Originating in the islands of the East Pacific, the croton plant (codiaeum) is a small evergreen shrub that grows to heights of 48 inches, exploding with colour as it matures. Shades of green, yellow and brilliant crimson spot the leaves of the croton plant. Tiny, star-shaped yellow flowers further accentuate the leaves during bloom time. You can successfully grow croton plants from seed, which you can then transplant outdoors if you live within hardiness zones 10a through 11. Outside of these zones, the croton will solely function as a houseplant.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Paper plate
- Seed-starter trays
- Sterile potting soil
- Spray bottle
- Clear plastic lid or cling film
- 4-inch pots
- Garden fork
- Soil pH testing kit
- Lime or peat moss
- Soaker hose
Pay close attention to your mature croton plant once it blooms. The blooms will develop a round capsule that contains seeds. Cover the seed stem with a cutting from a piece of pantyhose as soon as the round capsule appears. The pantyhose will catch the seeds when the capsule opens.
Remove the pantyhose carefully when the seed capsule opens. Empty the seeds out onto a paper plate and allow them to dry out in the sun for approximately three days.
Prepare seed-starter trays while the croton seeds are drying. Fill the trays halfway with a sterile potting soil. Drop three to four croton seeds onto the soil of each section of the tray after the three-day waiting period. Cover the seeds with a quarter-inch layer of sterile potting soil.
Dampen the soil with water from a spray bottle, and cover the seed tray with its clear plastic lid. If your container did not come with a lid, stretch a piece of cling film over the top.
Place the seed tray in a window that receives bright light (this will help the seeds germinate). Maintain a temperature of 23.8 to 26.6 degrees C during the germination period, which will take one to two weeks.
Remove the lid as soon as the croton seeds sprout. Keep the soil moist, and maintain the light and temperature requirements. Repot the crotons into 4-inch pots when they outgrow the seed-starter trays. Transplant the croton seedlings outdoors when they reach a height of 20 inches.
Prepare the soil for spring planting by breaking up large chunks of earth with a garden fork and performing a soil test. Crotons prefer acidic soil with a pH between 6.1 and 6.5. A pH test will determine if your soil meets these requirements.
Amend the soil with lime for a soil test that measures below 6.1 or peat moss if the pH of your soil is above 6.5. Add the amendments to the soil according to the manufacturer's guidelines.
Dig holes for the croton seedlings as deep as their root balls and twice the width. Space the holes 24 to 36 inches. Remove the croton seedlings from their pots, plant them in the holes and backfill. Pat the soil around each plant to remove air pockets.
Water the newly planted crotons using a soaker hose. Do not allow the soil to dry out at any time. Provide the croton plants with at least 1 inch of water per week, maintaining moisture at a depth of 1 inch.
Spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch (straw or bark chips) around the croton plants to protect the roots, improve drainage and reduce weed growth. Fertilise the crotons with a slow-release fertiliser after the first year of growth. Apply the fertiliser per label instructions.
Tips and warnings
- If you wait too long, the seed capsule may burst and drop its seeds on the ground. Once the seeds are scattered, they will be lost for planting.
- Set up a grow light and place the seed-starter tray underneath if you do not have a window that receives bright light. Set the seed-starter tray on a plant heating pad if you cannot maintain the required temperature.
- Keep the soil moist at all times during the germination process. Only lift the lid to water.
- If you live outside USDA hardiness zones 10a through 11, maintain the crotons strictly as houseplants. Provide the plants with the same amount of water and sunlight as before, and repot when the plants outgrow their present pots.
- Do not expose the starter-seed tray to direct sunlight. Bright light is all that is necessary.
- Grow and transplant croton plants out of the reach of children and pets. All parts of the croton plant are poisonous if eaten.
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