Crotons are unusual houseplants beloved for their colorful foliage in a range of interesting patterns and shapes. But that’s not all these plants have to offer. From air-purifying properties to mental health benefits, there are few reasons not to add a Croton to your houseplant collection. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the uses and benefits of croton plants.
About Croton Plants
Croton is a genus of plants in the family Euphorbiaceae. However, when talking about the Croton grown as a houseplant indoors, it’s actually a specific species within this genus – Croton variegatum. This species is native to Southeast Asia, found growing as shrubs in tropical forests.
Croton variegatum is known for its bright, colorful foliage that changes color with age, in shades of green, yellow, and fiery orange and red. These colors usually contrast along the plant’s veins, giving the characteristic pattern it is beloved for.
Outdoors, these plants can grow many feet tall with densely packed leaves and a widespread. Indoors and in less than optimal conditions, they will only grow to a few feet tall but retain the dense foliage for a colorful display all year round.
Croton plants are appreciated for their stunning looks, but that’s not all they have to offer. There are many benefits and uses to these plants, from cleaning the air to helping you work better.
The Benefits & Uses of Croton Plants
1) Air Purifying
If you’re a regular participant in the houseplant community, you’ve likely heard of the 1989 NASA Clean Air Study. In this study, researchers tested several houseplants and their potential to clean the air of harmful chemicals known as volatile organic compounds.
Many houseplants showed positive results, removing compounds like benzene and ammonia from the air in a controlled environment. The impacts are less significant in our own homes than they were in these controlled environments, but the more plants you have, the better.
Unfortunately, as they are not one of the more common houseplants, Crotons were not part of this initial test. However, it’s clear most houseplants have some air-purifying properties, even if there are some that are more effective than others. Even the microorganisms in the soil have the ability to remove benzene from the air, making a difference in its quality indoors.
To get the most out of these air-purifying properties, you’ll need to pack your home with Crotons. Choose a wide variety of cultivars in different colors to fill out the space and create continual interest.
2) Feng Shui
For those interested in interior décor and how it can impact your response to your space, Feng Shui is for you. This philosophy aims to use various principles to create balance and harmony, largely involving your choice of items and their arrangement in your home.
Houseplants play a prominent role in Feng Shui. Many positively impact the energy, adding life and uplifting the space. Others negatively impact the energy, such as spiky plants like cacti and dying plants that negatively influence the flow within a room.
Croton plants can make a wonderful positive addition to your space if cared for correctly. They are also believed to positively influence relationships within your home and brighten darker areas with their captivating color.
Keep your plants healthy and happy to stop them from producing negative energy. Make sure they get enough light and plenty of water to avoid stress.
3) Adding Structure
Along with these positive impacts on air and energy in the home, Crotons also have fantastic ornamental value. Their large and pointed leaves stand upright on strong stems that give the plant an amazing structure. They can also grow several feet tall, filling corners and adding interest to dull spaces.
Adding younger Crotons to a taller pot cover will give them the height they require to shine, but older ones typically stand out on their own when placed on the floor. Combine them with softer houseplants, such as Monsteras, to contrast in shape and make their structural beauty stand out even more.
4) Pop of Color
The structure is not the only ornamental benefit these plants have. What they are most sought-after for is their wonderful fiery colors unlike any other houseplant around. With shades of flames complemented by pops of green and pink or purple, there is never a dull movement when decorating with a Croton.
The combinations of colors are unique to each plant and per each leaf, meaning there is always something to look at. These leaves also change color as the plant ages, creating a kaleidoscope of unique patterns throughout the year.
If you’re a lover of flowers for the pops of color they add but lack the light needed to grow flowers indoors, Croton is your answer.
5) Plenty of Variety
The interesting varieties and shapes only extend with the many Croton cultivars available on the market. Some of these are rare and difficult to find, but that makes them all the more worth collecting and filling your house with.
‘Petra’ is one of the more popular options, with large and colorful leaves representing the classic Croton look. For something a little more different, try ‘Zanzibar’, with its elongated bright red and orange leaves.
If variety in color is not enough, there is also variety in pattern. The Superstar Croton is one such example, with splashes of bright yellow along with captivating green leaves. ‘Gold Star’ features the same spotty pattern but with greater intensity.
There are even more muted options for those who want to tone down the color. ‘Yellow Iceton’ is restricted to shades of green and yellow, while the ‘Sunny Star’ only has dashes of yellow at the base and along the central vein.
6) Easy To Propagate
Once you’ve found a variety (or two) that you like, you don’t need to spend any more money to make more of them. As another added benefit, these plants are easy to propagate from stem cuttings, even more colorful plants.
Start by cutting the stem just below a leaf node. It should be around 4 inches long with a few sets of leaves. Ensure your shears are cleaned and disinfected before you start to avoid spreading any potential diseases to the parent plant.
Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting and dip the end in rooting hormone powder. This will significantly improve your chances of rooting while also protecting the vulnerable cutting from disease.
Root the cutting in a propagating mix of river sand and coconut coir, keeping it evenly moist but not waterlogged until root growth develops. In around a month or two, the roots should be an inch or two long, ready for transplanting into the correct soil mix for long-term growth.
7) Mental Health
Crotons don’t only come with physical benefits like air purification. They also come with mental benefits too, like many other houseplants. Merely owning a few houseplants and having them around your home has been proven to improve mental health and happiness overall. Interacting them increases those benefits, having a great impact on overall wellbeing.
Plants have such a positive impact on mental health that they’ve even spawned a new area of therapy known as therapeutic horticulture. Researchers use nature as a form of treatment for patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other ailments, with many positive and promising results. Adding just one or two plants around your home is enough to lift your spirits and give you the feeling of being closer to nature, even when you’re indoors.
8) Boost Productivity
A Croton in your home office may be the answer for those looking for a way to get more work done. Houseplants have been proven to significantly improve productivity levels while also impacting memory retention and focus.
Not only that, but studies conducted on employees in offices have shown that having plants around improves work happiness too. There’s no better way to brighten a dull workday than with a colorful, thriving Croton.
9) Low Maintenance
Whilst Croton plant care has sometimes carried the reputation of being a little tricky, with a few well-followed tips, these plants will thrive in most homes.
Croton plants do best in a slightly acidic, well-draining soil base. Aim to water your croton plant when the top two inches of soil feel dry to the touch and provide the plant with ample bright, indirect light throughout the course of the day in a warm and humid environment if possible. Remember to prune, repot, and fertilize periodically for optimal croton plant growth and health and keep on top of any common croton plant pests and diseases and dropping leaves.
Crotons may not be the first plant you consider when starting a houseplant collection. However, with these many benefits and uses, you certainly won’t regret adding one to your home.
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.