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Growing crotons


Outdoor Plants


Light Many Crotons can be grown in full sun (once mature) but most do well with partial shade and some cultivars need mostly shade to look their best. Excessive light on young plants will burn and scorch leaves, stunt new growth and cause eventual decline. Young plants can be- a. grown in the shade and moved to sunnier spot or b. shaded temporarily while the plant matures. All of our plants are grown in a 35% shade house and moved to brighter conditions as they mature. Once a plant reaches 2-3’ in height with a good root system and a strong trunk, they can tolerate harsher conditions. Young plants require more water and shade while they reach that tougher size and state.


Water They require ample amounts of water while young plants but can become very drought tolerant at maturity. They are less tolerant of wet and boggy conditions and will develop root rot if they are subject to extended flooding conditions. An irrigation system that gives plants up to 1” per week in the winter is ideal. Plants rarely need additional irrigation in the summer rainy season. Plants in containers need water 2-3 times weekly in the winter but daily in the summer (whether natural or artificial).


Soil They desire a well drained soil with lots of organic matter, an acid PH of 4.5 to 6.5 and a layer of mulch to conserve moisture and reduce weed competition. Most soils in Florida are satisfactory except for high PH rock soils with calcium base. They are heavy feeders and look best when given regular applications of fertilizer.


Feeding We use a 8-2-10, or similar, formulation applied early spring (Feb/March) and late spring (May) for established plants. Young plants might take a third feeding about July but do not apply late in the season. It is essential to let new growth harden off for the winter dormancy period.


Air Temperature Crotons are true tropical plants and perform best at 50-90 degrees. At 40 degrees the plants will enter dormancy and stop most growth. At 32-35 degrees some cultivars will drop leaves, especially in a windy, unprotected spot. At 28-32 degrees, all plants will drop leaves and some will have tip or stem damage depending on the age of the plant, cultivar and location. We have seen some varieties in Melbourne keep all their leaves and experience no die back at 28 degrees while other varieties will drop all leaves and die back to the ground at 32 degrees in Ft.Pierce.


Salt tolerance We have observed many Crotons growing just fine within 100’ of the ocean in Florida. They are rarely damaged by normal levels of salt spray but should a heavy wind blow excessive levels of salt spray on the leaves for an extended period, they can be defoliated (as can most non native sea-shore plants). A timely and thorough wash of water from the hose bib takes off most of the sea salt on your special plants.


Care and Culture for Indoor Plants They have been used as indoor decorative plants since the Victorian era in Europe. Their colorful foliage, hardiness and ease of care have always made them very popular worldwide. Many nurseries in America started importing them from Europe specifically to be used as a house plant. The varieties Norma, Petra and AFD #5 were bred specifically for the florist market and are widely grown and used today for just that purpose.


The most widely grown varieties for indoor use include Petra, Norma, Excellente, Mrs. Iceton, Gold Dust and Mammie. Most people start with a one gallon plant for a table top or small space and a two gallon plant for floor decoration. Simply take the new plant and drop it inside of a decorative container or repot into a clay pot or decorative pot with saucer and drainage. use a good sterile potting medium, add a little slow release fertilizer, and water on the average once per week. Don’t over water or keep the soil soggy. Plants are happier when just a little dry. If it’s in a sunny window, increase slightly. The biggest problem with Crotons indoors is spider mites. They thrive in low humidity and dry conditions. Atomize the leaves once in a while and remember that they most occur under the leaves. Simply wiping the bottoms with a soft sponge and soapy water will keep them suppressed and under control.


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