Crotons are evergreen plants grown for their brightly colored and strikingly-patterned foliage. You can find Crotons in yellow, pink, purple, orange, and red. Some varieties have brightly colored veins that contrast with the rest of the leaf color, while others are speckled and look as though they’ve been painted.
Crotons are best known as houseplants or outdoor annuals, but they can live permanently outdoors in warm climates that rarely fall below 60 degrees F. In other climates, Crotons can safely be moved outdoors for the warm summer months and brought back inside when temperatures start to drop.
This article will cover what you need to know about planting Crotons outdoors as part of your landscaping or simply moving your houseplants outside so they can make the most of the mild summer weather.
Can a Croton Live Outdoors?
Crotons are popular as landscape plants in tropical and subtropical climates. Their colorful tropical appearance makes them an attractive centerpiece in an outdoor container or among other decorative plants in a flower bed. These plants are versatile as to where they can be placed and look great anywhere!
Crotons are considered hardy in USDA zones 9-12. If your climate is slightly cooler with a couple of light frosts per year, growing Crotons outdoors may still be possible. Try to plant them in a sheltered location to keep them out of the most extreme weather. You can also cover the plants with plastic and blankets in the case of an unusually cold period. Crotons may lose their leaves and die back in cooler weather, but they will come back in the spring if the roots are undamaged.
What Outdoor Conditions are Best for Crotons?
To keep your Crotons thriving and looking their best, it is important to review all of the environmental conditions in the location you’re considering. The tips below apply regardless of whether you plan to plant Crotons directly in the ground or use them in a container garden.
Indirect or partial direct sun is best for keeping a Croton colorful, while also avoiding sunburn. Too much heat or sunlight causes leaves to develop brown edges and drop off. Over time, the plant can die if kept in intense sun. Too little sun, on the other hand, prevents a Croton from developing the best and brightest color.
Crotons don’t like sitting in moist soil for a long time. They do best in well-draining soil that is allowed to dry out between waterings. They do like humid conditions, so you’ll need to water more often on the hottest days of the summer.
Crotons prefer temperatures between 65 and 95 degrees F, though they can tolerate short spells slightly lower or higher than that. If the temperature is regularly dropping below 65, it may be time to bring your plant back inside.
Do not plant Crotons too close to each other or other plants. They need good air circulation and room to spread. After planting Crotons, add a layer of mulch to insulate the roots and protect them from damage.
Outdoor Crotons benefit from receiving a few doses of slow-release fertilizer during the growing season, especially if they’re growing in soil that is not rich in nutrients. Use a fertilizer with NPK ratios of 3-1-2 for best results.
A Note on Toxicity
All parts of a Croton plant are toxic. The sap can cause irritation upon contact with skin. If ingested, this plant causes a burning sensation in the mouth and digestive issues. Use protection when handling this plant, and keep it in a place where children and pets cannot easily access it.
Can I Set My Croton Outside for the Summer?
As you’ve probably gathered from the sections above, the answer is absolutely yes, you can set your Croton outside for the summer! Your plant will benefit from the increased hours of sunlight and humidity that is generally higher than inside an air-conditioned home. Be sure to wait until night temperatures are consistently above 60 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid damaging your plant.
Crotons are notorious for dropping leaves when they are subjected to sudden changes, such as much higher or lower temperatures or a lot more sunlight. Leaf drop is definitely something that can occur when you are moving Crotons outside for the summer. It is best to make the move gradually (if possible) to avoid shocking the plant. But even if your Croton loses some leaves, they will most likely grow back as long as the plant remains healthy overall.
Considerations For Putting Crotons Outdoors
Of course, there are some important considerations to keep in mind before you move any container plant outside. First, you want to be sure you choose the correct location. Putting a Croton on the porch or in a covered location near your house provides protection and residual warmth if necessary. You could also bring them inside each night until you’re sure that the weather is warm enough.
Although Crotons like sunny conditions, they can be damaged if they’re moved too quickly into full sun. Move them gradually into sunnier conditions so the plant has time to adjust. They should also be kept out of strong or cold winds that can dry out their leaves or even blow leaves off altogether.
If you plan to prune your Croton, it is a good idea to do this before moving it outdoors for the summer. Crotons respond well to pruning, which can help maintain a bushier shape or limit the height of a top-heavy plant. You should also prune off any dead or damaged growth at this time. The additional sunlight that the plant receives from being placed outside will stimulate plenty of new growth after being pruned.
Finally, be aware that you may be exposing your Croton to pests by moving it outside. Of course, it’s also possible to encounter insects on your plants when they are indoors, but you have less control over what happens outdoors. Crotons are susceptible to all the usual suspects: mealybugs, spider mites, aphids, etc. There is even a type of scale insect called “croton scale” because of its prevalence on this plant.
Plants can harbor other unexpected visitors like worms, snails, ants, and caterpillars. Before bringing the plants back inside, it’s a good idea to soak the whole plant, pot and all, in an insecticidal soap mixture to eliminate any insects that might be hitching a ride on your Croton. You should also consider isolating them from the rest of your indoor plants for a week or two to make sure you’re pest-free.
Putting It All Together
Even though Crotons are primarily considered to be houseplants in most parts of the world, they can actually be planted outdoors in tropical or semi-tropical climates. People who would like to enjoy outdoor Crotons could also use them as annuals and expect that they’ll need to be replaced every year.
Indoor Crotons will definitely benefit from spending a summer outdoors. Putting Crotons outside in warm weather allows them to get plenty of sunlight and soak in the summer humidity. So by the time you bring them back inside in the autumn, you’ll likely see lots of new growth and very vivid color.