Croton

OFFICIAL NAME

Codiaeum variegatum 'Mammy'

ALSO KNOWN AS

Fire Croton, Garden Croton, Variegated Croton, Joseph's Coat

ORIGINS & CLIMATE

Southeast Asia | Subtropical

ABOUT THE
PLANT

With a fiery burst of color and texture, this croton is a true stand out. Their squiggly oblong leaves are splashed with joyful flecks of green, yellow, orange, and red that create a spectacular flame effect.

HOW MANY GREEN THUMBS?

color, moderate, bright indirect, goldilocks, mid-size, compact, upright, clusters, bushy or dense, tabletop, floor, subtropical, oblong, ruffled, variegation, patterns

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Croton

The basics

Water Needs

This plant prefers to stay fairly moist, but certainly not soggy sopping wet. Check the soil frequently in summer to determine if it's starting to dry out. In winter, you can be a little more lax, allowing the top inch or so to dry out before watering again.

Water

Preferred Light

Your Calathea will thrive in medium to bright, indirect light. Try to keep away from rays of direct light as this will likely scorch the leaves and fade the pretty leaf patterns.

Light

Humidity Needs

A humidity lover, for sure. Calatheas are generally known for their diva-like qualities and humidity is one of the toughest things to get right for a happy Calathea. Even a slight drop in humidity can quickly lead to crispy brown leaf tips.

Humidity

Ambient Temperature

Adaptable to average indoor temperatures, but will not accept exposure to cold drafts or dry heat from vents. The leaves are likely to wilt dramatically and begin to yellow.

Temperature

Toxic or Not?

A non-toxic plant pal! You can introduce this plant to your whole family, pets and children included. While it'll be a sad day for you and your plant if someone takes a nibble, you don't have to worry about poisoning anyone!

Toxicity

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant can grow up to 2 ft tall with a similar spread (when mature and with enough light)!

Size

Overall Look

Generally low, bushy clusters of relatively short, densely packed stems. Leaves stand upright at night and spread down and out during the day. Works best on a table or shelf to show off the incredible foliage.

Format

Leaf Look

Big round leaves with a frilly ridged texture. Various shades of green create a concentric pattern of brushstrokes on the front, while the undersides are a vibrant magenta.

Leaf Shape

Pro Tip

Notorious for their goldilocks ways, Calathea can also be particularly sensitive to minerals in tap water. If you notice yellowing or browning tips and have already ruled out humidity, watering, and temperature as the culprits, you might try leaving a pitcher of water out for 24 hours or so, at which point most of the bothersome minerals will have evaporated.

Pro Tip

Did You Know?

Not only are Calatheas showstoppers with their gorgeous leaves. They can move! Calatheas are equipped with a special little joint where the stem meets the leaf, allowing them to raise their leaves at night (as if in prayer) and lower them during the day to capture the most light.

Fun Fact

Water

|

Keep soil just moist, but not soggy.

Water Needs

This plant prefers to stay fairly moist, but certainly not soggy sopping wet. Check the soil frequently in summer to determine if it's starting to dry out. In winter, you can be a little more lax, allowing the top inch or so to dry out before watering again.

Light

|

Medium to bright, indirect light.

Preferred Light

Your Calathea will thrive in medium to bright, indirect light. Try to keep away from rays of direct light as this will likely scorch the leaves and fade the pretty leaf patterns.

Humidity

|

Sensitive to low humidity—keep in a humid spot.

Humidity Needs

A humidity lover, for sure. Calatheas are generally known for their diva-like qualities and humidity is one of the toughest things to get right for a happy Calathea. Even a slight drop in humidity can quickly lead to crispy brown leaf tips.

Temperature

|

Can adapt, but doesn't like sudden change.

Ambient Temperature

Adaptable to average indoor temperatures, but will not accept exposure to cold drafts or dry heat from vents. The leaves are likely to wilt dramatically and begin to yellow.

Toxicity

|

Non-toxic. Completely pet safe!

Toxic or Not?

A non-toxic plant pal! You can introduce this plant to your whole family, pets and children included. While it'll be a sad day for you and your plant if someone takes a nibble, you don't have to worry about poisoning anyone!

Size

|

An in-betweener. Not too big, not too small.

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant can grow up to 2 ft tall with a similar spread (when mature and with enough light)!

Format

|

Low bushy clusters of densely packed stems.

Overall Look

Generally low, bushy clusters of relatively short, densely packed stems. Leaves stand upright at night and spread down and out during the day. Works best on a table or shelf to show off the incredible foliage.

Leaf Shape

|

Round leaves with ridges and a painterly pattern.

Leaf Look

Big round leaves with a frilly ridged texture. Various shades of green create a concentric pattern of brushstrokes on the front, while the undersides are a vibrant magenta.

Pro Tip

|

Can be extra sensitive to the minerals in tap water.

