Is there a specially-made best fertilizer for crotons that you can get or can you go for a general fertilizer that works for all types of plants?
After all, there are quite a lot of crotons varieties and we’re looking for fertilizers that will work for all.
Since crotons are actually native to tropical forests of southeast Asia and Oceania (India and Malaysia), does that mean that they’re hard to grow and take care of even in other climates?
Is picking out the best fertilizer for crotons enough for growing healthy croton plants or is there more that you need to know?
Let’s answer all of these questions and learn everything we need to know about this brightly colored exotic looking plant so that you can keep it full and fascinatingly colorful.
Best Fertilizer for Crotons: My Top 3 Recommendations
The proper care for crotons involves a combination of:
- warm climate
- good soil
- sufficient water
- the use of fertilizers
- plenty of light
- and pruning
I’ll talk about each of these factors later. Now, I’ll just focus on reviewing the best fertilizer for crotons, since that’s what landed you here.
1. Miracle-Gro Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food
Actually, this one works for absolutely anything from houseplants of all kinds to vegetables, trees, shrubs, and flowers.
So, if you get the Miracle-Gro All Purpose Plant Food you’ll be able to use it on everything indoors and outdoors.
The instructions recommend feeding the plants once every 1-2 weeks when they are actively growing. I would say that you can feed a croton just once a month and it should be enough.
During winter you can feed the crotons a lot less because the plant is dormant. Once every 2 months is more than enough during wintertime.
As a NPK fertilizer, it has a very good ratio, pretty much what we’re looking for. It’s a 24-8-16 NPK fertilizer. It follows the 3-1-2 ratio that constitutes a best fertilizer for crotons.
Just be aware that it comes in a variety of sizes: 8 oz, 1.5 pounds, 3 pounds, 5 pounds and 10 pounds. Choose the smaller size if you don’t have that many plants.
Where to Buy?
2. Dyna-Gro Foliage Pro
The Dyna-Gro Foliage Pro claims that it’s excellent for tropical foliage plants, which is exactly what our plant is.
It’s a 9-3-6 NPK fertilizer, which is awesome and once again proves that this is the right choice, following the 3-1-2 NPK ratio recommended by the Apopka Research Center in Florida for foliage production. They also mentioned in their research that foliage plants grow very well with a 1:1:1 ratio so, you can also go for 8-8-8 or 20-20-20 fertilizer, the choice is not that strict.
In addition, Dyna-Gro Foliage Pro contain all 16 minerals that are essential for optimum plant growth.
I just have to warn you that it’s not the cheapest option but it’s worth it.
It’s also very easy to use. This is a liquid concentrate and you only have to use ¼ tsp per gallon, which will make even the 8 oz option last a very long time.
Where to Buy?
3. Dr Earth Organic & Natural Exotic Blend
It works for palm, tropical plants, and hibiscus.
It’s actually a 5-4-6 NPK fertilizer but that’s not what primarily matters.
The Dr Earth Exotic Blend makes a perfect choice as a best fertilizer for crotons because it contains 4% humic acids. Acid-producing fertilizers are a top choice.
It has the extra magnesium and sulfur that tropical plants require to thrive.
The 1 pound option is pretty cheap, it has a really good price. It mentions that it will feed 20 one-gallon or 4 five-gallon plants. That’s pretty good.
Where to Buy?
How to Choose the Best Fertilizer for Crotons
When picking out the best fertilizer for crotons, you should remember one thing: go for acid-producing fertilizers. Those who work for azaleas and gardenia will work for these plants, too.
How often should you use an acid-producing fertilizer? About 3 times a year. You can also use a foliar nutritional spray containing trace elements once or twice a year.
You should choose a fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen and potassium. An NPK fertilizer contains 3 main elements: N (nitrogen), P (phosphate), and K (potassium).
The reason why crotons don’t need a high amount of phosphate is that phosphate promotes plant blooms. Nitrogen is needed for leaf growth and potassium is needed for strong roots and stems.
The best fertilizer for crotons will have a 3-1-2 ratio, meaning there should be 3 times more nitrogen than phosphate and 2 times more potassium than phosphate.
An 18-6-12 NPK fertilizer is an example of how that ratio would play out.
A balanced fertilizer, with the same equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium, like a 20-20-20 NPK fertilizer can also work for crotons, as the research from University of Florida that I linked to above demonstrates.
Be aware that excess fertilizer can reduce the coloration, the colors will not be as bold.
Slow-Release fertilizer vs Regular fertilizer
If you’re using a slow-release fertilizer, then you can start the feeding in late February, early March for the first time.
