Crotons are having a resurgence in popularity, and it’s easy to understand why. They are low-maintenance, colorful, and come in various colors and sizes. Their bright, glossy leaves lend a tropical accent to anywhere you decide to grow them. While they can be a little temperamental, they are not too not picky about how and when they are repotted.
Crotons require rich, free-draining soil, and preferably one that’s slightly acidic. They should be repotted every few years into a container that’s one size larger than the current pot. Repotting Crotons is simple. Just be aware that your Croton may exhibit signs of shock afterward.
Compared to other tropical plants, Crotons fall in the middle category of difficulty: they’re not total divas but they aren’t super low-maintenance either. Many people find them tricky and get discouraged because they lose their leaves over any little disturbance. But if you get the balance right, you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous plant that adds plenty of color to your home.
How Often to Replant Your Croton
Crotons don’t grow particularly fast, so the typical timeline for repotting is once every two to three years. Depending on the variety and how much sunlight they get, indoor Crotons can grow up to 12 inches in a growing season. Their maximum height indoors is usually about 4 feet. Note that the container size will also restrict how large your Croton can grow, so repotting is a good way to get it to grow larger if that’s your goal.
What Time of Year is Best for Repotting a Croton?
As with most houseplants, Crotons should be repotted in the spring or early summer. Although they don’t go completely dormant over the winter, they do experience a slow-down in growth and activity. Once spring comes around, Crotons are triggered to start directing energy toward growth again. By putting them into a new container with fresh soil in the spring (or early summer, at the latest), you’ll ensure that your plant has plenty of nutrients and enough space in the pot to grow throughout the season.
Signs It’s Time to Transplant to a Bigger Container
If you suspect that your Croton may have outgrown its container, there are several ways you can confirm. It’s always best to err on the side of caution with Crotons because they can and often do experience some transplant shock after repotting. Check for the signs that it is time to repot before doing so just for fun.
- Your plant needs frequent watering: A plant that isn’t retaining water can be a sign that the roots are taking up a lot of space in the pot, meaning there’s less soil to absorb and hold water. If water is flowing out from the drainage holes almost immediately after you water, it is most likely time to investigate further.
- Growth has slowed way down: There are several other reasons that your Croton may have stunted growth (not enough light, no nutrients available in the soil, overwatering), but when that is combined with frequent watering, it may be because your plant is root bound.
- The roots are escaping: The most definite sign that your Croton is in need of a new container is that the roots have outgrown the current one and are either growing out of the drainage hole in the bottom or are poking up out of the top of the soil.
- It’s been a while: If it has been two to three years since your Croton has been repotted, the soil left is most likely of a very poor quality. Crotons should be repotted every two or three years to refresh the soil.
If you suspect that your Croton is ready to be repotted, there is one last step to take before making the big move. Carefully remove the plant from its pot and check the roots. If you see a lot more roots than soil, or the roots have started to circle around the bottom of the pot, you’ll know it is time for sure.
Not Quite Ready to Repot?
If your Croton has been in the same soil and planter for a couple of years, but you prefer not to repot it for whatever reason, there are a couple of interim measures you can take to ensure that your plant stays healthy in the meantime.
The soil is probably depleted of nutrients, so you can give your Crotons a boost by adding in a commercial fertilizer. A 3-1-2 fertilizer is a good choice, and you could use either a slow-release or a liquid variety only during the growing season.
You can also add nutrients through a method called top-dressing. This involves scraping off the top layer of soil (as much as possible without damaging any of the roots) and then replacing it with fresh potting mix or compost. The new potting mix will provide your Croton with nutrients, but you don’t have to commit to actually repotting.
For more information on fertilizing your Croton houseplants, read this article.
Do Crotons Like to be Root-Bound?
In general, we dont recommend that any plant is kept rootbound, as it usually does more harm than good. Crotons are no exception. They like their soil to be kept fairly moist, so it’s risky to let them get too root-bound. When this happens, there is not enough soil in the pot to absorb water. When a pot is full of roots, the remaining soil tends to dry out quickly, so this is not ideal for Crotons.
What Type of Pot is Best for Crotons?
In terms of material, you can choose whatever type you like best for your Crotons. Plastic and glazed pots will hold in more water, which could be a benefit if you tend to neglect your plants from time to time. Using a porous material like terracotta works better for those on top of their watering since it allows plenty of air circulation around the roots, and allows the soil to dry more quickly.
The pot absolutely needs to have drainage holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain out of the pot and prevent damage to the roots. You’ll want to have a saucer under the pot to catch any excess water that drains out when you water, which you’ll want to empty after each watering.
What Size Pot Should You Use?
It can be tempting to give your Croton a much larger pot, but that move could prove harmful or even fatal to your plant. For container plants, there must be a good ratio of soil to root volume in the pot. If there is too much soil, it will take a long time to dry out in between watering sessions, which could lead to root rot. It can also be difficult to know how wet the soil is in a larger or deeper pot. Choose a pot that is just one size (1 to 2 inches in diameter) larger than its current container.
What Type of Soil is Best for a Croton?
Crotons like their soil relatively moist, but they still need proper drainage. They are not too particular about their soil, so a typical all-purpose potting mix should work just fine. The ideal pH for Crotons is between 4.5 to 6.5, as they prefer a slightly acid soil.
