My Croton is Unhappy

sahm2ae(z7VA)March 17, 2008

I'm a relatively new indoor gardener, and I have several very happy plants, including an herb garden, but my croton, no matter where I put it or how often I water (or don't water) it, keeps dropping leaves, and is now less than half as full as when I purchased it. I've had it for about four months now, and I don't know what changes I need to make to bring it back. I was even more upset after I saw my late great-grandmother's 15 year old croton at my grandmother's house, and it's 4 ft. tall and absolutely huge! Thank you in advance for any advice!


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Could be that it has spider mites (have you checked with a magnifying glass between the trunk and branches for tiny webs?), or it's not getting enough light, or it's being watered too often, but crotons so often come with mites and often don't get enough humidity that I'd bet on those before anything else. Move it away from your other plants and if you see any sign of them (they are almost microscopic) by webbing if nothing else, spray off with water first (the hard kind from a kitchen sink spray) then use (from any garden centre) Safer's Soap spray on the plant, front and back, and repeat in 5-7 days, and again a week later. Keep the humidity around the plant high to discourage more problems.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 5:45AM
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Adopting a croton is like getting a stray puppy -- you don't know where it's been, and you can only imagine its history. In the case of crotons, many are grown in S FL under light shadecloth, but even so they are accustomed to much more light than they will get in your house. And let's not go into the horrors of riding in a dark truck for several days, and being kept in way too little light at the store.

If you move your croton to good light and rule out mites as Lucy says, it will probably stop shedding leaves as days become longer and light becomes more intense. In Florida they grow in yards, as foundation shrubs, so that gives you an idea of just how much sun they can take.

Chandres, you are not alone! This happens all the time. Your family heirloom croton became accustomed to indoor light, and so can yours given enough time and watchful care. A 6-month adjustment period is reasonable, so the sad part is almost over. Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: my website

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 7:59AM
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Lucy, I actually have seen webs, and I've just dusted them, so now thankfully I know how to handle them! I'll go to the store to get the spray today.

Barbara, I'm glad I'm close to the end of the adjustment period, and I looked at your website and realized you aren't very far from me at all! I'll be poking around your site more, and looking into some of your books!

Thank you both for your quick responses!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 8:59AM
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I've sprayed the croton once now, and will again next week, and it's dropping leaves even faster now. I'm down to 22 leaves, and I cut down the empty parts (it was really just sad seeing them bare). I'm losing one leaf per day now, which is more than before, and they're all the bright ones, leaving mostly green ones. I know that it probably hasn't had enough light, and unfortunately, all I can and am doing is putting it right in front of my northeast-facing french doors in the morning and moving it outside as soon as it's warm enough during the day. My mother-in-law works in admin. for a nursery, and one of the employees assured me there was no way I could kill a croton (it was only one of my first few indoor plants), and I'm really thinking she was off on that one!

I guess at this point I just want to know what else, if anything, needs to be done, and here's a picture.

Thanks again for the responses, and I'm anxious to find out what I need to do!


    Bookmark   March 22, 2008 at 11:58PM
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Be patient, very patient. Give the soap spray enough time to work (do it a 3rd wk in a row too), give the plant time to recover and to think about new leaves and stop moving it around. Keep it in one place with the best light you can and then leave it there - it can adapt to a bit less light, but won't like being moved so much. Don't water more often than necessary (when the soil's dry at least 1-2" below the surface) or leaves are just barely looking tired, if not yet droopy. Do NOT let it sit in the drain water - that'll rot roots, but DO use a much wider 'tray' with 1" sides or so, full of stones and water, but with the water never high enough to touch the pot and be wicked in.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2008 at 5:36AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Spider mites won't kill it as fast as this plant is losing leaves. To see if you have mites hold a white sheet of paper under the plant and shake it. You can then see them crawling on the paper. Many crotons do have mites when purchased but death is slow.

Despite what you were told, crotons are very easy to kill.

As already advised they are grown outdoors in Florida, shoved in a truck and shipped across the country, exposed to who knows what at the retail location (generally not good light and good care) and then taken home. They don't much care for this treatment.

They need very bright light indoors, including direct sun. They also want high humidity.

Do not beat yourself up if it croaks.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2008 at 9:21PM
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I sprayed my croton again yesterday, and I saw the most exciting thing... each of the five stems with previously calloused ends now has green poking through (and I haven't lost any more leaves)! Maybe it'll make it! Thank you all for your responses and help... it would most definitely be dead by now without the advice.


