Croton is a brightly colored house plant grown for its foliage. The color of the leaves ranges from red and orange to greens and gold. Croton foliage also carries vibrant vein markings that stand out amid the riot of color. The plant is also called Joseph's Coat after the "coat of many colors." The plant is native to India and Malaysia. It can grow as a large shrub or small tree in its native habit.
Croton plant is commercially produced for the florist industry. The plant can grow up to six feet in height and width in its native habitat. The leaves and the stems are used in flower arrangements. The leaves can vary in shape from elliptical to curved and twisted. They are used as outdoor ornamental plants in tropical and semi-tropical climates but are more often cultivated for interior use. The plant is winter hardy in zones 9b to 11. The Croton plant will most likely grow only as tall as 3 to 4 feet and just as wide when grown as a shrub outdoors.
Bright light is needed for optimum color, but the plant's leaves can burn in full sunlight. Morning sun and afternoon shade will produce the best results. In the interior of the home the Croton plant can be grown in a sunny window with tilted blind slats to provide protection from the harshest rays. Correct lighting will encourage the best growth. In the outdoor landscape the plant should be in a location with shelter from noon's high heat and light. Indirect lighting produces the most colorful leaves and helps to prevent the leaves from fading.
The Croton can grow up to six feet in its natural habitat but responds very well to pruning. Pruning should be done in early spring. The plant can be hard pruned to restore height and make it more appropriate for the home. A six foot tall tree may not be manageable indoors, but a more important concern may be the plant's width. A pampered indoor plant can grow to six feet wide, which may be too wide for an interior space. Side branches and tip pruning will help to keep the plant at a reasonable size and shape for your space. Pruning should commence when the plant is young and should be maintained annually.
Croton requires well-drained soil but is not particular about the type of soil. Indoor plants need bark mulch, peat and soil. The plant has high water needs and cannot dry out or significant wilting will occur on the waxy leaves. One inch per week is adequate for outdoor plants while interior Croton plants in pots will need daily water applications. The Croton cannot be grown where temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit without suffering damage. New plants will produce green leaves that change color as they mature. Crotons only need light fertilizing; with too much fertilizer the coloring will be reduced. Correct care will help the plant to reach its maximum height.