I recently started using crotons for fall decorations. How do I take care of them?
Colorful crotons (Codiaeum variegatum) are tropical plants that do not withstand sub-freezing temperatures and are best treated as an annual or taken into the house for winter. Outdoors, they should be given bright light but not fully exposed to hot noonday sun as this can fade the rich colors in their leaves. They can sometimes be successfully overwintered in the ground if planted in an extremely sheltered spot but expect them to look rough between the first and last frost.
Crotons make good winter house plants for a sunny window and should be kept moist but not wet. If you are bringing them inside after being outdoors all summer, expect them to immediately drop a lot of leaves – don’t be alarmed as they will quickly get over the shock of relocation and will re-foliate when grown next to a window with plenty of light. A steady application of house plant fertilizer will also help them recover more quickly. Crotons do tend to be prone to spider mite infestations when they are kept inside, so be alert for the appearance of tiny little webs and red spots on buds and under leaves. When caught early these pests can easily be controlled by thoroughly rinsing off plants and spraying with a horticultural soap solution.
There are literally thousands of different croton varieties, each with its own unique set of characteristic leaf shapes, colors and patterns. Nothing else quite matches the bold vibrancy that they lend to our indoor and outdoor landscapes, making them well worth our efforts to grow them.