    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 10:36AM
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Chandres, Crotons are difficult growing indoors..some species are easier maintaining, but in reality, they like being outdoors.
If you can set it out, do so..
Crotons need humidity..soil should dry a bit between waterings, otherwise, dry air and wet soil invite mites.
If kept inside, shower leaves once a week..hose in sink or shower..Mist'll notice a big difference..Mites do NOT like being sprayed..
To keep mites away, this is what I use..(for all plants (not African Violets)) 2-4 drops of dish soap, finely chopped garlic and citrus rind..Let sit overnight, shake well before use. Spray once a week or once every two weeks..All ingredients are natural and won't harm plants..Chemical-free.
During winter, set Croton in a tray with pebbles/stones..Fill tray with water, do not allow water to exceed drainage holes..otherwise, water will be sucked up into pot, keeping soil wet..
Another thing I noticed about Crotons, they don't like to be over or underpotted..they need room for roots to grow, espeically in spring, but not to the point soil will remain wet..
Once your Croton is mite-free, use an all purpose fertilizer..Mr. Crocett from Victory Gardens states, stop fertlizing Crotons in July..
The good news is, baby leaves will fill in bare spots..So, ASAP, set outside or place in a sunny spot indoors..Toni

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 3:41PM
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I don't have mites, but can this method be used to clean the leaves off in general? They had some dust on them when I got it, and after I washed them off with water, they got some whitish precipitant on them.

I also have it sitting in a window right now, and it'll go outside for the summer. Inside, of course, but pretty much right next to the window. Would this be too much sun? I'm getting conflicting information -- some people say they need full sun, and others say they need some shade or the colors don't develop right. It's the same kind sahm has.

Also a bit confused about what I have it potted in. It's about a forty/sixty mix of perlite and some sort of potting soil, but it seems like it's staying wet longer than it should. I mean, I don't THINK perlite helps water retention. I'm also not sure this is a proper mixture, although it doesn't seem to be hurting it. I'm assuming the decreased organic stuff means I'd need to fertilize more?

Anyway, it seems to be doing alright. It lost one leaf, which was half under the soil anyway for some reason and was mostly deadish looking when I got it, and it's putting out some new leaves. It's not really branching, though. It has a main trunk with leaves coming off of it. Should I pinch the stem back some if I want to induce branching? It looks like the stem had been pinched before I got it, but... still no branching from what I can tell. I mean, I don't mind, but I am concerned it'll get top heavy and unbalanced. Then again, if it keeps growing like that, it'll be shaped like one of those ficuses, I guess, which would look sort of neat.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 11:26PM
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Well, my croton is doing pretty well, it seems. Putting out a bunch of leaves. However, they're all yellow in color. Now, it's got some reddish ones on it, but they're older leaves, I guess, as they're lower on the plant. What do I need to do to get the thing to start putting out some red/orange foliage?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 8:32PM
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The only thing I've ever heard re: color change is the amount of light the plant receives (i.e. more light, more colors). I'm just excited that I have about 10 new leaves about 1/2 in. long and more working their way up! I think it really likes going outside during the day.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 9:01PM
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Mine's currently sitting in my window and it's got three new leaves coming in. the plant is particularly striking when it catches light from the sunset, or some of the streelights at night. It's like it's glowing.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 12:06AM
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This winter, my Crotons, a few as old as 10 years, kicked the bucket. But I figured out the problem. For one, Crotons love humidity. The new humidifer bought after Christmas, sucks!! Where does one find a decent humidifer? One that doesn't cost a fortune, a fortune meaning over 100.00, yet puts out a good amount of humidity.
SEcond, my Crotons are kept in the front plant room. This winter has been a cold one, moreso than usual. Because the windows in that room are ancient, (not to mention a settling house that's probably leaning,) they leak air. It's plain cold. Crotons thrive on warmth and humid conditions. The room they're in is the only room bright enough to keep Crotons' vibrant colors, nw, mostly west windows. They've been in the same windows for years, summered outside. Bought a Croton last summer called Picasso's died! I also lost an Andrew Croton, one of my favorites. Yellow with black speckled leaves. I'm hoping once Crotons go outside, they'll do better. I haven't tossed the 'dead?' crotons out, hoping some will green up. Well worth the wait.

