top heavy croton

blooms2c(6)October 20, 2010

I have a croton I've had for several years, bought as a very small plant and repotted several times. My problem is it is getting very top heavy and I even have some of it staked and some limbs tied (loosely). Is there anything I can do to make the limbs stronger? Do I need to repot again or cut back? I really like the size and would like to keep it like that, but if I take the support away I'm afraid of what it will do. Also, how do you start new plants from croton?

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Do you have a picture of your Croton?
Is it getting enough light? With adequate sun, Croton branches are normally strong enough to hold the top. Unless its pot is too short.
Do you have a deeper pot? A picture would help. For the time being, you may need to stake. Toni

    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 1:55PM
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Thank you for replying. Yes, I posted a picture in the Gallery. I'm brand new to this forum, so if there is a way to post a picture here, I can't find the instructions. I posted the same question in the Gallery with photo's several days ago, but got no replies, so I posted here.
If you look at the picture, my pot may need to be taller? It's a pretty big pot, but the plant is pretty tall. Also, it is in a good window for morning sun until after about 1pm or so. Would you suggest a bigger pot or more sun or both? Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 3:15PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hi, Blooms. Your plant looks nice, but making the pot deeper, or changing it in any way isn't going to stiffen branches. Over the long term, increased light would have the most impact on thickening/strengthening stems, but you can also accomplish your goal by pruning, and your plant is a prime candidate.

In the same way that a short stick feels stiffer than a long stick with the same diameter, you can 'shorten to strengthen'. I can't really see the plant well enough to offer specific directions (more pics?), but shortening the longest branches will stop them from growing longer. It will also cause back-budding. Since the main stems won't be elongating, the tree will channel energy into thickening the shortened branches, so you'll have TWO things working in your favor - the shorten to strengthen thing, and the fact that since the shortened branch can't elongate, it will thicken. You'll also end up with a plant with more branching and more compact, denser foliage.


    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 3:29PM
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You can post a picture directly in your post by pasting the HTML code in the body of your post.

Beautiful plant. You can prune those easily but it will make it bushier. Very pretty!


    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 3:44PM
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Blooms, your Croton is doing great. It's beautiful.
Have you grown in that spot since you've had it as a baby? If so, its variegation is vivid..the top leaves are a tad lighter, but that could be because of the time of year.
Sun isn't as strong, etc, so it's normal to lose some color. Otherwise, it likes where it's living.

Because you said it's leaning, I assumed it was in a shallow pot.

Is it possible to center your Croton in the middle of the window, so it gets more sun? Also, rotate weekly. 1/4 turn. Plants should get an equal amount of light, otherwise, the side that continuously sits in light will grow larger.
Other than more light, I'd let it be. Toni

    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 3:57PM
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Wow, you guys are so nice. Thank you for all the compliments and helpful suggestions. I will start turning it and Al, I might prune it to make it bushier. Kind of afraid of what I might do to it. Also, thanks so much for telling me how to put my picture in this post. I will do that now for any others that haven't seen it.

I also have another plant, not sure what it is and need advice on it too. So look for my post! You guys are the greatest!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 5:24PM
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I'm sorry, I didn't answer your questions. No, when I bought it 10 years ago, it was about 8 inches tall with about 4 leaves and I've transplanted it twice. It has been in that pot in that spot for about 2 1/2 years. the pot it is in now is a little over 1 foot tall and about 1 foot, 8 inches across. I think I would like to prune and make it thicker, but I'm afraid I mess it up. You know how plants become like your children or pets. Don't want to hurt it.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 6:00PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Blooms - don't be afraid to prune. Pruning is your friend, and in the end, the only way you'll be able to keep your plant attractive. I prune and pinch every houseplant I own that has a branching habit ..... and some that don't. ;o)

Some examples and hopefully, confidence builders - for you. ;o)

This plant's habit is to grow one or two long stems with an occasional random branch with a rosette on the end of each branch.

W/o pruning/pinching, it would look nothing like it does.

Another example of how nice and full/compact you can keep plants like this snapdragon I keep indoors if you pinch/prune:

A well-pinched coleus growing indoors:

More coleus that would be gangly w/o pinching

I guess what I'm trying to say is the natural growth habit of a plant doesn't always lead to something beautiful - sometimes they need our help to keep them in bounds. We prune away at our outdoor trees with reckless abandon, yet they all seem to survive just fine. Your croton is just another outdoor plant that happens to tolerate being indoors quite well, and will respond very favorably to pruning.