You can do another feeding in May and then one in July. This way you’ll avoid feeding the plant in autumn, when it gets ready to be mostly dormant during the wintertime.
It doesn’t make sense to feed the croton during the winter, especially if you’re using a slow-release fertilizer.
If you’re using regular fertilizer (granular and liquid plant food), you can opt for light monthly doses if that’s what the instructions recommend, with a slower rate during winter (once every 2 months).
How to Take Care of Crotons
This is a perennial plant with tick leathery leaves of different bright colors. It’s this combination of unique colors on big strong leaves that makes it look exactly what it is: a tropical plant that can make your house or garden so much more exotic and vibrant.
It’s no wonder that people look for the best fertilizer for crotons. It’s totally worth it for these exotic plants.
What you might not know is that, as it ages, the leaves can turn to nearly black. I don’t find it a pretty sight. I definitely prefer a full colorful shrub and that’s what you’re going to get if you follow some simple steps, including using a fertilizer for crotons regularly.
These are not demanding plants even though you would imagine so based on the fact that they’re tropical plants. They’re also resilient plants so, if you’re faced with a scrawny, with colors faded shrub, then you can remedy all that.
1. Warm climate
If you’re living in places with warm humid summers you can grow crotons outdoors. It is recommended to be brought indoors when nighttime temperatures drop to 50 degrees F (10 degrees C).
In general, the temperatures should be above 60 degrees F all year. To give you an example, Florida is definitely a perfect climate for crotons.
But you can be quite reassured that even if freezing temperatures damages the plant quite badly, it will almost always be able to come back when warm temperatures return.
Crotons can also be grown as potted plants if you live in an apartment. It adapts to both environments since this is quite the resilient plant.
2. Potting soil
A good potting soil/mix will get you a long way in growing a beautiful plant. Let’s see what you can use as potting mix for potted crotons.
If you’re making your own potting mix, you can follow a simple recipe: 1 part peat moss, 1 part pine bark, and 1 part coarse sand.
Peat moss is is the most common ingredient for soilless mixes, you can find it anywhere and it’s cheap. However, because it holds large amounts of water, it needs something that allows the water to pass through, like sand. Sand will provide that needed drainage. A more expensive, lightweight replacement for sand is perlite.
If you’re using perlite you can go by this recipe for foliage plants: 2 parts peat, 1 part perlite, 1 part coarse sand.
This website recommends a combination of organic compost and peat moss.
So, there are plenty of choices when it comes to making your own potting soil for crotons. Or you can just buy one. Let’s see what else you need to know about this tropical plants.
3. Bright light
This is the major contributing factor when it comes to those vibrant colors that we see in pictures.
If you’re going the potted plant route, growing crotons as houseplants, then you must place it in a sunny window.
For potted growth, you need a medium composed of peat moss-pine bark-sand or peat moss-sand.
If it doesn’t have sufficient access to light, its growth will be stunted and the leaves might just maintain a plain green color, no reds no yellows no anything.
In the garden, they should have some protection from the full midday sun, to prevent to colors from burning out.
4. Plenty of water
Don’t allow your plant to dry out, whether it’s a houseplant or planted outdoors. If it’s a houseplant, don’t forget about ensuring good drainage to avoid rot.
Always strive to prevent the soil from drying out completely.
Keep the soil moist but not soggy, it’s a rule that works well for many plants. If you have experience with watering basil you know what I’m talking about.
Crotons also enjoy quite a wide range of humidity levels, they’re permissible in this regard. A humidity between 40% to 80% will ensure a beautiful growth. If you care about more precise facts, 70% humidity is optimal but it’s not as easy to achieve outside of a greenhouse.
If you’re growing it indoors and the humidity levels are on the low side, closer to 40% than to 70%, then you should mist it daily to avoid spider mites.
5. Regular pruning
Among the things you need to do, which include using a best fertilizer for crotons, regular pruning is just as essential.
If you forgo pruning, you risk growing spare and leggy crotons.
You don’t want to have it grow 20 feet in height and look completely unattractive.
Just like any other plant, the more you pinch out the buds the more it will turn into a full bold colorful bush.
As a houseplant, you can maintain a bushy shrub that doesn’t grow too tall by pruning it frequently. Just pinch above a node or leaf set any overgrown leaves or branches but try not to remove more than a third of the stem at one time.
Plus, be aware that crotons can stain fabrics and the stains are impossible to remove.
And that’s a very short introduction but comprehensive introduction to the world of croton plants, including some top picks for the best fertilizer for crotons.