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Why Are My Croton Leaves Drooping? (And How to Fix It)

I’m a big fan of crotons with their delightfully colorful foliage, but I’ve to admit that they can be a little fussy. You shouldn’t turn a blind eye to drooping leaves, as it’s almost always an indication that something is off. But don’t panic – I’ll explain the common causes of drooping croton and show you how to fix each problem.

Croton leaves are most likely to go limp and droop due to either incredibly dry soil or overwatering. Other potential causes include low humidity, light issues, temperature stress, cold drafts, pests, and transplant shock. It’s crucial that you avoid moving your croton if possible.

First off, let’s find out if it’s normal for croton leaves to droop.

Is It Normal for A Croton to Droop?

The short answer is yes. It’s sometimes normal for leaves on your croton to start drooping, especially when you first bring it home.

Crotons are quite fussy houseplants, as they loathe change. They don’t like being disturbed, shaken, or moved from one spot to another. It will respond by drooping and may start to shed leaves.

This response can be quite aggressive if the location change affects light supply. Even so, it’s fairly normal. And the foliage will bounce back when your croton has gotten accustomed to the new spot.

To avoid inducing stress, make a habit of never disturbing your croton. Limit drastic changes or movements as much as possible. Provide it with a stable, consistently humid near-tropical environment.

Reasons for Croton Dropping

Indoor potted Croton Plant Dropping

The thick, delightfully multi-colored glossy leaves of the croton are a beauty to behold. But you may be alarmed when you see them starting to droop suddenly. Below, I’ll expound on the most likely reasons for leaf drooping and how to deal with each issue.

[1] Underwatering (Extremely Dry Soil)

Crotons have earned a bad rap for being tough to grow. That’s partly because it can be difficult to nail down a consistent watering routine. The truth is, your croton will reward you with amazingly colorful foliage if you keep the soil consistently moist but not wet or soggy.

If your croton leaves have begun to droop, you’ve probably left the soil to become incredibly dry. You will notice that the leaves are dry, crispy, and wilting.

Browned, crispy leaf edges and tips are another sign of underwatering. The leaves will curl up and eventually fall off due to chronic dehydration.

Solution

First things first, you must identify factors that contribute to extreme soil drying. You must address issues like inadequate humidity and poor watering routine. Your plant may also be exposed to too much light or has become root-bound.

If the soil is completely dry, water-soaking will fix the issue:

  1. Put your croton in your bathtub, sink, or a large container. Fill it up with room temperature water up to the 3 to 4-inch level.
  2. Give your croton around 45 minutes for the soil to become saturated with water through the drainage holes.
  3. Once the soil is evenly moist, empty the basin and tilt the pot to drain the soil thoroughly.
  4. You can insert q-tips into the drainage holes. This will help drain as much perched water as possible. You must remember that crotons don’t want standing water in the soil.

To prevent the soil from becoming bone-dry, keep a steady watering schedule. Water again when the top two to three inches of the soil have dried out.

[2] Overwatering

Both too little and too much water can result in your croton drooping. However, overwatering is a more common and serious problem for your plant. In fact, your croton is more likely to bite the dust if the soil gets drenched in too much water.

Here’s how to know if drooping is due to overwatered croton:

  • Leaf edema – This is one of the earliest symptoms of overwatering. Edema will occur when your croton absorbs more water than it can use. It results in water-soaked blisters on the leaves.
  • Leaf yellowing – Leaves turn yellow, starting with the lower/older ones. If the leaves are turning yellow and wilting indiscriminately, overwatering may have caused root rot.
  • Soggy soil – The most obvious sign of overwatering is the soil staying wet or soggy five to seven days after watering. Standing in soggy soil will suffocate the roots and cause your croton to become unhappy and droop.
  • Rotting smell – If a rotting smell is emanating from the soil or base of the plant, sadly root rot has pitched a tent due to overwatering. You’ll likely find rust-brown or black, mushy roots.
  • Watery brown spots – An overwatered croton is prone to bacterial leaf spot diseases. They will manifest in the form of wet brown spots ringed with a yellow halo. These spots will expand and eventually join into larger brown or black patches.
  • Leaves falling off – If new and old leaves alike are drooping then fall, you may have overwatered your croton.
  • Wilting leaves – This is usually a telling sign that root rot has crept in. Both lower and upper, old and new leaves are usually affected.

