there are over 750 of them, display different colors, but many of them are attractive, multicolored plants, and therefore are well suited for interior decoration, and in tropical or subtropical climates are often planted for landscaping purposes as well.
If you want some indoor color, in the form of a small shrub (it can be pruned) and have a greenhouse or sun room, the Croton plant can be grown most anywhere as a house plant. It does well when growing at room temperatures, with its main requirement being plenty of sunlight. The Croton plant will grow in partial shade and be quite healthy, but its colors are not apt to be nearly so vivid or striking as when grown in more intense lighting conditions.
The Croton plant is a fairly easy keeper. In areas of low humidity an occasional misting is helpful. The plant requires feeding fairly regularly during the growing season, but less so during the winter. One problem that is sometimes experienced occurs when the temperature is allowed to fluctuate excessively, a condition the plant may respond to by dropping its leaves. Should this happen the plant will usually recover, but should probably then be moved to an area where the environment is apt to be more stable.
Pruning The Croton Plant - The Croton plant's foliage is somewhat toxic; a situation not uncommon as far as tropical house plants is concerned. The sap in the plant can be irritating to the skin and also is apt to stain clothing or carpeting. When pruning the plant it's therefore best to wear gloves and prune with care, perhaps placing a protective covering on the floor if needed. Croton plants can be heavily pruned, a plus when grown indoors as many varieties can reach a height or 8' or more. Since the foliage is often concentrated near the top of the plant, it is often recommended that when pruning, the plant be cut back to about a third of its former height. There is little need to fear that it might not grow back. As long as the growing conditions are satisfactory, it will.
The leaves of Croton plant types are many and varied, ranging from leaves that are very large and very broad, to leaves that closely resemble oak leaves, to leaves that are narrow, twisted, or both, or to leaves that have an interrupted pattern, where the leaf growth stops, the stem continues, and the leaf growth then resumes.
Propagating the Croton Plant - Most varieties of the plant are easy to propagate, with air layering being favored, though propagation by either leaf bud cuttings or green wood cuttings is also commonly done. To propagate by air layering a ring of bark approximately 1" wide is cut from a branch, including the cambium layer directly beneath the outer layer. The cut area is wrapped in a ball of moist sphagnum moss and the ball is then wrapped in protective foil or plastic to preserve the moisture. With this method, roots usually form quite rapidly, after which the branch can be cut just below the roots and placed directly in a container or place in the garden where the plant is to grow.
Feeding The Croton Plant - During the growing season a fertilizer that is fairly acidic as well as one containing a high percentage of nitrogen is recommended, especially since the goal is that of growing lush foliage. For winter feedings a fertilizer which has a higher content of phosphorous and potash is usually recommended. When in doubt, rhododendron or azalea fertilizer will generally work quite well.