Crotons are colorful plants that attract attention from everyone in a home – including your pets. However, not all houseplants are safe around pets, toxic when ingested or even touched. In this article, we’ll cover whether Crotons are safe houseplants for pets and how you can manage their interactions.
Are Crotons Pet Friendly? – The Essentials
Crotons contain toxic diterpenes in all parts of the plant, from the leaves to the stems and flowers too. This compound is toxic when ingested by any pets, causing swelling and irritation. The milky sap can also irritate the skin, so it’s best to wear gloves when handling the plant. Keep it away from all pets and children to avoid contact and accidental ingestion.
Crotons are bright, leafy plants in the Euphorbiaceae family. This broad genus consists of several species, each with its own unique characteristics, from compact herbs to shrubs and even towering trees. These plants are generally found outdoors, growing in tropical and sub-tropical climates.
When referring to Croton as a houseplant, there is actually only one species to look for – Croton variegatum. Found in tropical forests, this species is well suited to indoor growth and is available in many interesting shapes, sizes, and colors, thanks to the many cultivars on the market.
Euphorbiaceae consists of about 300 genera of flowering plants, also known as the spurge family. You may see it commonly referred to as the Euphorbia family, although this creates some confusion as it is also the name of a particular genus within this family.
Croton variegatum is typically labeled a shrub, growing up to 15 feet tall and outdoors in their native tropical habitats. Their growth remains more modest indoors, generally growing to around 4 feet, but they are still far larger than many other common houseplants.
They are beloved for their exciting and colorful leaves, with many varieties sporting shades of yellow, orange, and red contrasting along the veins or in interesting patterns. The leaves are large and waxy, also coming in different shapes and sizes depending on the cultivar.
For example, Gold Star is a popular cultivar with elongated leaves and splashes of yellow across the green leaves, as if the pattern were painted on by hand. Zanzibar features even more elongated leaves with a narrow width, showing off the fiery colors these plants are known for.
This Croton species is native to Southeast Asia, found in tropical forests in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. As they can only grow outdoors in USDA Zones 10-12, they are generally grown as houseplants across the US and around the world.
Are Crotons Toxic?
Croton variegatum contains a chemical compound called 5-deoxyingenol, also known as diterpenes. This is present in all parts of the plant, from the leaves to the stems and even the seeds. The compound is toxic to humans and animals, causing swelling, blistering, and irritation.
This compound is also present in the milky sap within the stems and leaves. When pruning, propagating, or repotting, you may notice this sap irritates the skin and can cause a rash, particularly in those with sensitive skin.
Which Pets Are At Risk Of Croton Poisoning?
All pets are at risk of Croton poisoning, particularly those attracted to colorful foliage.
Cats are known to curiously nibble on the foliage or dig around the soil, taking small bites out of the leaves as they go. While the milky sap can ward them off quickly, it tends to stick to their fur, which they try to remove by licking, only worsening the problem.
Curious dogs are also at risk, particularly if they tend to chew on stems. Older dogs often tend to stay away or ignore the plants, but curious and energetic puppies are certainly ones to worry about. Ingestion can cause mouth irritation and swelling, while merely touching the sap can result in a rash on the paws and skin.
Other small animals, though usually not easily in contact with these towering plants, need to be watched. Birds, in particular, are a problem as even a small piece bitten off one of these large leaves can cause major digestive issues.
This plant is even toxic to humans, causing swelling, vomiting, and a range of other symptoms. It’s vital to keep the plant away from children, especially if it’s flowering, as the berries can be deadly when ingested. Always wear gloves when handling the plant to stop the sap from irritating the skin.
What Are The Signs Of Croton Poisoning?
Signs of ingestion often begin at the plant. If you notice disturbance around your plant, such as dirt on the floor, make sure to inspect the leaves for any suspicious marks. Bites or any large pieces removed from the leaves or stems are the first cause for concern.
In pets, irritation will often begin with a rash caused by the milky sap within the plant. If the sap or any parts of the leaves were ingested, this will be followed by the signs of mouth irritation in pets – drooling and pawing at the face.
In more severe cases, your pet may lose its appetite completely due to stomach irritation. This can result in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, particularly in cats. Skin symptoms can also worsen, turning into patches of dry skin, acne, or eczema.
Any change in behavior is another sign that something is not quite right. Pets can become unusually tired or unmotivated when they are ill. They may avoid eating, drinking, or overall interaction, indicating that there is a problem to be resolved.
What To Do If Your Pet Ingests Croton
If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to take your pet to the vet as soon as possible. With the proper tests, they will be able to determine how much of the harmful toxin was ingested and provide suitable treatment before the problem worsens.
It’s best to inspect the plant before you go to describe how much of it you suspect was ingested. You can also carry a leaf with you so the vet knows exactly which plant they are dealing with. Keep track of the symptoms, when they started and how long they have persisted to provide a full picture of the progression of the problem.
How To Keep Pets Away From Crotons
The best way to stop your pets from ingesting any parts of the plant is simply to not keep them at all, opting for pet-friendly plants instead. However, if you’re committed to becoming a fierce Croton plant parent, there are a few ways you can keep them out of reach.
The first option is to keep them off the floor or away from surfaces that your pets spend a lot of time on. Using a plant stand or large hanging basket works for dogs, while cats may need more maneuvering and prevention to stop them from reaching the foliage. You can also keep the Croton in a separate room that your pets are not allowed in, along with all your other dangerous houseplants.
Beyond keeping them out of reach, there are a few hacks you can use to deter them. Commercial products are available that stop pets from coming near the plant by producing a smell they don’t like. Citrus peels can perform the same task for cats and dogs, as they generally stay away from the intense scent.
Finally, you can attempt to train your pets to stay away from the plants. Spray them with water any time they go near the plant and reward them for keeping away from it. Combined with a few other deterrents, this will ensure your pets are safe and toxin-free.
You might also consider regularly pruning your croton plant to keep it in check and manageable in terms of size.
Crotons are unfortunately not safe for pets or children, especially for curious hands or paws. However, if you can keep the plants out of reach or train them to stay away, you can keep your Croton around without worry.
Madison is a writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She writes and photographs for various online and print publications in the gardening sphere and is the author of the book The Next-Generation Gardener.