- Medium to high water
- Low to medium sunlight
- Slow grower, but can get up to 10 ft tall
- No flowers, but foliage is vibrant & showy
- Not native
In the wild, the garden croton is an evergreen shrub that grows to 10 ft tall and has large, leathery, shiny leaves. The cultivated garden crotons are usually smaller and come in an amazing diversity of leaf shapes and colors. What they do have in common are rather thick evergreen alternate leaves, tiny inconspicuous star-shaped yellow flowers that hang down in long racemes and a milky sap that bleeds from cut stems. Depending on the cultivar, the leaves may be ovate to linear, entire to deeply lobed, and variegated with green, white, purple, orange, yellow, red or pink. The colors may follow the veins, the margins or they may be in blotches on the leaf.
Garden croton occurs naturally in southern Asia, Indonesia and other Eastern Pacific islands where it grows in open forests and scrub. There are several hundred cultivars, selected and bred for their beautiful foliage. It is quite a challenge to keep these beautiful foliage plants healthy outside of the tropics or a greenhouse. They need to be kept warm and humid.
In tropical climates, crotons make attractive hedges and potted patio specimens. Elsewhere, they are grown in greenhouses or as house plants, valued for their striking foliage. In the home, put crotons on a window sill that faces southeast or southwest, but protect them from drafts and severe fluctuations in temperature. The better the light, the brighter the foliage colors will be, but do not leave crotons in direct sun when grown indoors.