The Croton petra plant's exotic, colourful foliage make it a popular houseplant and, in tropical areas, a colourful shrublike garden addition.
The popularity of Croton petra plants grew from their brightly coloured foliage that incorporates shades of pink, red and yellow into the green of its stiff waxy leaves. Also known as "autumn plant" for its colour, the Croton petra is the most popular type of Croton, according to Denver Plants.Young plants produce thick green leaves that gradually turn colour with age. Colours intensify with exposure to bright light.
Crotons are considered mid- to high-maintenance plants with little tolerance for variations in heat, light and water requirements.
As a tropical shrub, Crotons grow to 6 feet tall. As houseplants, they usually reach about a foot in height.
In the 1960s and earlier, Crotons were popular tropical garden plants in South Florida and other hot, humid areas where they grew as large shrubs, according to Plant-Care.com. Mature Croton leaves were often cut for colourful additions to floral arrangements in beachside hotel lobbies.
Horticulturalists developed new varieties of Croton plants in the 1970s, including the Croton petra, that could tolerate lower light and indoor environments, leading to the houseplant varieties. Lower light conditions developed better colour in the hybrid Croton leaves, according to Plant-Care.com.
Native to tropical areas, Croton plants thrive in heat, humidity and rich soil kept moist but not wet, according to Houseplants-care.com. The plants require moderate to bright light. As houseplants they should be kept near windows with south, east or west exposures. In gardens, they should be planted in areas of full sun.
Croton plants benefit from misting once or twice a week to maintain humidity levels, especially in arid climates or dry indoor environments. Soil should be kept damp but not wet, according to Houseplants-care.com. Denver Plants recommends bimonthly feeding with an all-purpose houseplant fertiliser.
Croton petra plants should be kept away from any cold drafts, according to Denver Plants.
Leaves sloping downward or falling off indicate the plant and soil have been kept too dry. Wilting leaves indicate overwatering. Croton plants prefer tepid water; using cold water will cause leaves to drop, according to House Plants for You.
Croton plants prefer temperatures around 26.7 degrees C.
Croton plants attract spider mites. If infected, a commercial houseplant insecticide should be applied according to directions.
Crotons, when ingested, are poisonous. Keep out of reach of pets and children.
When cut, broken or punctured, Croton leaves leak a white sap that can stain clothes and irritate skin, according to Plant-Care.com.
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