Crotons: Beautiful Foliage for Fall Color!


It’s after Labor Day, and fall is right around the corner. After going through a long, hot summer, planters and beds look, shall we say, a tad tired. Well, of course, they are.

If you planted pots at the first hint of warm weather in April, no matter how diligent you were at deadheading and cutting back, many of your annuals have had enough of the endless heat and periodic dry spells by September.

Croton 'Sloppy Paint'

So, what to do?  Well, there are certainly the ubiquitous mums, and we’ll have plenty of them in all sizes and colors for you to use. But work the pretty fall hues of yellow, orange, or red marigolds into your autumn flower planters, add a few ornamental pepper plants, and now you’ll be getting somewhere! Finally, to really take it up a notch, add some colorful foliage.

Croton 'Freckles' But “What colorful foliage?”,  you’re thinking by now. So glad you asked! What we have in mind are the brightly patterned leaves of crotons. Up to now you might have thought of them as simply a pretty houseplant for bright spots in your home.

But, luckily, these tough plants can also work beautifully outside too in combination planters or on their own.Croton 'Shoestring' Croton 'Mammy'

Some we’ve gotten in recently highlight the different sizes and patterning of the leaves. Who knew the hybridizers could come up with such variations! Even the names  – ‘Sloppy Paint‘, ‘Freckles‘, and ‘Dreadlocks‘, just to name a few –  bring a smile.

Croton 'Tamara'The best thing about crotons is that their coloration becomes more pronounced with plenty of sun, which is what the marigolds and other plants listed above prefer. Finally, surround your planting with pumpkins and gourds (or tuck a few into the base of your planting)  to create a festive tableau for fall…perfect!

Since crotons also do double duty as houseplants, bring yours inside when nighttime temperatures dip into the 40’s. Carefully remove it from your outdoor planter, and repot into a container just a bit larger than the rootball. Be sure your pot has a drainage hole. Spray the undersides and tops of the leaves with a soap spray to rid it of any insects that might try to hitch a ride indoors, and place your croton in as bright a spot as possible. Don’t overwater during the winter months, it’s best to let the soil dry completely, then water well.  During these colder periods of the year it’s growth slows, so fertilize no more than once a month with a liquid, even formula (20-20-20) fertilizer.