I know the feeling. You are standing in front of bags of fertilizer at the big box store and wondering which Croton fertilizer to pick.
Well known for its colorful foliage and vibrant leaves, the croton (Codiaeum variegatum) is a visual treat and a diva, especially in tropical climates.
Related: Learn tips on Croton Plant care.
From the golden yellow-splotched ‘Gold Dust’ to ‘Oakleaf’ and its foliage that resembles oak leaves in autumn, there’s plenty to love about these non-flowering beauties.
Even more appealing for plant lovers is the relatively low maintenance requirements of the many Croton varieties.
One of the biggest concerns raised by people just starting out is what fertilizers work best.
This is one area where your choice can mean the difference between a nice plant and a real showstopper, so let’s take a moment and talk about diet.
What Type Of Fertilizer Should I Use On My Croton Plants?
Crotons can use a wide range of plant foods.
However, they fare best with something high in both nitrogen and potassium.
Moreover, Croton plants also require more fertilizing, unlike other houseplants.
Good NPK Goals
As mentioned, crotons have certain dietary needs, and a mix that focuses on this works really well.
This aids in providing the plant’s necessary minerals, nutrients, and vitamins. Remember that they need both micronutrients and macronutrients to be healthy.
Try to aim for a fertilizer that doesn’t have a balanced NPK.
NPK stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, so you’ll want a lower-middle number.
Related: More on NPK fertilizer
Potassium helps Croton plants produce bright leaf colors and strong stems.
Likewise, nitrogen helps in foliage growth and regulates the process of photosynthesis.
Two good target NPK ratios for croton fertilizer are 3-1-2 and 8-2-10.
The first has more nitrogen, while the second has more potassium.
As a result, you may find yourself switching between two different fertilizers depending on your Croton’s soil quality.
A balanced fertilizer, with equal parts of NPK, is also suitable. Acid-producing fertilizers with extra magnesium will also work well.
NOTE: When growing the Croton plant as an indoor plant, liquid fertilizer or all-purpose fertilizer applied half-strength would probably best the best choice.
When To Feed Crotons?
Following the dosage of fertilizer instructions on the package, feed your croton in around late February or early March when using a slow-release fertilizer. This is just when the growing season is getting started.
Slow-releasing granular fertilizer is great, as it doesn’t harm the plants since nutrients are not released quickly.
Be sure the fertilizer is evenly spread along the surface to a 1-foot radius for a shrub in the landscape or the width of your Croton’s container.
Gently add water so the fertilizer soaks into the well-draining soil.
Repeat again in late May.
The third feeding in mid-July can be of benefit to younger Croton plants.
Avoid feeding the plant in autumn, as this may interrupt the plant’s ability to prepare for overwintering.
When using a regular fertilizer, it’s better to do light monthly feedings throughout the growing season.
Reduce this to once every other month during winter.
Remember, crotons tend to be mostly dormant in cold climates, so it’s easy to overfeed them.
Dangers of Overfeeding
Speaking of overfeeding, it’s always better to give your croton too little fertilizer than too much.
The first sign you’ll likely see is a dulling of the leaf colors.
When you spot dull leaves, ask yourself how recently the planet was fed.
This symptom can have several causes, but spotting it soon after a feeding means you may have found the problem.
Root damage is another possible consequence that isn’t directly visible but can lead to a number of symptoms, such as:
- Stunted plant growth
- Leaf loss or leaf drop
Related: More on Croton Mammy losing leaves here.
Phosphorus and other substances in the fertilizer have the potential to cause chemical burns when too much comes into contact with the roots.
The resulting damage can become irreversible if left untreated.
Other signs of too much fertilizer include thin and spindly stems, explosive growth, and susceptibility to pests.
If you suspect the plant’s roots have been affected by overfertilization, an emergency soil transplant may be necessary.
This can shock the plant, so perform the transplant with care and avoid adding fertilizer to fresh potting soil for a month or more to ensure your croton’s roots have time to recover.
Related: What Soil is Best for Crotons?
Moreover, if you’re Croton is overfertilized, another step you can do to fix it is to prune all affected or damaged parts of the plant.
Then, scratch the top layer of the soil surface with your hand. Lastly, water the soil to wash away the extra fertilizer.
Why Autumn Fertilizing Can Be Bad?
When using any form of timed-release fertilizer, it’s best to avoid feeding in the fall and winter months.
Croton leaves harden as the plant prepares to go dormant for the winter.
Unlike powder and liquid plant fertilizers, a timed-release option releases the nutrients over time, and the dosage can’t be controlled.
As a result, the timed-release fertilizer can stimulate the plant and cause it to continue growing.
When winter hits, the plant may be too tender to withstand the colder weather and be damaged or even killed.
This is why many Croton enthusiasts avoid the timed-release options.
Instead, measuring small amounts of liquid or granular fertilizer allows you to continue feeding in the fall with minimal risk.