My poor Croton...

chaparralgirl(Sonoran Desert (CA))September 14, 2011

...I'm afraid it might be dying.

Click here; there are four photos, just click on the image to go to the next one.

I got it maybe a year ago, maybe a bit more. It was full of colorful foliage. Since getting it, I've repotted it twice to allow the roots room to grow. In the last several months, though, it's been slowly dwindling away - losing a leaf here or there, and getting very droopy. Just the other week was when I potted in the second time, and I had been keeping it about 7-8 feet from the window. After this repotting, I placed it next to a south-facing window so it could get bright, indirect sunlight. For a few days, it perked right up; but it's since started drooping again, and it's dropped 3-4 leaves. Now I'm noticing that it seems to be cutting off flow to the remaining leaves, and the main stem itself seems to be starting to shrivel in some places. I've watered this thing every two to three days since I got it, allowing enough time for the soil to dry out just a bit. I have to admit, though, that in all this time I've been using tap water - only recently did I learn that tap water sucks for houseplants (and ours is especially saline). I switched to distilled bottled water, adding 1 TBSP of white vinegar to every 5 gallons of water; but I'm afraid it might be too late at this point. I'd check the roots (which looked fine when I last repotted it), but right now I'm afraid of causing more trauma.

Anyone have any thoughts?

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I can't open your picture.
How much space is between the rootball and inner pot?
Since you're in zone9, your Crotons might grow faster than mine in z5, but actually, Crotons do better when roots are a little crowded.
Did your plant need two repottings?

Crotons require bright light, but they also need fresh, circulating air and humidity.

Without fresh air and humidity, Crotons are notorious catching Spider Mites. Check for webbing in-between and under leaves. Just as a precaution.
If you find webbing, we'll cross that bridge.........

Soil should dry almost completely, not 'just a bit.' It's important you check soil closer to the bottom of the pot. Depending on pot size, 'small pot, 4-6",' inserting your finger deep in the soil will do. Anything larger needs a stick or stake. Insert deep within the soil. If the stick comes out wet/moist, wait before adding more water. If it's dry, give it a drink.

About tap water. I keep old, cleaned milk containers and let water sit about 24 hours before watering. Some plants are more sensitive to chlorine, etc, than other plants.
Chlorophytum/Spider Plant is one example where straight tap water can brown leaf tips.

Crotons like daily misting and weekly showers. Smaller plants can be sprayed in the sink. They bounce up.

I can't see your plant so don't know its condition. For the time being, place your Croton in bright, indirect light, let soil dry between waterings, and mist. Don't fertilize at this point.
If you use SuperThrive, add 10 drops per gallon of water to the soil.

Good luck, Toni

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 1:00PM
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chaparralgirl(Sonoran Desert (CA))

Hi Toni,

Thanks so much for your tips. I'm sorry the link doesn't seem to be working. Facebook is screwy like that. I don't know how to post photos directly here (otherwise I'd just do that).

I see no indications of spider mites, although air circulation in our place isn't great. During the cooler months, I like to open the windows and let the house air out; but during the summer, our average daily temperature is around 110 degrees (I live in the Sonoran Desert), so I have to keep the windows closed.

I do mist, although I read just the other day that misting actually has no benefit, other than to make the plant's caregiver feel like he/she is doing something. Maybe that was just for the particular type of plant that thread was discussing...?

Did it need two repottings... I honestly don't know. I try to keep repottings as infrequent as possible. I didn't know crotons tend to like to be root-bound, and I just figured it looked like it was getting too big for the container it was in.

I suppose I learn best from my mistakes, and this wouldn't be the first plant I've lost. I just hate to lose any of them.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 10:46PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

how to post images here

Here is a link that might be useful: how to post images

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 11:45PM
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chaparralgirl(Sonoran Desert (CA))

Thanks, jean001a, for the link to the instructions. :)

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 3:26PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

How well does that pot drain and what is the media its planted in? When you water, does it flow through?


    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 6:57PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi CG,

Sorry you're having this trouble, I too wonder about the mix & the drainage. Is the mix peaty? I've only repotted this once a year maybe, if you see roots coming out the bottom, then it's time to repot for sure.

I used to have one in my kitchen about 10 ft away from a west window. I grew that in fast draining mix, a plastic pot w/ humidity tray underneath & watered it about twice a week. (It wasn't enough light to keep all its color, it reverted to green, there so I gave it away).

Don't believe everything you read. Also tap water is quite variable in America, my tap water in NYC is pretty good actually & that's ALL I use to water. I leave 1/2 gallon jugs of water out for a couple of days & then water from there.

I'm sorry to say I think it's losing its roots, especially when you mention some of the stem shriveling.

I'd suggest a thorough watering, then nothing for 4 days at least & wait & see. Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 9:57AM
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Does that pot have drainage holes? A lot of the ones I've seen like that don't, so if that's the case, I'd definitely be worried about root rot from overwatering. How dry do you let the soil get between waterings? My experience has been that crotons do drop leaves if they don't get enough water, but they also dislike poor drainage and can rot if the soil doesn't dry out between waterings (so it is kind of tricky to get it just right).

I do think that humidity is important to crotons and might be an issue in your climate. You could try improvising a "mini green house" by putting it in a clear plastic bag after you've misted it to keep the humidity level high. I keep my croton on a fish tank so that the evaporation from that can help with humidity. I feel like it helps. The downside of course is that if the plant has been staying too moist and rotting that this could make the problem worse, but if you're sure that isn't the issue then it might be worth trying.
Hope you are able to save it.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 2:16PM
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Hello Chap..110F degrees! Wow, that is hot.

Your temps are pretty high for a Croton, but doesn't mean you can't keep a Croton, either.

Do you have other tropicals, and if so, how are they doing?

Do you use a/c, c/a or fans? A rotating fan might help. Or might not. I dislike sounding negative, I'm being honest.

We don't use a/c or c/a so our house gets hot in summer. Plants that are kept inside, halt growth, and foliage starts looking bad.
We use fans and open windows, 'though when it's 99F' fans don't do much good. So, a shadier spot is necessary.

Despite what some say about misting, believe me, it does help.
Twice, in the last 5 years, I had winter blues, grew lax, and didn't mist. The difference between other winters when plants were misted and the two winters they weren't, were astonishing. Some plants looked like they belonged in the trash, a few did. Some got buggy. My plants are normally insect-free.

Those who commented made some great points. Espeically about bottom drainage holes. The pot definately need drainage.

The foliage on your Croton look brittle. Since leaves won't resume health, you might as well defoliate. Check the main trunk. Do you see green? Is it flexible or has the wood hardened to the point, if moved, it'll snap off?'

    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 4:37PM
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