Solution

If the soil is wet but root rot is absent, you’re in luck. Simply hold off watering until the top 2-3 inches of the soil are dry before the next irrigation.

You must also address issues that may be contributing to overwatering. These include:

  • Low light – if your croton is suffering from a light shortage, the soil will take longer to dry out. Move to a spot that receives plenty of bright, indirect light.
  • Dormancy or slow growth – the time of the year will determine your croton’s watering requirements. The growth will taper off during winter. So, you should reduce the watering frequency.
  • Poor soil drainage – Too much clay or organic matter encourages the soil to retain too much water. Add perlite or vermiculite to the potting mix to improve drainage. Otherwise, repot using a well-draining potting mix.
  • Too large container – If the pot is too large for your croton, this elevates the risk of overwatering. Pick a container that leaves an inch of soil between your plant and the wall of the pot.
  • Inadequate drainage holes – Again, crotons abhor sitting in a pool of water. Make sure the container has enough drainage holes to avoid waterlogging.

Be sure to unpot your croton and inspect it for root rot. You must gun for healthy roots — they should be white and firm. Unfortunately, if you find soft, mushy, black or rusty brown roots, then root rot has set in. Here’s how to revive your croton:

  • Gently wash off as much soil as possible from the root system
  • Trim away dead or affected roots
  • Treat the remaining health roots by dipping in a fungicide solution
  • Treat a new batch of potting mix with hydrogen peroxide and repot your croton
  • Provide ample conditions as your plant resurges

For prevention measures, maintain a consistent watering routine. Let the top two to three inches of soil dry out a bit between waterings.

[3] Low Humidity

Crotons are native to tropical Southeast Asian rainforests where they thrive in humid environments. Don’t forget that your croton is very sensitive to changes in the environment.

If the relative humidity around your croton falls below 40%, your plant will respond adversely by drooping and shedding leaves. This usually happens when you start running the central heating during winter. The air in your home will become extra dry and crispy.

Your croton will also show other symptoms of low humidity. These include browning of leaf tips and edges, crisped-up leaf surfaces, and leaf curling. This will be more dramatic in tender, new leaf edges, especially those furthest from the roots.

Low humidity usually goes hand in hand with underwatering. As such, your plant will lose moisture at a higher rate through respiration, evaporation, and transpiration.

Solution

  1. Your croton prefers optimal relative humidity levels of about 70%. But be sure to keep humidity in the 40-80% range. You should mist the foliage regularly using lukewarm or room temperature water.
  2. Let your croton plant sit in a water tray on a bed of pebbles.
  3. If you can afford one, invest in a solid humidifier to ensure constantly high humidity around your croton.

[4] Loss of Turgor Pressure

Have you ever wondered how your croton manages to keep its perky foliage appearance? Turgor pressure might have something to do with it. It’s a force exerted by the cell membrane on the cell wall, giving leaves their firmness and shape.

When your croton is using or losing moisture then it can take up water via the roots, this will cause the loss of turgor pressure. As such, the foliage loses its firmness and collapses. The leaves will also start curling, wilting, and drooping.

Loss of turgor pressure is normally associated with underwatering. However, other issues like low humidity, overwatering, too much light, and root rot can be culprits.

Solution

  1. It all comes down to addressing the underwatering issue. Your croton will bounce back when you give it a drink.
  2. Use a proper watering method: water deeply until liquid escapes from the drainage holes. Make sure to tilt the pot to drain the perched water. Empty the saucer of the excess.
  3. As a precaution, you should water as soon as the top 2-3” of soil has dried out slightly.

[5] Over-Temperature and Extreme Cold  

Crotons are significantly sensitive to changes in temperature. They’re particularly finicky about cold and hot drafts that result in recurrent temperature stress. This will almost certainly lead to leaf drooping and falling off.

When affected by over-temperature, the foliage becomes dull, sickly, and tender. If you act fast, you’ll prevent them from wilting and falling off.

Aside from drooping, curled and excessively dry leaves are other signs of cold drafts. 

Solution

Croton houseplants are happy in temperatures between 60-85°F (15-29ºC). But are best kept indoors somewhere in the middle of that range.

Move your croton away from cooling/heating vents, uninsulated windows, entrance doors, and heat registers. Ensure it’s not in the path of cold or hot drafts.

Move your crotons indoors when the outdoor temp drops below 50°F (10ºC).

