Croton plants are popular indoors and outdoors, but this tropical plant can also be confusing at times. Most people tend to get especially confused when it comes to croton watering, as the usual routines often don’t seem to work.
The reason for this is actually quite simple. Remember how you learned to water plants in school or as a child?
Throw those lessons out the window because plants drink much as humans do – different amounts at different rates.
But once you know a few simple rules, you’ll find watering your croton (and other plants) is actually quite easy.
Tips On Croton Watering
There are three basic things you need to learn to keep your croton properly watered: when it’s thirsty, how much, and what kind of water.
Once you know these three things, you’ll almost never risk overwatering or underwatering your croton again.
Related: Croton Plant Care
Why Scheduled Watering Fails
Imagine setting a schedule where your entire family must drink five gallons of water at once every three days.
Now imagine how sick the smaller family members would get and how dehydrated the adults would become.
This is the fallacy of watering your plants based on a calendar.
Just as humans need a bit here and there as they get thirsty, so to do plants only need to drink as they get thirsty.
By giving the same amount at regular intervals, you run the risk of dehydrating your plant and suffering leaf loss or, even worse, overwatering (excess water) to the point of root rot.
Related: Tips On Growing Crotons Outdoors
Water Requirements – When To Water
Crotons are tropical plants and are adapted to a humid environment.
As a result, they prefer a soil moisture that’s consistently moist but not wet.
Every croton is unique, just like people, so you can’t water all of your crotons at the same time with the same amount and expect the same results.
Thankfully, your croton will actually tell you when it’s thirsty once you learn to listen.
It’s time to serve drinks when:
- The ambient humidity is too low for a long period of time.
- The soil has begun to lighten, at which time you should do the finger test.
- The soil is dry to the touch ½” inch down (1 to 3” inches in winter months)
- The colorful leaves are drying out or even falling off.
In the case of this last symptom, it’s possible your croton is getting inadequate light or humidity, so be sure to check these factors.
Several symptoms may occur that can also mean your plant is thirsty.
These symptoms (and other possible causes) include:
- Brown Tips – inadequate humidity
- Droopy/Limp Leaves – inadequate humidity
- Leaf Loss (Lower Leaves Only)
- Leaf Wrinkling – infestations, root rot
Likewise, your plant will often tell you if it’s getting too much water.
- Fungus Gnat Infestation
- Leaf Drop (Random Leaves)
- Moldy or Soggy Soil
- Root Rot
- Wilting Leaves – actually a sign of overwatering in croton, unlike most plants
- Yellow-Ringed Brown Spots – leaf spot disease
How Much Water?
The bigger the plant, the more water it will drink.
However, the humidity and ambient temperature can also affect how thirsty your plant gets.
You can reduce the amount of water the plant will need by adding a pebble tray under the plant’s container or keeping it in a room with a humidifier.
Unlike most plants, you can safely mist your croton with water occasionally to give it a humidity boost without worrying as much about sunburn.
When it comes to watering, there are two different techniques, both of which have slightly different requirements.
The most common method is watering the soil from above.
This will require you to slowly pour water until it begins to seep from the pot’s drainage holes.
Carefully tip the container to drain off any excess water from the surface.
You can also use a soak method by placing the pot directly in a saucer of water.
Top up the water in the saucer as the soil absorbs it.
Use the finger test to determine when the soil has become uniformly moist.
Allow the plant to sit an additional 20 minutes, then drain.
What Type of Water?
Yes, there are a lot of variations to good old hydrogen dioxide, and not all of them are equal.
When watering, make sure the water is at room temperature to avoid causing a temperature shock to the plant.
You should avoid using tap water whenever possible, as it contains chlorine and a whole host of other harmful chemicals and even excess minerals such as calcium that can harm your plant.
In the event you need to use tap water, let it sit out overnight to allow the chlorine gas to escape, then run it through a good filtration pitcher.
Distilled water for plants (sometimes called baby water) is one of the best options and is available at most stores.
You can even add a bit of hydrogen peroxide every few waterings to emulate natural rainwater.
Of course, the best possible option is to use actual rainwater.
Set up a container outdoors for the rain to collect in, and make sure to empty it into an indoor container frequently during the summer months to avoid mosquitoes.
Then just use the stored rainwater as needed and supplement with distilled water when you run low.