Crotons (Codiaeum variegatum) make excellent houseplants and seasonal container plants, but did you know that they are also popular in landscaping in tropical settings?
Croton plants hail from Indonesia and are winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 9-11. If you live in this tropical/subtropical climate, you can add exciting bursts of color to your yard with these colorful, hardy plants.
In the article, we share tips on growing Croton plants outdoors.
Add Variety With Crotons
There are lots of different types of Crotons, ranging from compact dwarf varieties to large shrubs. Generally speaking, the plants grow to be six or eight feet tall outdoors and may spread as wide as six feet. All croton varieties are very low-maintenance once they are well-established.
The perennial evergreen plants offer a wide variety of colorful leaves and patterns in shades of:
…on their leathery, broad green-colored leaves.
Popular Croton Varieties To Grow outdoors Include:
What’s The Best Way To Use Crotons Outdoors?
These bright, colorful plants are so pretty that there is no end of possibilities when using them in the landscape. A bright, festive grouping or hedge of Crotons is stunning. An individual plant cultivated as a specimen plant in a small garden makes a beautiful conversation piece.
Other ideas include:
- Center a Croton in your perennial flower garden to provide a colorful focal point.
- Create a colorful understory of smaller Crotons under high shade trees, such as palms.
- Use taller varieties to create a privacy hedge around your patio or porch.
- Delineate your path, walkway, or drive with a line of pretty Crotons.
- Plant Crotons around your lamp post, mailbox, or other feature.
- Add color to your water feature by planting Crotons alongside.
- Surround the foundation of your home with dwarf Crotons.
- Crotons’ bright colors draw butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds to your pollinator garden.
No matter where you place your Croton, be sure it’s a permanent spot. These plants do not like being moved around.
How To Plant Crotons For Success
To grow Crotons successfully in your landscape, you’ll need to prepare an outdoor space for them that provides:
- Full or partial sun: Although Crotons can grow in the shade, they will not be as colorful. In areas with very punishing sunlight, they prefer partial sun.
- Loose, well-draining soil: These plants cannot tolerate standing in water. You’ll want to water deeply, occasionally, and allow the well-drained soil to become somewhat dry between waterings.
- Ample space: When you plant your new Crotons, give them two or three feet all around to grow and spread. This will provide good air circulation to prevent fungal infections.
- Nourishment: The soil should have lots of organic matter. Provide a light meal of slow-release fertilizer when you plant your new Crotons. More on Croton Fertilizer here.
- Root protection: Once you have your plants in place, add a couple of inches of mulch all around to preserve water, discourage weeds, and protect the plants’ roots from cold.
- Protection from strong winds: Strong wind will dry the plants out and cause them to suffer from dehydration, causing the leaves to fall. Cold winds will kill them.
- Protection from meddling: Croton sap is toxic and can cause skin irritation on contact and severe gastric distress if ingested. Place your plants off the beaten path and out of the reach of kids, pets, and livestock. [source]
Just as with any plant, you should trim away dead, damaged, or unsightly limbs and leaves to help your Croton maintain its health and shape. When you handle this plant, be sure to use eye protection and wear gloves. The sticky, white, milky sap can cause dermatitis and damage to your eyes on contact. Wash up carefully after trimming.
More On Crotons
Plant Outdoor Croton Plants Carefully!
When planting new Crotons in your garden setting, do not too shallow or too deep. The depth should match that of the container in which the plant came.
When unpotting a Croton to transplant it into the garden or a new pot, check the roots. If the plant is pot-bound, massage the root ball to loosen them and the potting mix to access nutrients and water better.
After planting, water thoroughly. You’ll need to water your plants a couple of times a week until they are well-established.
TIP: If you live in a sweltering, dry climate, water your plants more frequently. Even though established Crotons are drought-tolerant, they do like humidity. Remember they are tropical plants, not desert plants, and water accordingly. If your plant is drooping and dry, give it a drink!
Can You Grow Crotons Outdoors In A Cooler Climate?
These plants do best at temperatures ranging from 65°-95° degrees Fahrenheit. Crotons cannot tolerate frost at all, so any time the forecast calls for temperatures below 45° degrees Fahrenheit (as can happen in USDA zone 9), get ready to cover your plants.
Use a blanket or similar material to protect against frost. If rain is predicted, toss a tarp or plastic over this. Don’t use plastic alone. The plastic gives no protection and allows the leaves and stems to freeze and break.
Place stakes around your plant to support the covering and protect the plant from damage caused by extended pressure. You may also wish to put some holiday lights under the cover to add a little warmth.
TIP: Before covering your plants, water them well. The extra moisture will insulate the plants’ roots to prevent freezing.
Bring Container Crotons In During Cold Weather
In freezing climates, grow Crotons in large planters with wheels and bring the plant in for the winter months. In this sort of situation, you must keep a close eye on the predicted weather. If temperatures drop below 35° degrees Fahrenheit, plants need to come indoors.
In the far northern United States, the days a container Croton can enjoy the outdoors are limited. Even in the summertime, you need to take care to place plants in an area well protected from cold drafts and winds. The area also needs to receive lots of bright, indirect sunlight.
Just as these plants do not like to be transplanted, they also do not like repotting. Repot potted crotons only when they start to become rootbound.
Once every three to five years is a good rule of thumb. A three-gallon container with ample drainage will keep your plant happy for a long time.