One of the keys to keeping your Crotons healthy and growing as quickly as possible is ensuring they have proper lighting. Like all plants, Crotons convert sunlight into energy that supports all of their functions. A plant without enough sunlight can never thrive even if everything else is perfect.
Crotons require about 6 to 8 hours of bright, indirect light. Their leaves can be damaged if they receive too much sun but will lose color and won’t grow properly if they don’t get enough sunlight. Crotons do well near a bright, sunny window and benefit from being taken outside during the summer.
If you’ve recently purchased a Croton, or you already have one, and it’s not doing well, this article can help you figure out what kind of lighting is best. We’ll go through how much light Crotons need to grow successfully indoors, where to place them, and troubleshoot issues resulting from too much or too little sunlight.
How Much Light Does a Croton Need?
Different varieties of Croton have different light requirements, so try to figure out which cultivar you have to determine how much sunlight it will need. Darker Crotons generally require less sunlight, while those with lighter, more colorful leaves require more. A good rule of thumb for most Crotons is 6 to 8 hours of bright, indirect sunlight per day.
Direct vs. Indirect Sunlight
A lot of advice about growing plants mentions indirect sunlight, but what does that really mean? How can you know if your light is direct or indirect? First off, it’s helpful to think about the directions your windows face. In the northern hemisphere, the brightest light comes from a south-facing window, followed by a west-facing one. East- and north-facing windows may get a bit of direct sun, but typically it will be weaker and for fewer hours per day.
Simply put, if you can see sunlight shining directly on your plant’s leaves, that is direct sunlight. A bright window that doesn’t have sun rays directly connecting with the plant will have indirect light. That said, even a window that gets some direct sunlight probably doesn’t get it for multiple hours.
For comparison, consider an outdoor plant, away from any major obstacles. On a sunny day, that plant will be hit with sunlight from all sides for as long as the sun is out. This is what is considered “full sun” on plant labels and can’t really be duplicated indoors (except in a greenhouse-type of structure). That’s because an indoor plant will be under a roof and a couple of walls that block some of the sunlight from reaching the plant.
Indirect light, on the other hand, has been filtered by or reflected off some other object before falling on your plant’s leaves. You can do a shadow test to see whether an area of your home is receiving direct or indirect sunlight. The shadows created by direct sun have hard, defined edges, while the shadows of indirect light have soft edges.
Growing Crotons Outdoors
Crotons, of course, do grow outdoors in some tropical areas. They’re native to the jungles of India and Malaysia, where they receive mostly dappled and indirect light throughout the day, along with some periods of direct sun. It’s always helpful to try to keep a plant’s natural habitat in mind as you scan your home for the perfect placement.
Most areas are too cold for Crotons to grow outdoors year-round, although it is possible if you live in USDA zones 9-12. Otherwise, you can keep your potted Crotons indoors during the colder months of the year and put them outside when temperatures are warm enough. Crotons can do well on a porch or under trees in your yard but shouldn’t be placed in too much direct sun right away. Crotons can experience shock and drop leaves if an abrupt change is made to their environment, so always introduce new conditions gradually.
For more information about growing Crotons outdoors, there’s a whole article on this subject you should check out: Can a Croton Live Outdoors? Can You Set It Outside for the Summer?
Where to Place Your Croton For Ideal Light
Based on the information about direct vs. indirect light above, you may already know which location in your home is best for your Crotons. Or, you may have realized that your home doesn’t have a suitable location to grow Crotons. In most homes in the northern hemisphere, a window that faces west or south will be the best option. However, you should double-check that your Croton won’t get too much direct sun in these locations. A light meter can help determine how bright the sun actually is over the course of the day.
If your windowsill is too sunny, you could try a location slightly farther into the room where less sunlight can penetrate. Think about a side table close to, but not directly in front of, the window’s light. Or, you could filter some of the more intense light that could damage your Crotons by hanging a sheer curtain in the window.
If you don’t have a suitable windowsill or want to put your Crotons in a place that isn’t bright enough, you could look into supplementing the available sunlight with a grow light. Crotons do pretty well with artificial lighting, and this opens up the possibility for you to place this plant somewhere other than your sunniest window.
Signs Your Croton Has Too Little or Too Much Light
Crotons are more likely to get too little light indoors than too much, but either is possible. Unfortunately, the symptoms of both conditions involve a change to the leaf color, but it should be pretty clear which situation is affecting your Crotons by comparing the other signs that can indicate too much or too little sunlight.
Signs of insufficient light include: slow growth and new leaves that are pale in color compared to mature growth. Over time, Crotons become leggy and stretched out as they try to move closer to the light source. Leggy Crotons have fewer leaves and more space between the leaves. Insufficient light can also cause leaves to drop off.
Too much sunlight can cause the usually vibrant colors of Croton leaves to become faded and pale-looking. The fading will be most apparent on the leaves at the top of the plant that gets the most direct sun. In extreme cases (or where too much sun is coupled with high temperatures), leaves may turn brown and drop off. This can happen if the plant is left in a very bright south- or west-facing window that gets a lot of direct sun or if it’s placed outside in direct sun.
Putting It All Together
Crotons need quite a bit of light to stay healthy and keep their color bright and intense, but luckily their needs aren’t too complicated. Bright light is the main thing that keeps Crotons’ colorful foliage looking so good, so it’s important that you provide your plants with plenty of light energy – either through sunlight or by supplementing with a grow light. Once you have figured out a location that works well for your particular Croton plant, keep it there, and don’t move it around too much since Crotons don’t like changes to their environment.