Crotons are bright and resilient plants that are slowly gaining popularity in the indoor plant community. While they aren’t majorly challenging to care for, there is a common problem many Croton growers come across – dropping leaves. There are many causes for this common issue, but luckily, many fixes too. In this guide, we’ll cover all the reasons your Croton might be dropping its leaves and how you can fix it.
- Croton Dropping Leaves – Essential Tips
- Common Reasons Your Croton Plant’s Leaves are Dropping
- Growing Happy, Healthy Croton Plants at Home
- Croton Dropping Leaves FAQs:
- Wrap Up
Croton Dropping Leaves – Essential Tips
Crotons typically drop leaves in response to environmental or care issues like overwatering, underwatering, inadequate light, or incorrect temperature and humidity. Pests and diseases can also cause leaves to drop, as can age. Providing the right care and environmental conditions will limit issues with leaf drop in the future.
Common Reasons Your Croton Plant’s Leaves are Dropping
Overwatering is one of the most common – and unfortunately, one of the most damaging – houseplant problems. Like many other houseplants, all types of Crotons enjoy somewhat moist soil that is never oversaturated. They cannot be left to dry out completely, but they also can’t handle excesses of water for long periods.
When the soil is excessively moist, the roots begin to turn soft and mushy, unable to absorb any more moisture or transport nutrients around the plant. The leaves may begin to wilt, eventually dropping off the plant if not fixed.
Never water your Croton when the top layer of soil is still moist. Only use containers with enough drainage holes, and don’t leave the pot sitting in a drip tray full of water. Similarly, if you’re using a pot cover, always remove the plant to water it and wait till all the excess water has drained before returning it to the cover.
If you have overwatered, start by repotting the plant. The fungus that causes root rot can live in the soil and continue to spread if it is not entirely removed. Trim the affected roots back to healthy growth and water less frequently going forward.
2) Overly Dry Conditions
While overwatering is a common cause for Crotons dropping leaves, underwatering is far more common. This plant’s thick stems and fiery waxy leaves lead some to believe that Crotons prefer dry soil to moist soil. This leads to long periods between waterings, causing stress and leaf drop.
Crotons do store some water in their thick leaves and stems, but thanks to their tropical habitats, they are happiest in consistently moist (but not soggy) soil. When deprived of this water, the plant becomes stressed and tries to conserve moisture by dropping excess leaves. If conditions are not resolved, the plant will lose all its leaves, ultimately coming to the end of its life.
If you’ve underwatered, the soil may have become compacted and hydrophobic. In this case, bottom watering is the best way to saturate the soil thoroughly, preventing runoff and reaching all of the roots evenly. Increase the periods between watering, adding more as soon as the top 2 inches of soil have dried out.
Older plants can manage for far longer periods without water than younger ones. But, for them to grow their best, deep and consistent watering is preferred.
3) Temperature & Humidity Issues
The tropical habitats of Crotons have not only influenced their love of water but also what kinds of temperature and humidity they require. The fiery colors of the leaves allude to the kinds of conditions needed – incredibly warm and humid. Stray too far from these conditions, and you may find your Croton dropping leaves by the hour.
Humidity is usually the factor at play when it comes to dropping leaves. A minimum of 40% is required, but even this can be too low for some types. Aim for around 60% – 70% for a comfortable compromise between you and the plants.
If you need to increase the humidity around your plants, you have a number of options:
- Misting: Raises humidity temporarily but needs to be done several times per day to be effective.
- Pebble Trays: Raises humidity marginally around the plant, but not enough to help if you are well below 40%.
- Grouping Plants: Slightly increases humidity in that area, creating a mini microclimate in your home.
- Choosing High Humidity Rooms: Bathrooms and kitchens near water sources are great spots for Crotons, as long as they receive enough light.
- Humidifier: Pricey, but the best way to dramatically raise the humidity to the level if your air is very dry.
Temperature also plays a role in dropping leaves. These plants can handle temperatures down to around 40F but struggle in any temperatures below that. They may respond to this cold stress by dropping leaves in order to survive. Keep your Crotons in rooms above 65F throughout the year to avoid this problem.
4) Insufficient Light Exposure
Crotons are light-loving plants, thriving in bright rooms in indirect light. They are not suitable for low-light areas and experience significant stress when not given enough sun. You will notice several signs of this stress, from yellowing and dropping leaves to entire leaves dropping off the plant completely.