The stems are just going to get longer and more floppy as time goes on, so if you're unhappy with the appearance now, you can be sure it won't improve w/o your intervention. If you decide you'd like to prune, let me know. I promise anything I suggest won't hurt your plant. ;o)

Best to you - good growing!


    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 6:07PM
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Oh my gosh, those are beautiful plants! I've never had a coleus that wasn't tall and gangly, as you say. What is the first plant, you didn't name it. I want to get one and try to make it look like yours. How long did it take to make it that way? Also, Snapdragons indoor? I didn't know you could grow them inside like a houseplant. Did I see a trunk looking thingy at the bottom? Was it a special Snapdragon? Yes, Yes, Yes I want to prune my croton if I can make it look as beautiful as anyone of your plants! Is it the right time of year, or does that matter?

    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 6:31PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Yes, Al has the knack for the nip, no doubt. Or should that be the pinache for the pinch, perhaps? I would probably wait until next Spring to prune back and if your potting mix is 2 1/2 years old (3 years by then) you may want repot at that time as well. Not change pots, just the medium it's in.


    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 6:57PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The plant is Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop', but you don't have to look for it, just send your address and I'll get one in the mail, along with some appropriate soil. They are very easy from cuttings, and I have many.

How long did it take? I'm not sure. Working so much with trees, I think I'm usually thinking in terms of plant time, rather than people time. It probably took about 3 years, but remember - manipulating plants is a living form of art, and the subject is always evolving. That plant had each of the stems cut back again, and even more rosettes formed on each of THOSE stems, so the plant morphed into something much different than the one in the pic. Eventually, plants like that will be difficult to make look great, so you recycle by using the cuttings to start more/start over. Because your plant has a branching habit, it's much easier to keep looking good.

It wasn't a special snapdragon - just one that was in a mixed container at the end of the year. It had something of a woody trunk, so I decided 'what the heck', and potted it up. It finally died this year after reaching about 7 years old, but I kind of neglected it and it went through last winter needing a repot. It was weak in the spring & I lost it to snapdragon rust.

The picture above is the 'before' picture; here it is after I pruned it

and you might enjoy a little geranium in a little pot

Your plant is very healthy, and you won't be doing anything major to it at this point - wrong time of year for that, so it will tolerate a little pruning just fine. Can you post some more pics or email them to me so I can see a little better what you have there? Different angles?


    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 7:06PM
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Yes, I will do that in the morning and get you my address for the cutting. Thank you so much!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 8:02PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You're welcome!


    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 8:47PM
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Blooms, 2-yrs-is sufficient evidence your Croton enjoys the spot it's in. If it wasn't happy, it wouldn't look anything like yours, as full and vibrant. Leaves would drop, and Crotons are Spider Mite contract insects. Evidently yours doesn't do or have either.

There's nothing to fear pruning or pinching a plant. Since your Croton is full, I don't see any need to prune..Except for that one stray branch. Toni

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 1:10PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

M - You already know that the natural growth habit of the plant is such that the stems are having difficulty supporting their own weight. If the plant was struggling, I would say wait until early next summer to prune, but waiting that long is just going to cause additional bending of the stems that will be difficult to correct w/o even more extensive pruning ..... and your plant isn't struggling. If, as noted above, there is nothing to fear from pruning or pinching a plant, why wait for the 'floppiness' to get worse? ;o) Plus, you'll get the added bonus of an even fuller plant.

If I can take a second to muse on your dime, M, I'd like to say that we can add another dimension to our growing by not only learning to grow healthy plants, but by also making sure we have a good sense of what it takes to keep them looking good. Very often, a few well-placed pruning cuts undertaken annually, and a regular pinching program, can make the difference between a gangly, out-of-control monster crawling across the floor, with a few leaves at the end of a few branches, and a well-behaved, upright beauty with lots of branches and lush foliage. I wasn't referring to your plant, which is very attractive, but is just beginning to get out of bounds.

We all want beautiful plants, but they don't often get to 'beautiful' and stay that way w/o regular intervention. It's very true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what looks good to one, might look untidy to another. I'm guessing, since you (the only one that matters) are unhappy with the appearance of your plant, you would like to do something about correcting it, why else would you ask for input? I'll watch for the pictures you mentioned in your mail and see what they say. Whatever I might suggest will be conservative - something the plant can easily handle.

TJ (upthread a bit) was right about the repot. Let's think about that in June. ;o)


    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 3:50PM
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