Knowing exactly when to water your Croton can take some trial and error. These plants aren’t generally difficult, but they often let us know they’re unhappy by wilting or dropping leaves. Crotons need consistency in their watering schedule to avoid those issues and many more. So how can you know when it is time to water your Croton?
The main signs that your Croton needs more water are when leaves become wilted, discolored, wrinkled, or drop off completely. The best way to determine if a Croton needs water is by checking the soil. Only the top inch or two of your Croton’s soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings.
Crotons come from tropical conditions, with year-round warm weather and high humidity. They prefer to stay on the moist side compared with some other houseplants. And, because they have such large leaves, they can lose a lot of water when humidity is low. You can keep your Croton happy and healthy for years by following proper watering habits.
How Much Water Does a Croton Need?
Crotons need soil that is consistently moist, but they hate to be waterlogged and should be allowed to dry out a bit between waterings. When it comes to timing it correctly, there are a lot of factors that can influence how often a Croton needs to be watered. Where you live, the time of year, and even the conditions of your home can cause Crotons to dry out at different rates, so don’t rely on counting the days or keeping a regular watering schedule year-round.
Rather than watering every so many days, water your Croton when the top inch or two of soil are dry. The best way to test this is simply by sticking your finger down in the soil and feeling for moisture, but if that seems unpleasant to you, a moisture meter can always be used instead.
The Dangers of Overwatering & How to Avoid It
Much more concerning than not giving your Croton enough water is giving it too much. Overwatering houseplants, including Crotons, is the number one mistake plant parents make with their offspring. That is why we always, always, always suggest checking the moisture in the soil before ever adding more.
When the soil in your planter stays overly saturated for too long, the roots in the pot will really suffer. Sludgy soil leads to health problems like discolored leaves, fungal infections, increased pest activity, and the ever-dreaded root rot. Only adding water when your plant needs it is your best line of defense against a multitude of problems.
It doesn’t matter how carefully you water your plant if it is planted incorrectly. Crotons need to be planted in a free-draining potting mix inside a suitable container with at least one drainage hole. That will allow any excess water to flow through the soil and out of the container, rather than pooling up in the bottom.
You also want to make sure that you’ve got a container that is an appropriate size. Pots that are too small stunt root growth, while those that are too large take too long to dry out between waterings and indirectly cause overwatering.
Signs It’s Time to Give Your Croton More Water
If dialing in your watering habits is so essential for healthy houseplants, how can you make sure your game is on point? Thankfully, Crotons can signal us when it is time to give them a drink. Below are the five most common signs that your Croton needs to be watered.
Sign #1: The Soil Is Dry
I know I’ve already said this multiple times but checking the soil really is the best way to determine if your Croton needs water or not, and certainly, it is the most definitive. Wilting, wrinkled, and discolored leaves can all point to underwatered Crotons, but they may also indicate other problems with your care routine. Before assuming any symptom is a sign of underwatering, always check the soil first.
There are several ways you can determine the moisture level in the soil. You can always look for visual cues (like dry, cracking soil that pulls away from the edges) or simply pick up the container to check how heavy it is, as dry soil is much lighter than wet soil is. But the best method for checking moisture levels is to feel for it. Check the soil with your finger or a moisture meter, and water only once the top inch is dry.
Sign #2: Wilting Or Drooping Leaves
A dried-out Croton can exhibit drooping leaves because the plant’s tissue doesn’t contain enough water to keep the leaves and stems firm. Slight wilting is often the first indication that a Croton needs water. However, wilting leaves can also be caused by overwatering, low humidity, or shock from environmental changes. Be sure to check the soil first and rule out any other causes before assuming your plant needs water.
Sign #3: Wrinkled Leaves
Croton leaves that suddenly appear wrinkled could result from insufficient water, especially if they are turning brown and crispy. Check your Croton for insect damage and overwatering, as these can also cause wrinkled and shriveled leaves. If the leaves seem free of damage and the soil is dry rather than wet, it is time to add more water.
Sign #4: Dropping Leaves
Crotons are notorious for losing lots of apparently-healthy leaves all at the same time. Leaf drop can happen in reaction to any sort of stress that the plant encounters, such as a temperature change, low humidity, drafts, or being repotted. Drying out would definitely be a stressor that could cause leaf drop in Crotons, but do confirm with a soil check before watering.
Sign #5: Leaf Discoloration
If your Croton’s leaves are changing colors, it could signify that it needs more water. Yellow, soft leaves are usually the result of overwatering, but brown or tan leaves could be caused by underwatering. An underwatered Croton will often have dry brown leaf tips.
Always Water Crotons Thoroughly
After ensuring that your Croton needs additional water, our best tip is to water the plant thoroughly. Rather than adding a small amount of water often, we recommend a nice soaking, less frequently.