This problem is certainly the easiest to fix – move your plant to a brighter area, and growth should slowly return to normal. Avoid going straight to the opposite extreme of direct sun, as this was cause burning and further stress that can end up killing the plant. Slowly introduce your Croton to brighter areas until it is in the ideal area with bright indirect light and even an hour or two of the direct morning sun.
Although less common, excessive sunlight can also cause leaves to turn brown and drop off the plant. Crotons grown as houseplants will quickly burn if placed in intense direct sunlight. Turning brown and crispy, these burnt leaves will not recover and can eventually drop off the plant entirely. Keep them away from direct light in midday and afternoons to prevent burning. For more, see our in-depth guide to the best position for croton plants in your home or office.
5) Pests & Diseases May Cause Croton Plants Dropping Leaves
Crotons grown as houseplants don’t experience as many issues with pests and diseases as those grown outdoors. But, that does not mean they’re immune to these problems. From thrips to Anthracnose, many issues can affect your Croton and cause it to drop leaves.
Regularly check your plant for signs of pests and diseases. Some are visible, while others hide out or only show symptoms once the problem is entrenched. Many pests can be controlled with an application of neem oil or a relevant insecticidal soap. Diseases are a bit more challenging to manage, requiring regular pruning and the application of preventative sprays to stop the problem from spreading.
Rather than dealing with these problems when they occur, it’s best to focus on prevention. Quarantine any new plants you bring home and make checking for pests and diseases a part of your regular routine. Always tackle any problems immediately before they get out of hand and keep your plants as healthy as possible to help them deter issues on their own.
6) Too Much or Too Little Fertilizer
Nutrients are the foundations of your plant’s success. Having too much or too little of them and they can also cause your plant’s failure. Crotons are not heavy feeders but do grow best in containers when nutrients are replenished during the growing seasons of spring and summer.
If your Croton has been in the same pot for several years, it has likely used up all the available nutrients in the soil. Without these, the plant cannot maintain the roots, stems and of course – leaves – causing them to drop off. A repotting and regular fertilizing schedule should fix the problem and bring your plant back to good health.
The opposite extreme can also cause leaves to drop off the plant. Rather than helping the plant grow better, an excess of fertilizer in the soil causes the roots and leaves to burn and eventually drop off the plant.
Never add more fertilizer than is recommended on the packaging to prevent any unnecessary damage. If you have overfertilized, flush the soil with filtered water until it runs clear and hold off on fertilizing for a few months while the plant recovers.
7) Environmental Shock or Stress
Like many houseplants, Crotons do not appreciate changes in environments. Any dramatic changes in conditions result in stress and shock, causing the plant to drop leaves to conserve energy and moisture to survive.
These are just some of the actions that can cause stress or push the plant into shock:
- Sudden changes in lighting conditions
- Inconsistent watering routines
- Sudden changes in temperature, such as cold drafts
- Excessive pruning
Handle your Croton with care and make subtle adjustments over longer periods to allow the plant to get used to its new environment.
8) Age of the Croton Plant
Dropping leaves are not always the result of a problem or a cause for concern. Older leaves may begin to turn yellow and drop off the plant due to their age. This is part of the natural lifecycle and has nothing to do with inadequate care.
Growing Happy, Healthy Croton Plants at Home
Follow these basic principles to keep your Croton happy and avoid any problems with dropping leaves in the future:
- Light: A full day of bright, indirect sunlight or an hour or two of the gentle direct morning sun. No midday or afternoon direct light.
- Water: Water when the top 2 inches of soil have dried out.
- Temperature and Humidity: Between 65F and 85F with humidity above 40%.
- Soil: Light and well-draining houseplant soil mixes amended with perlite and coconut coir or peat moss for improved aeration and moisture retention.
- Fertilizer: Feed every 4-6 weeks with a balanced houseplant fertilizer.
Croton Plant Dropping Leaves FAQs:
Is some leaf drop normal for Croton plants?
One or two leaves will occasionally fall off the plant as a result of age. This is no cause for concern and is part of the plant’s natural lifecycle.
Will fallen Croton plant leaves grow back?
If the problem causing dropping leaves is resolved, the plant will develop new leaves along the new growth. To encourage new growth, prune the branches back slightly.
How long do Croton Plants take to reach maturity?
These slow growers can reach maturity in around 2-3 years.
Although concerning, dropping leaves in your Croton is no reason to panic. Find the most likely cause, apply the fix, and you should see new leaf growth in no time.
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.
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