Amccour, in winter, Crotons do best in the sunniest windows. Summer sun from direct south or west may be too strong. Though in GA, Crotons grow in the ground out in the open, year round, so maybe it's a matter of adaption? When mine go out, they're under tips of tree branches, but still get some direct light from all but west sun. I also discovered, Crotons in larger pots do better than underpotted. Of course, this could be coincidence, but those of mine that died were in 4" pots, others in 6"+ are fine, but won't win any awards. I don't get it??? Toni

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 8:57PM
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Mine seems like it's in a large pot for its size, so that's good to know. I guess I'll leave it on the porch this summer, nearish to the... sunnier places, but not in full sun. Currently, the pineapple is the only thing I have that I really feel comfortable putting in full sun anyway.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 12:13AM
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Amccour, did you start pineapple from a fruit or nursery bought?
Any baby pineappes growing?
I too would feel comfortable setting pineapple in direct sun, even though it's a Bromiliad and broms don't require much direct light. Toni

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 1:15AM
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Started it from fruit. The nursery bought ones I always see are:

A) Tiny.
B) Already fruiting.
C) They usually don't fruit till they get fairly big so A and B combined makes me wonder what they did to the poor things.
D) Leaves usually in bad shape.
E) Small number of leaves.
F) That stupid glue-on gravel stuff that seems to exist only to ruin everyon's life.

Pineapples actually do seem to enjoy full sun. Mine did okay on the porch, and as soon as I put it in full sun it doubled in size. They're also odd as bromeliads in that they're terrestrial.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 8:27PM
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Glad to hear of some recovery. When I got mine, it took a long time to get new growth on it, and it certainly lost a lot of leaves. All mine needed was a better window and some more humidity though. They really can't stand being dry. Luckily I haven't had any trouble even in the winter any more with humidity.. the Niagara region is pretty good for it.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 3:27AM
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Amccour, did you root Pineapple in soil or water? Think I'll try it now that you've 'planted' a seed in my mind. LOL.
2 weeks ago, Jewel, (grocery store) had nice-looking pineapples, (smaller but greener leaves than normally sold)should have bought one then. Most of the time, pineapple leaves are broken, cracked, and/or yellow/brown. Finding a healthy fruit is almost impossible.
Our Home Depot had Pineapples once. Leaves were so long, the pots were on the floor, tipped over. They wanted 20.00 a plant, which is highway robbery, especially considering their appearance.
Do you fertilize soil or inside the vase? Which type and how often?
Did your pineapples grow babies? The babies are attractive, nicer looking than mom. Also, can the baby pineapple be removed and rooted, or are they history after fruiting like other Broms? (brom moms, not sideshoots)
That'd be a good experiment. I've got 3 Avacado pits in water. 2 standard, the third the size of a marble. The two older have cracked but no roots yet. I've never had luck rooting Avo's in soil. I wanted to try sweet potato/yam, but most are sprayed with a retardant, don't root. They've got pretty, lacy foliage though.
Celery and regular potatoes are boring. LOL.
Now is as good a time as ever to root a pineapple. Take outdoors and see if they fruit. I wonder if planting outside in the ground would root faster? Toni

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 8:00PM
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My croton hasn't seemed to have much trouble with humidity although as I've said elsewhere the complete lack of ventilation in my dorm means it can get stupidly humid very quickly. It seems to be liking that it's potted in something that's more perlite than dirt.

Does soil acidity affect color at all, I wonder?

"They wanted 20.00 a plant, which is highway robbery, especially considering their appearance."

Ouch. You know you're paying 15 dollars for a pot in cases like that. And usually it's not even a very good pot.

Anyway, what I did for mine. I tried to do it twice. The first one didn't take, although it's possible it was just slow rooting, as they can take up to a month or two to root, apparently. It didn't look too dead but at that point I'd lost interest in that one as the second one was rooted and in soil.

Anyway, process. I basically followed these instructions:

The most important part is that you need to get all of the fruit off of the top, I guess.

For the first one, I actually followed those instructions exactly. For the second one, being impatient, I bought a jar of rooting hormone. My initial idea was to let the top dry, put some hormone on it, and put it in water. I changed my mind, though, and after preparing the top, immediately dipped it in the hormone powder and let it dry out for a day, figuring the hormone might work better and the talc would help dessicate the thing faster.

*This* top rooted in about two weeks.

Now, I'm not sure it was entirely the rooting hormone, because the second pineapple had a much fuller and larger top. In any case, bigger tops seem to lead to nicer plants.

I haven't fertilized mine yet as it's not outside and not growing much. I'm going to start this summer.

Also, they do produce pups which can be planted, although mine's not done that yet as it's less than a year old and pups usually form after flowering, I believe. They tend to grow from the roots instead of from in=between the leaves like in epiphytic bromeliads although I could be wrong.

I'm also trying to get some ginkgos, flame trees (Conflicting reports about whether you can grow them as house plants!), and mimosas to grow. Something went weird, though, as the roots were growing upward and out of the soil, and things were getting moldy. I tried to clean everything up so let's hope for the best.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 6:46PM
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