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May 1, 2017

QuestionI received a croton houseplant while I last summer.  It had beautiful red and orange foliage then, but now it has all green leaves.  Do they change colors with the seasons, or is there something I have done wrong?  I figured it wasn’t going to be winter hardy so I moved it inside in October.  It is growing ok, but I would like colorful leaves again. 


AnswerThe more sunlight a croton receives, the more color the leaves have.  Inside conditions have lower light, and the leaves usually revert to green.  To get color back in your plant, move it back outside for the summer and give it bright sunlight.  Gradually expose the plant to sunlight when you move it outdoors, and in no time you should have a colorful plant once again.  And you were correct, it is not winter hardy, so it does need to come inside every fall. 


(January 2012)

QuestionI bought a small croton plant app ten years ago, have repotted it once or twice and it has grown to about 4 1/2 to 5 feet tall and about 3 feet across. I have taken care of it the same the whole time I have had it, taking it outside in summer and bringing it in during the winter. The last two winters it has lost A LOT of leaves when we brought it in. It always loses a lot of color when inside due to not much sun. I really would like to keep this plant as long as possible but know it will probably reach the end of its lifespan eventually. Can you give me any tips on keeping it healthy when it is brought in for the winter. During the summer when it's outside, it is absolutely gorgeous and a lot of people I know are amazed at how full and colorful it is in summer. I must admit I am not the best at taking great care of my plants but since I have been this way a long time I wonder why the leaf loss has only occurred last winter and this winter.


AnswerAs you noticed, the more light a croton gets, the more colorful it is. They often revert to a green color indoors. How soon do you bring your plant inside? If you allow the plant to remain outdoors until the time of a killing frost, the shock of transplant is greater, than if you move the plant in early to mid October. Make sure you put the plant in the sunniest, coolest room in your house and only water once every two to three weeks. Crotons have thick waxy leaves and can easily suffer from overwatering. Don't expect great growth indoors, but it should survive. If it has gotten leggy during the stay indoors, cut it back by one third, repot it and it should kick back into high gear once back outside in the sunshine and warmth of our summers.

Questionhave a very old (20 years) croton plant that has deep sentimental meaning to me. This summer I put it outside and it was very happy and turned beautiful colors. However, since I brought it inside, it has been dropping leaves. At first, I thought it was just adjusting to the climate change, but today I noticed fine web-like stuff in the crotches of the branches. as leaves continue to drop. I sprayed it with Neem oil and washed off the webs with Murphy's oil soap. I also moved it into my greenhouse so it can get more light and humidity. What else should I do to save it? Is there danger of whatever is on it infecting my other plants in my greenhouse?


AnswerThere is definitely a chance that the insects will move from one plant to another, particularly in a closed environment of a greenhouse. It sounds like spider mites to me. The Neem oil and the Murphy's Oil soap should definitely help, but keep it isolated from your other plants and monitor it. Keep the soil on the dry side, but try spraying the foliage with water periodically, as spider mites thrive when dry. Don't expect miraculous new growth until the day length increases, but I would suspect it will rebound. The more light they get, the more colorful their foliage. Good luck!

 (July 2008)

QuestionI am looking for a flower I heard is called a crayola plant (it looks like all of the crayons in the plant). Do you know where can I find it? I think another name for it is croton.


AnswerCroton plants are quite colorful if they are planted in full sun, with a variety of reds, oranges and yellows. They are not winter hardy outdoors in Arkansas, but make a nice houseplant indoors for the winter in a bright, sunny location. The more shade they get, the greener the plant becomes. There are several varieties and most are readily available at local nurseries and garden centers. They can add a lot of color to the summer and fall landscape, and could be treated as annuals if you chose.


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