Pro Tip

Notorious for their goldilocks ways, Calathea can also be particularly sensitive to minerals in tap water. If you notice yellowing or browning tips and have already ruled out humidity, watering, and temperature as the culprits, you might try leaving a pitcher of water out for 24 hours or so, at which point most of the bothersome minerals will have evaporated.

Fun Fact

|

These leaves are on the move!

Did You Know?

Not only are Calatheas showstoppers with their gorgeous leaves. They can move! Calatheas are equipped with a special little joint where the stem meets the leaf, allowing them to raise their leaves at night (as if in prayer) and lower them during the day to capture the most light.

Beyond The Basics

Soil & Potting

Thrives in a rich, very well-draining potting mix—you can use a good quality potting mix labeled for indoor plants or make your own mix. You can try a 1:1:1:0.5 mix of potting mix, orchid bark, perlite, and activated charcoal. Ensure the pot has the appropriate drainage and don't forget to pour out any excess water collected in the drainage tray or cachepot.

Repotting

Try to repot every 2-3 years in the spring, especially when tending to a younger plant. Increase the pot size by about 2 inches each time. Once mature and becoming unwieldily to maneuver—you can reduce your repotting frequency and switch to a routine of refreshing just the top few inches of soil. More on repotting here.

Feeding

If you're not already planning to repot, you can fertilize during the spring and summer months. Once to every two months should be plenty. No fertilizer is necessary during the winter when plant growth naturally slows down. You can try a balanced liquid or water-soluble fertilizer—always diluted more than the recommended strength. A cactus and succulent specific feed would also work well. More on using fertilizer here.

Grooming

Can be prone to legginess (or straggly, elongated growth). Regular pruning of the new growth (up to a third of the whole plant) will promote a fuller, bushier appearance. New leaves will emerge from the cut stem. Plus, you can use these stem cuttings to propagate! In addition, it's always good practice to regularly remove yellowed or dying leaves and any fallen plant debris. Ensure your scissors or pruners are sanitized to avoid spreading disease or pests. More on grooming techniques here.

Propagation

To propagate a Croton, you can take apical stem cuttings (the top of the stem where there is new growth), around 4-6 inches long with at least 3 leaves. Remove any lower leaves to ensure a clear stem before rooting in water or another medium. Croton can be a bit more stubborn to root that other plants, so it can be helpful to dip the cut stem in rooting hormone first. Once the roots are a few inches long you can pot up your new plant! More on propagation techniques here.

Variants

TrOUBlESHOOTING

Why is the variegation on my Croton disappearing?

Symptom

Whole plant looking less and less variegated. New leaves are mostly solid green.

Cause

This is most likely due to insufficient light. While Croton can be quite tolerant of low light conditions, they may begin to loose their variegation to compensate. Greener leaves means more efficient photosynthesis.

Solution

Improve the lighting conditions for your Croton. These plants prefer medium to bright, indirect light. Make sure to adjust your watering to accommodate the increased light.

More on lighting here.
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Why are the leaves on my Croton wilting and yellowing?

Symptom

Multiple leaves are wilting and turning yellow—particularly the older, lower leaves. You may also notice stunted growth and mushy stems.

Cause

The most likely culprit is overwatering and initial signs of root rot. When a plant's roots sit in waterlogged soil for too long, a fungal infection can quickly take over, causing the roots to rot (turning brown and mushy).

Solution

First, ensure that your plant has appropriate drainage (both in terms of well-draining soil and plenty of drainage holes in the plant's container).

If you think you've caught the overwatering early on, you can simply let the plant dry out more than you have been. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out before watering again. Continue monitoring and only water when needed. You may also try using chopsticks (or something similar) to poke holes in the soil to help the roots get more oxygen. And finally, you can try to "wick" the excess moisture out of the soil by placing the whole pot (with drainage holes) in a tray or container with dry soil. This new layer of dry soil should soak up some of the excess moisture from the waterlogged areas around your plant's roots.

However, if you suspect a serious case of root rot, you'll definitely need to take a peak at the roots by removing the plant entirely from their container. If there are any black and mushy roots, trim them back completely before repotting with fresh soil in a new or sterilized container.

More on leaf changes here.
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Why are the leaf tips on my Croton browning?

Symptom

Leaves turning brown just on the edges or tips. These edges may gradually change from yellow to brown, crispy, and possibly a bit curled.

Cause

Browning just on the edges of tips is usually a reaction to low humidity. Since many of our houseplants have tropical origins, they also thrive in humid conditions. Our average indoor humidity is usually adequate, but some plants are simply more sensitive to changes in humidity than others. You may notice this more acutely when conditions are particularly dry—like when you turn on the heater in winter.

Solution

Try to accommodate your plant's needs by locating them in more naturally humid places, like the bathroom or kitchen, or grouping a bunch of humidity-loving plants together. But the only way to truly guarantee increased humidity is to get a humidifier!

Once you've addressed the problem: If the brown tips bother you, you can trim them back. Do your best to follow the shape of the leaf to help them look natural. Also, try to cut just short of the discolored edge so it doesn’t expand.

More on leaf changes here.
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