The large, glossy and vividly coloured leaves of the croton (Codiaeum variegatum) bring year-round colour and a tropical look to warm climate gardens. They are easy to grow and require almost no maintenance once established.
How to position crotons
Give crotons a warm, sunny position for best leaf colour. They also grow well in shade but with less sunlight they tend to lose their red tones and turn green. They don’t tolerate frosts and do best where winter temperatures don’t fall below 10 ̊C.
Crotons are not particularly fussy about soil, but do best in a well- drained sandy loam that has been enriched with compost.
Dig a wide, shallow hole. Mix plenty of 5IN1 Organic Fertiliser into the soil, plant the croton and fill, firming gently around the roots. Add another handful of 5IN1 to the soil surface and water thoroughly.
Mulch thoroughly with Searles Premium Garden Mulch.
Crotons don’t need much fertilising. An application of Searles Vegetable & Garden Plant Food once a year should be sufficient.
Crotons don’t like the soil to dry out completely, so keep them well mulched and insert a finger into the soil occasionally to see if watering is needed.
In the tropics, crotons can grow up to 3 metres tall. In cooler areas, they remain smaller, but an occasional prune will keep them compact and bushy. Crotons are related to the poinsettia. When cut, they ooze a white, milky sap which can be irritating, so take care when pruning and wash immediately if it comes in contact with the skin or eyes. As a guide, crotons can be pruned down by about one third when they start to look leggy.
Pests and diseases
Though usually problem-free, crotons can be affected by scale, mites, thrips and fungal diseases. Large outbreaks of scale can be treated with Searles Pest Gun and other pests can be treated with Searles Bug Beater. Leaf drop can happen in cold weather, but can also be a sign of root rot, caused by poor drainage. If your soil is heavy clay, build up garden beds rather than digging down into the soil and enrich soil with plenty of compost.