Crotons (Croton variegatum) brighten homes with colorful foliage and lush, waxy leaves. With so many varieties of crotons to choose from, you may find yourself wanting to fill your home or office with these plants. Whether you have one or ten croton plants, it’s essential that you know how to water these plants. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about watering crotons.
- When and How to Water Croton Plants – The Essentials
- About Croton Plants
- The Role of Water in Plant Health and Development
- When to Water Croton Plants
- How to Water Croton Plants
- Signs You Might Be Overwatering Your Croton Plant
- Signs You Might Be Underwatering Your Croton Plant
- What to Do In Between Waterings
- Watering Croton Plants FAQs:
- Wrapping Up
When and How to Water Croton Plants – The Essentials
Croton plants will need watering when the top two inches of soil are dry, about once a week in the summer and once every two weeks in the winter. Make sure to thoroughly drench the soil when you water utilizing rainwater or distilled water if available. Be sure to remove any excess water that has been collected in the saucer.
About Croton Plants
While crotons vary in size and shape, they are all members of the Croton variegatum species. These plants are native to areas in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
Crotons, also known as rushfoil, stand out with green, red, yellow, and orange foliage. Leaf size and shape vary depending on variety, but all crotons have thick, waxy leaves.
Since these are tropical plants, they cannot survive harsh winters. While gardeners in Florida and other warm areas can grow crotons outdoors, most US crotons are houseplants.
The Role of Water in Plant Health and Development
Water is essential to all plants, including crotons. Water allows plants to complete photosynthesis, obtain and transport nutrients, regulate temperature, and maintain structure.
Simply put – without water, plants will die.
When to Water Croton Plants
Although croton plants are native to tropical areas, they don’t like sitting in constantly wet soil—instead, crotons like moist but not saturated soil.
Additionally, croton plants don’t like completely dry soil. While they can withstand short periods of drought, this will set back their growth. It’s best to avoid allowing your croton soil to dry out completely.
How Do You Know When a Croton Plant Needs to Be Watered?
The best way to tell if your croton plants need to be watered is to examine the soil. Assuming you’re using a proper soil mix, you should water your plant when the top two inches of soil is dry.
How to Check When to Water Croton Plants
The easiest way to check if your croton needs water is to use your fingers (I also like to use a chopstick when you want to keep your hands clean). Stick your finger into the soil near the base of the plant.
If the top few inches are still moist, wait to water. If they’re dry, it’s time to water.
A moisture meter is another way to monitor the soil. Lower the meter two inches into the soil. If the meter reads dry, it’s time to water.
How Often Do Croton Plants Need to Be Watered?
As a general rule of thumb, you’ll need to water your indoor croton plants about once a week. Of course, this will vary depending on various factors, but we’ll get into those below.
While weekly watering is a good starting point, you’ll always want to check your plant’s soil before you water.
Environmental Factors That May Impact Watering Schedules
A variety of environmental factors impact how often you’ll need to water your croton.
Higher temperatures cause plants to release more water, which leads them to dry out more quickly. Therefore, plants in warm areas will require more water than plants in cooler areas.
Humidity also impacts how often you’ll need to water your plant. Plants release less water in humid environments than they do in dry climates. Therefore, you’ll need to water your plant more often if the air is dry.
The amount of light a plant receives will also impact how much water they need. Not only will sunlight cause soil to dry out faster, but it will also increase the rate of photosynthesis.
The bottom line? Plants in brighter areas will need to be watered more often than plants in dim locations.
For more, see our in-depth guide croton plant light requirements and where to position croton plants in the home or office.
Seasonal Factors That May Affect Watering Schedules
As daylight decreases in the fall, croton plants stall their growth. Therefore, you can decrease the frequency you water your plants.
Once plants resume active growth in the spring, you can expect to water more often.
How to Water Croton Plants
The Importance of Good Drainage
Using the wrong type of potting soil can ruin even the best watering schedules. Crotons prefer potting soil that holds some water while allowing excess water to drain.
If your potting soil holds too much water, your croton will always be sitting in moist soil. This can lead to issues with root rot as well as nutrient uptake and air exchange.