When watering Crotons, pour in water until about 20% of what you put in runs out through the drainage hole in the bottom. Thorough watering is the best way to ensure the appropriate moisture has reached all throughout the soil and roots.
Should a Croton Be Watered From Above or Below?
Crotons can be watered from above or below; they are not picky on this point. Unlike some other plants that can become discolored when water splashes on their leaves, Crotons are just fine getting wet.
If you want to try your hand at bottom watering, it is a simple process. Fill a saucer or dish with water and place the pot inside. The soil will begin to absorb the water through the drainage holes until it is thoroughly and evenly saturated. Check the top layer of soil after 15 minutes to see if the water has reached the top. If it’s still dry, wait for another 10 to 15 minutes (refilling the water reservoir if needed), and then discard any excess water that’s left in the saucer.
Do Crotons Need Distilled Water?
Rainwater is always my top recommendation for any houseplant, followed by distilled water if rainwater isn’t available. That said, Crotons usually are fine with regular tap water unless you live in a location where the tap water is especially hard.
Do Crotons Need Humidity?
Crotons love humid conditions, and their ideal humidity range is between 40% to 80%. The high end of this range is too humid for most homes, but around 40% to 50% is usually a good range for both Crotons and people. Note that indoor humidity above 50% can cause issues like mold or wood damage in your home.
Humidity can vary from season to season and may depend on what kind of temperature control you use in your home. A humidity gauge can give you a lot more information on the amount of moisture in the air in different areas in your home throughout the year.
The amount of humidity and the temperature in the air around your Crotons will affect the health of your plant. If your Croton exhibits signs of low humidity, such as wilting, curling, or brown leaf edges, there are some ways that you can raise the humidity around them. I’ll go through them in the next section.
Ways to Increase Humidity For Your Houseplants
Since Crotons come from warm, humid environments, they will appreciate as much humidity as you can provide them. You may need to reduce your watering if you take steps to increase humidity, as water evaporates out of the soil more quickly in dry air than in humid air.
Purchase a Humidifier
The first and most effective way to increase humidity levels around your houseplants is to invest in a humidifier. Most of your tropical houseplants will enjoy having the extra dose of humidity.
You can find humidifiers equipped with timers, filters, and other features that make them easy to use. There’s a range of price points, depending on your budget, too, but if you’re planning to continue raising Crotons and other tropical plants, it probably makes sense to invest in a high-quality humidifier that will last for years like this one. If you’d like to learn why it’s our favorite, read our article: The Best Humidifiers for Houseplants.
Make a Pebble Tray
If you’re not quite ready to invest in a humidifier, you could try using a pebble tray under your plant. A pebble tray is a shallow container filled with pebbles (or anything similar) that keeps the pot slightly elevated. When the tray is filled with water, it slowly evaporates and raises the humidity in the area around your Croton.
When using a pebble tray, it’s important that your plant pot not sit directly in the water since that can cause the potting soil to get too wet. The pebbles are there to keep it above the water, not sitting in it. Set your Croton on top of the pebbles, not in the water.
Move It To a More Humid Location
Moving your Crotons could also be an option to increase the humidity surrounding them. Some rooms in the home are naturally more humid than others – namely those rooms with water in them!
So if you have a kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room window that gets enough sunlight for your plants, this could be an easy, low-maintenance way to keep your plants happy. Similarly, you could leave bathroom doors open during and after a shower to let the steam out and temporarily increase the humidity in adjoining rooms.
Group Houseplants Together
Grouping plants together can also increase the humidity in the area around them. Houseplants are constantly losing water through evaporation from the surface of the soil and through the leaves of the plant through transpiration. Placing all your humidity-loving houseplants in one place is a great way to create a miniature rainforest effect.
Should You Mist a Croton?
Some people swear by misting their plants to increase humidity, while others claim it doesn’t do much. Here at The Healthy Houseplant, we believe that misting does very little to increase the humidity except in the few seconds right after you have misted the plant.
That said, if misting your plants is something you enjoy doing, it will not harm your Croton. As mentioned earlier, Croton leaves can get wet without being damaged. However, water shouldn’t be allowed to sit on the leaves for long periods, since that can lead to fungal infections. If you do want to mist your plant, always do so in the morning so that the water will have time to evaporate throughout the day.
Putting It All Together
Crotons are gorgeous and colorful houseplants but are known for their habit of dropping leaves when they get stressed. They need a bit more attention than some other houseplants to ensure they don’t dry out too much before being watered again.
As long as you are checking the soil, either with your finger or your moisture meter, you will be able to keep your Croton at its ideal moisture level and avoid the issues mentioned in this article altogether. But even if you do forget about your Croton for a while and it loses some leaves, you will find this plant is remarkably resilient. As long as the roots and stem are healthy, Crotons can put out new leaves and recover quickly.