Avoid chunky potting soils, like those made for cacti and succulents, as these types will dry out too quickly for a Croton. On the other hand, a very dense soil holds too much moisture close to your Croton’s roots, which is also bad news. This can prevent the plant from properly taking up water and nutrients and can cause root rot if the soil doesn’t get at least somewhat dry between waterings.
It’s worthwhile to try to match up the soil type and texture from the old pot to the new one as much as possible. Since Crotons don’t adapt well to changes in their environment, keeping their soil consistent can also help avoid them shock when repotted.
Store-Bought Potting Soil Options
As mentioned above, you can definitely use store-bought soil for Crotons. Be sure to choose a high-quality brand, as Crotons require rich soil with plenty of nutrients. Look for soils recommended for tropical plants and indoor plants, such as this one. The soil should drain well but still maintain plenty of moisture. Avoid potting soil that includes water-retentive gels or crystals (sometimes sold as “moisture control” soil) because these tend to get dense and hold too much water to be suitable for Crotons.
I also find that the cheaper potting soils sitting outside in garden centers are best avoided. I almost always seem to get fungus gnats after using these soils, and it tends to have a higher ratio of compost, meaning it stays wet for longer. If you have already purchased this type and still want to use it, I’d recommend at least amending it with a drainage material (perlite is my preference) to make sure the roots can breathe.
DIY Potting Soil Options for Crotons
DIY potting mixes are a great option if you prefer more control over precisely what ingredients are included in your potting mix. It’s simple to create your own soil for container plants, but you do need to invest in several different ingredients, and you’ll probably need a place to store them. That said, in my experience, it’s actually cheaper in the long run to purchase the ingredients separately if you have a lot of plants. You can create a lot of different soil recipes with the same ingredients, instead of investing in a specialty mix for each plant species you own.
Here is a standard recipe for potting medium that is a good fit for Crotons:
- 2 parts coco coir, peat moss
- 1 part organic compost
- 1 part orchid bark
- 1 part perlite (pumice or sand can also be used)
You can also use this recipe as a base and alter it according to the conditions in your home. Do you live in a dry climate or use your air conditioner often? You might want to reduce or leave out the amount of coco coir to the mix is more absorbent. On the other hand, if you live somewhere humid, keep your Crotons in a greenhouse, or grow them in a bathroom, you may want to mix in more perlite to increase the drainage.
Over time, you’ll figure out how to adjust for your specific conditions and the various plants you want to grow. And once you’ve invested in the ingredients for your DIY potting mix, you’ll be able to combine them in different ratios to suit different types of plants.
How to Repot a Croton
Before you get started, go ahead and gather up your supplies for the job. You’ll need:
- Potting soil
- Garden gloves
- Gravel, broken pots, mesh discs, or something else to cover drainage holes (optional)
- Tarp or something else to protect floors (optional)
Note: Crotons do contain a sap that’s a skin irritant. Some people can experience a reaction from just touching this plant, although that hasn’t been the case for me personally. However, it is highly recommended that you wear gloves any time you’re handling this plant and exercise extra caution if you damage the plant and the sap starts to ooze.
After you’ve gathered your supplies, the steps to repot your Croton are simple:
Prepare Your New Pot
Be sure that the pot is clean and has drainage holes. You may want to cover the drainage holes with something to keep the soil from falling out. A coffee filter or a small piece of cheesecloth works well, or these mesh discs are made specifically for the purpose and do the job perfectly. Add a layer of new potting soil to the bottom of the pot. The layer should be thick enough that the root ball will sit at the same depth in the new pot as it did in the original pot.
Remove Your Croton From the Pot
Gently work the plant out of its pot. Gently remove old soil from around the roots and tease them apart carefully. If you see any roots that look unhealthy, you can prune them off with sterilized garden scissors.
Place Your Croton Into the Pot
Holding the plant-centered in the pot, fill in soil around the root ball.
Water the Plant Thoroughly
To reduce the risk of shock, be sure you use room temperature (not cool) water. Watering will probably cause the soil to settle, so you can add a little more if needed.
And that’s it! Return your Croton to its location and care for it as usual. For the next few weeks try to give it some space. It is possible you’ll see leaves drooping, but with time and gentle care, it should bounce back.
Dealing With Shock
I’ve mentioned a few times in this article that Crotons can sometimes experience shock after repotting (or any other change to their environment). Crotons wilt and drop leaves when they’re going through shock. The best way to avoid this in general is to avoid making any sudden changes to your Croton’s environment, but of course, repotting is a change that’s unavoidable if your plant has outgrown its pot.
Try not to make any other changes shortly after repotting (moving your plant to a different location, for example), and hold off on fertilizing for at least a couple of months. Crotons will generally start recovering from shock after a few weeks. If you see new growth on your Croton, congratulations! That means that your plant has recovered and is ready to start growing again for the season.
Putting It All Together
Repotting Crotons is not difficult, but it can be a little risky. Any change in environment can cause these temperamental beauties to throw a bit of a fit. On the other hand, if you want your Croton to reach the maximum possible size, you will need to move it to a larger container at some point.
By giving your plant the best quality, rich soil and keeping other changes to a minimum, you should be able to successfully move your Croton to a larger home and eventually get an even bigger and more beautiful plant!