Along with using the proper soil mix, you should ensure that you’re using a planter with drainage holes.
What Type of Water is Best for Croton Plants?
Crotons aren’t too picky about the type of water you use. In most areas, tap water is fine.
However, if you’re concerned with your tap water, you can opt for rainwater or filtered water.
How to Water Croton Plants
Options & Techniques
Croton plants can thrive with both top-watering and bottom-watering. Both of these methods will provide your plant with the water they need.
How to Top Water
Top watering is generally the easiest and less messy way to water your croton plant.
- Fill a watering can or bottle with water.
- Slowly pour the water near the base of your plant. Try your best to avoid getting water on your plant’s foliage.
- Continue watering until you see water flow through the planter’s drainage holes.
- Empty any water that has collected in the drainage saucer.
The amount of water you add depends on the size of the plant. If your plant is larger, you’ll need to add more water.
A good rule is to look at the planter’s volume and add a quarter of that amount of water. For example, if your croton is in a gallon planter, add a quarter gallon of water.
How to Bottom Water
If you find that top watering isn’t wetting the soil, you can try bottom watering.
- Find a container or dish that your planter can fit into. Place the planter into the container.
- Pour water into the container until the bottom inch of your planter is covered.
- Allow the planter to sit in water until you notice the top of the soil is moist. This will take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. If you see the water level is low, add more water.
Signs You Might Be Overwatering Your Croton Plant
The most common side of overwatered croton is yellowing leaves or leaf drop. If you notice this discoloration, decrease the amount you water.
While it sounds counterintuitive, wilting can be another sign you’re overwatering. If plants sit in moist soil, they can develop rotten roots. These roots cannot take up water, leading to wilting.
If you suspect root rot, remove the root ball from the container and inspect the roots. Trim back and prune rotten portions and add fresh potting soil.
Signs You Might Be Underwatering Your Croton Plant
The number one sign of underwatering is wilting. If your plant’s leaves appear droopy, check the soil. If it’s dry, it’s time to water.
Another sign of underwatering is thin leaves. While croton leaves will normally be rigid and waxy, they will become pliable if they don’t have enough water.
What to Do In Between Waterings
Misting Croton Plants
Croton plants prefer moderate to high humidity. They’re typically happy with average household humidity, but they can struggle in dry air. If your air is extremely dry, mist your croton plant every couple of days.
Using a Humidity Tray
Croton plants generally don’t need a humidity tray. However, it can’t hurt. If you choose to use a humidity tray, make sure the pot isn’t sitting directly in water.
Main Things to Keep an Eye On
As mentioned above, you’ll want to check the soil moisture level regularly. As you become familiar with your plant’s water needs, you’ll need to check the soil less often.
Other things to look out for are drooping leaves, yellow foliage, and falling leaves. Although these issues don’t necessarily indicate problems with watering, they signal it’s worth checking out the soil moisture level.
It’s also prudent to fertilize your croton plant monthly during the spring and summer months each year (which is also the best time to consider propagating your croton plants if you’re looking to expand your collection). You’ll also want to repot your croton plant periodically to provide a fresh, nutrient-rich soil base and room for future growth.
Watering Croton Plants FAQs:
What are the most common signs a Croton plant needs watering?
Wilting and flimsy leaves, as well as dry soil, indicate that you should water your croton.
What is the best way to water Croton plants?
Top watering and bottom watering both work well for croton plants. If your soil is parched, bottom watering is a better option.
How much water do Croton plants need?
Croton plants need a moderate amount of water. Plants that are a foot tall typically require a few cups of water each week.
Is it ok to get water on Croton plant leaves?
While a little bit of water won’t ruin your plants, try not to saturate your leaves. Moist leaves are more prone to fungal issues.
What do I do if I overwater my Croton plant?
Allow the soil to dry out before you water your plant again. If you suspect that the plant has developed disease issues, swap out the old potting soil for new soil.
Can I water my Croton plant with tap water?
Yes, tap water is typically fine for croton plants.
Should I mist my Croton plant?
You should only mist your croton if your air is very dry.
Watering your croton is as simple as making sure the water is not too wet and not too dry. By following the tips above, you’re on your way to a happy and healthy croton.
Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.