Croton plants aren’t just colorful and eye-catching specimens when sitting on the plant store shelf. They’re also one of the least challenging houseplants to propagate, which is the official term for multiplying plants from one specimen. If you use the right techniques and start with plenty of plant samples, you should get the hang of propagating Crotons of all varieties after a few tries. This guide will take you through some of the key considerations around how to propagate croton plants at home.
- What is a Croton Plant?
- Why Propagate a Croton Plant?
- Key Considerations When Propagating a Croton Plant
- Croton Plant Growth Expectations
- Post-Propagation Care & Tips for Propagating Success
- Common Croton Plant Propagation Problems, Questions and Remedies
- Wrapping Up
What is a Croton Plant?
A genus of evergreen shrub native to Malaysia and other islands of the South Pacific, Croton includes some of the most popular houseplants grown today. Most plants in the genus feature leathery or glossy leaves that resist water loss.
Why Propagate a Croton Plant?
Propagating a plant you already own, such as a brightly colored Croton, allows you to create new plants for free. You can fill out your own collection with these new houseplants or give them away as gifts to others. Crotons tend to become leggy and somewhat less attractive when they reach maturity, so taking new cuttings and propagating them can provide you with replacements.
Key Considerations When Propagating a Croton Plant
Level of Difficulty
While Crotons are not the easiest houseplant to propagate, they’re not tough either. Most people with basic experience in taking cuttings or practicing air layering will find them almost foolproof to propagate.
If you’re new to these processes in general, it may take you a few tries to get the details right. The keys are cutting the right part of the Croton plant and giving it plenty of humidity as it establishes itself.
Can Croton Plants Grow in Water or Only Soil?
In general, you’ll want to use a sterile potting mix for propagating cuttings from Croton plants. Water will trigger rooting as well in stem cuttings, but it tends to be slightly less reliable.
Can You Propagate Croton Plants From Just a Leaf?
Leaves alone technically will root but won’t turn into full-sized plants. However, cuttings that include the bud where new leaves form and at least a little of the stem below it will root successfully and grow new stem material. You may grow what’s known as a blind cutting by trying to root a leaf without a stem, similar to a hoya plant that never grows beyond a single leaf.
Croton Plant Growth Expectations
It can take one month or longer before the cutting begins to form new roots. Up to three more months may pass as the roots develop before new growth appears at the bud of the cutting. Don’t give up on the cutting unless three months have passed without root formation or the stem shrivels and dries up. Wearing gardening gloves or even just a pair of dish gloves while propagating will also protect your hands from the irritating sap released by the leaves and stems.
How to Propagate a Croton Plant – Options & Techniques
There’s more than one right way to make a new Croton plant. Croton seeds don’t grow true to their parent’s color or patterns, so all the plants sold as houseplants today come from some kind of cutting or air layering process.
Propagating Croton in Water
Water works just fine for propagating most Croton varieties. Stem cuttings must be a little longer than usual, at least six inches, to ensure some length remains above the water level for leaves to grow. Take a cutting of a healthy stem from the tip down and remove all of the foliage except for the top most two or three leaves. Place the stem in a container of fresh rainwater or distilled water so that the top two to three inches are above the water. Change the water weekly and watch for root development, at which point the cutting should be moved to soil.
Propagating Croton in Soil
Soil, or rather a sterile potting mix, is the easiest way to get a Croton to propagate. You only need between three and five inches of stem cutting to start the process. Let the cutting sit in a shaded, dry area for 24 hours before placing it in the damp soil. Tuck a plastic bag over the cutting and pot so that moisture is held around the cutting to encourage rooting. Check the soil regularly and add water if needed. Give the cutting at least four weeks to root before expecting it to show signs of new growth. Consider using a rooting hormone dip to increase the chances of success.
Propagating by Division
Large, mature Croton plants tend to become top heavy rather than crowded in terms of stems. Still, you may decide to divide a Croton to make it look less crowded or to help split up stems that are competing for space. Simply lift the plant out of its pot and use a sharp trowel to divide the root ball into two to three equally sized sections. Place the sections in fresh potting soil and water well to prevent shock.
Propagation by Air Layering
Air layering forces the plant to produce roots on the stem while it’s still attached. You only cut the stem section off once you see the roots, ensuring you have a good healthy cutting to start with for the next plant. It’s a great way to shorten the height of a leggy Croton and get new plants out of the process.
Start by marking a point about six inches down on a healthy stem. Use a sterilized and sharp utility knife to gently scrape the bark all the way around the stem without cutting too deeply. You just want to see hints of the green layer below the brown bark.
Next, wrap dampened sphagnum peat moss around the scratched area. Cover that with a layer of plastic wrap and secure it in place with loosely twisted floral wire.
Leave the damp cover in place for four weeks or more, then remove and check for signs of rooting. When you have a strong set of roots coming out of the covered stem, trim it off under the roots and plant it in soil for a new Croton (see more on how to prune croton plants here).
Post-Propagation Care & Tips for Propagating Success
- Spring and summer are the best times of year to propagate this plant since it’ll grow rapidly.
- Crotons need dappled, indirect light and warm temperatures above 65 to grow (for more, see our essential guide to the best positions for Croton plants in your home).
- Keep the soil moist, and don’t let it dry out during propagation. Croton doesn’t like to be watered too much, so aim for damp soil rather than wet. These plants do need a slightly moister soil mix during propagation than they would prefer the rest of the time.
- A sterile, soil-free mix meant for starting seeds is the best choice for encouraging root development. If you can’t find that kind of mix, try a rapid-draining cacti soil and make sure to water regularly.
- Wait until the Croton is outgrowing its original container before repotting, even if it was recently propagated. This species prefers to be slightly restrained by its container rather than planted in an oversized pot.
- Pests and diseases aren’t usually a problem for Croton cuttings, but they will spread if found on the original plant. Use only healthy plants for propagating.
- Propagated Croton plants should stay firm and not wilted, even if they don’t look like they’re growing yet. Loss of the remaining leaves is fine as long as the stem doesn’t dry up. If the plant doesn’t want to grow full-sized leaves after rooting, try giving it more light and a light dose of croton fertilizer.
Common Croton Plant Propagation Problems, Questions, and Remedies:
How long does it take a Croton to root in water?
It takes about one month for roots to form in water.
Can a Croton live in water forever?
No, a Croton will slowly wither if left in the water after rooting. Move it to a soil mix instead.
How long does it take Croton plants to propagate?
No matter the method, you’ll need to wait at least one month before roots will form on Croton cuttings.
Are Croton plants hard to propagate?
They’re among the easiest to propagate, although you will need patience and a good cutting.
Can you grow a Croton plant from a broken leaf?
You can make a leaf root, but a new plant won’t form unless the Croton leaf had a section of stem or a bud attached.
Why is my Croton not rooting?
You may have taken a small or weak cutting, handled it too roughly, or let it get too cold or dry.
Whether you prefer the varieties with slender, long leaves or wide foliage with colorful veins, there’s a Croton to fit your style and decor. Try propagating your favorite Croton varieties to create more plants to fill up your home. You may just become more popular among your friends after giving away a few dozen cute Croton plants that you grew for free from cuttings. For more, see our in-depth guide to growing Croton plants at home.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.