Everything you need to know about how long croton plants typically live
With colorful foliage on tall, upright stems, it’s hard not to notice when a Croton is in the room. These houseplants are slowly growing in popularity, with many varieties to choose from to suit all needs. In this article, we will discuss typical croton plant growth expectations and lifespans, helping you know what to expect when growing and caring for one of these beautiful plants.
Croton Plant Growth Expectations and Lifespan – The Essentials
Crotons are moderate to slow growers, adding about 12 inches in height per year until they reach their maximum indoor height of about 4 feet. They can live for many years with proper care, but generally only last about 4-5 years when kept indoors and in containers.
About the Crotons
Although Croton is technically the name of the genus of plants, what you usually find labeled Croton is actually a specific species – Croton variegatum. Found in tropical forests of Southeast Asia, Croton variegatum has amazing colorful leaves in different shapes and sizes thanks to the many varieties available on the market.
This genus is part of the Euphorbiaceae family. This family is also known as the Euphoria family – the name of one of the main genera within this family. It is related to many common garden plants, hence its use around the world outdoors more often than as a houseplant.
This species has many varieties to choose from, from the spotted gold dust to the bright and captivating Yellow Iceton. Each has a slightly different leaf shape and size, but they all have bright colors in common. Even with those with largely green leaves, there is always a pop of color to look forward to.
Croton variegatum considered a slow to moderate grower, especially when planted in a pot and kept indoors. They’re taller than many other houseplants—they’re technically shrubs—but they don’t grow nearly as big as they do outdoors.
These heat lovers do most of their growth in spring and summer and slow down as temperatures cool. During this period they will produce new leaves and lengthen their branches, potentially shedding some of the older leaves at the same time. These leaves often change color as they develop, creating constant interest indoors.
Indoors vs. Outside
Crotons are usually grown outdoors in tropical climates, in USDA zones 10-12. In their natural habitats, these large shrubs can reach an impressive 15 feet tall, with a spread of a few feet as well. Leaf growth remains dense and bright even as the plant ages.
Indoors, the situation is somewhat different. Since the light and temperature conditions are not optimal, they are limited in size. The limitations of a pot also limit their growth, leaving them at a compact 3-4 feet in height.
In the perfect positions, they can grow longer than that. But in most environments they don’t grow much taller than you. This makes them great medium-sized plants for pots, filling the corners with the bright and captivating foliage.
How Fast Do Crotons Grow?
Crotons are not fast growing plants. However, they do not grow so incredibly slowly either, given the right conditions. They are usually considered moderate growers, adding a noticeable amount of height each year but not overdoing it.
In the right lighting and with proper care, your Croton should grow about 12 inches each year, with most of the growth occurring in late spring and summer when temperatures are higher. Smaller varieties will remain shorter, with less growth each year.
Environmental conditions can affect this growth rate. Crotons placed in areas of moderate to low light will grow much more slowly than those in the optimal bright indirect light. Temperature and humidity also matter – if the temperature is too cold or the humidity too low, the plant will generally stop growing.
Nutrients also have an impact. When the nutrients in the soil are used up, the plant will stop growing unless they are replenished. Regular fertilization will improve nutrient levels to maintain the highest possible growth rate.
How long does it take to reach full size?
The full size of your plant depends on the type you choose and the conditions it is in. For example, pot size will limit how large the plant can grow, meaning it will only reach full size when it is given more room to grow by planting about your croton plant. Cultivars also have an impact, affecting how large the plant grows and how quickly it reaches that size.
In general, your Croton variegatum should reach full size in about 2-4 years. If conditions are right, this growth can continue, but it will slow dramatically when the plant reaches about 4 feet in height.
Although proper care is one way to speed up growth and make your plant bigger, you can also choose to buy a more established Croton. They are more expensive but already come with the greater presence that many are looking for.
Average lifespan of a croton
While Crotons can grow quite successfully indoors, they are not as well suited to it as other houseplants. They can theoretically live for many years without problems with proper care. However, indoor conditions are generally not ideal, shortening the lifespan of these colorful beauties.
Most diligent houseplant parents can manage to keep a Croton for about four years before its life is over. Many factors can shorten this lifespan, such as improper environments or inadequate care, but most will last at least a couple of years before needing to be disposed of.
Fortunately, this doesn’t have to mean the end of your Croton growing journey. Crotons have a simple propagation process that can produce even more plants among their many benefits. These cuttings grow slowly and take a while to develop, so make sure you get started early to replace your existing plant when it reaches the end of its life.
Tips to make your Croton grow faster and live longer
Keeping your Croton thriving and alive as long as possible is the right environment and care. Instead of doing the bare minimum to keep them alive, focus on replicating their natural habitats as much as possible.
Avoid low light
Crotons are not at all suitable for dimly lit areas of your home. Even moderate light is not enough to maintain its growth each year. These colorful plants need a full day of bright indirect light to grow successfully. They can even handle an hour or two of mild direct morning sun, especially in cooler areas where the sunlight isn’t as intense.
Their thick stems and waxy leaves might lead you to believe that these plants don’t need to be watered very often. However, due to their rainforest habitats, they thrive best when the soil is consistently moist – but never waterlogged. Water when the top two inches of soil has dried out to maintain nutrient absorption and photosynthesis, which ultimately improves growth.
Repot with the right soil
If your Croton’s growth is stunted or if you notice roots growing through the drainage holes or circling the bottom of the pot, you need to give the plant some extra space and a soil top-up. Try to match the new soil type to the original structure as much as possible to limit shock and ensure they will continue to grow happily without any soil problems. Croton plants can be poisonous, so remember to wear gloves when handling the plant.
Don’t forget to feed
By the time your plant has been in the same pot for a year or two, it will likely have used up most of the available nutrients in the soil. To accelerate growth and extend their life, it is important to replenish these nutrients. Feed your Crotons with a balanced liquid fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during spring and summer to ensure they grow to their full potential.
Prune damaged or diseased leaves and stems
Tidying up the plant regularly will direct its energy towards new growth rather than maintaining dying and damaged growth. Pruning off diseased leaves also prevents the problem from spreading, preventing your plants from dying early. Make sure the scissors are clean and disinfected before you start to ensure the wounds heal faster.
Check for pests
Common croton plant pests and diseases are another problem that can cause your plant to die early if not controlled immediately. Check frequently for signs of problems caused by aphids, thrips, mealybugs, whiteflies and many other common houseplant pests. Remove them with neem oil or insecticidal soap as soon as they are spotted, and repeat until the insects are completely gone.
Although not the fastest growers, Crotons are rewarding plants to grow for any would-be or existing plant parent. They may not live the longest either, but they’ll certainly fill your home with color while they’re around.