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How to Care for a Croton Plant

House Plant - Croton image by evillager from Fotolia.com

The croton plant, also known as Codiaeum, is a tropical foliage plant native to Indonesia and related to the poinsettia. Because the plant originated in the tropics, it requires warm temperatures to thrive and cannot tolerate cold winters outdoors. In the United States, gardeners grow the croton plant almost exclusively indoors. Growers prize croton, which has become a popular houseplant in most of the country, for its colorful, variegated foliage that appears in shades of green, red, orange and yellow throughout the year. The plant can be demanding, however, and requires special care to produce vivid leaf color.

Keep croton in a location that receives six to eight hours of bright, direct sunlight each day, such as a north-facing window. Maintain a consistent temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 55 to 60 degrees F at night.

Mist twice each day using a spray bottle filled with tepid water to increase the relative humidity near the plant. Spray the foliage once during the early morning and once at midday so excess moisture can evaporate before evening.

Water the croton plant once each week during the spring, summer and fall months. Reduce the watering frequency to once every 10 to 14 days during winter, when active growth has ceased. Use lukewarm water to avoid shocking the plant.

Feed the plant using a balanced 20-20-20 NPK fertilizer once every two to three weeks during the growing season. Apply according to the manufacturer's directions for the best results. Do not fertilize during winter, when the plant is in a state of dormancy.

Repot croton only when it has outgrown its container, usually about every three to four years. Increase the size of the container by about 3 inches, and use an all-purpose, well-drained potting soil as the growing medium.

Tip

Grow croton outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10B through 11 only, which includes only the southernmost areas of the country. Here the plant will grow into a medium-sized to large shrub, reaching up to 12 feet in height. Plant in well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade and water weekly, or often enough to keep the soil consistently moist.

A humidifier may be placed near the plant if regular misting is not possible.

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