[6] Water Quality (Tap Water)

If you have corrected your watering routine and the leaves are still drooping, the issue could be poor water quality. Tap water is softened, which means it has minerals, fluoride, chlorine, and salts.

These chemicals accumulate in the soil and cause the leaves to brown in the tips and edges. The salt burned leaves will curl up, turn brown, and droop. The burned edges may also exhibit some yellowing.

Solution

  1. Remove any heavily burned leaves to keep your croton growing robustly
  2. Irrigate your croton using untreated rainwater or distilled water.
  3. Ideally, you should use a water filtration system.
  4. If you have no choice but to use tap water, leave it to stand in a sink or open container overnight. This will allow chlorine and fluoride to evaporate.
  5. If you see slightly crusty white spots on the soil surface, that’s salt build-up from tap water and fertilizer. You should consider repotting your croton using fresh soil.

[7] How Much Light Is It Getting?

Crotons are unsurprisingly particular about their light requirements. It’ll feel happiest in a brightly lit spot. In fact, it needs at least 4-6 hours of bright light to bring out the most vibrant and intense colors. (Source: University of Florida).

If your croton gets too little light, the glossy variegated or colorful leaves will become dull, washed out, and start drooping.

A critical light shortage also lowers water usage, reduces growth, and ultimately elevates the risk of overwatering. In a darker area, they’ll display tall, lanky, and floppy growth with new leaves lacking a rich, colorful appearance.

Your croton won’t like excess direct sunlight, too. This will burn and scorch your plant, causing leaves to brown, wilt, and droop. The lighter-colored crotons are more likely to fall victim to sunburns than their darker counterparts.

Solution

Simply place your croton in a spot with bright or dappled light. In your home, this would be in front of an east or west-facing window.

[8] Sudden Movement (Change of Location)

As we’ve mentioned, crotons hate sudden changes. They’ll respond in a dramatic fashion if you move them to another spot. The leaves often turn entirely yellow, droop, and drop off.

You could say this is a way of your croton throwing temper tantrums. Don’t be surprised if it sheds almost all of its leaves when you relocate it to a different area in your home.

Solution

There’s really not much you can do here. All that you have to do is wait out, as your croton will grow new foliage a few weeks or so after acclimatizing to its new spot.

[9] Insect Infestation

Crotons can be subject to infestation from the common sap-sucking bugs, namely spider mites, and mealybugs. Inspecting your crotons often is your first and most crucial line of defense.

A serious infestation by red spider mites, for one, can lead to significant nutrient and moisture loss. This is due to injuries caused by the pests as they suck the sap out of its leaves. The result is unsightly: drooping leaves and languishing growth.

Similarly, mealybugs drink the nutrients and water right out of your croton, leading to drooping. They may also result in blacky sooty mold. They appear in the form of a cotton-like, white mass on the roots.

Look out for other common croton pests like whiteflies, thrips, and scales.

Solution

  1. Start by using a powerful blast of water to wash the spider mites and other pests off your precious croton.
  2. Apply rubbing alcohol to affected areas to kill off pests
  3. Spray your croton using insecticidal soap or neem oil. Repeat every week or so.

[10] Diseases

A few bacterial and fungal diseases can pester your croton, causing your plant to lose its vitality and droop. Croton crown gall, stem gall, and canker are common occurrences when your plant is unhealthy and susceptible.

Croton crown gall is often caused by bacterial infection, but certain fungi can be responsible. If you see swollen stems and leaf veins with a corky appearance, that’s a telltale sign of the disease.

The infection will give your croton a wilted and droopy appearance.

Solution

The University of Florida recommended that you isolate any infected plants immediately. Make sure to prune away diseased plant matter. Sterilize the pruning shears or scissors using rubbing alcohol after every cut.

Don’t forget to keep your crotons healthy.

[11] Fertilizer Application Mistake

You shouldn’t go crazy with feeding your croton. Applying too much fertilizer causes salts to accumulate in the soil and lead to root toxicity.

When the roots are damaged, your croton can’t take up the necessary nutrients and water. As such, your croton leaves will show signs of fertilizer burn and start drooping.

Solution

  1. Avoid over-fertilizing your croton. For great results, apply all-purpose houseplant fertilizer once monthly. Make sure to dilute to half the recommended strength before using.
  2. Before the plant growth slows down in fall and winter, you may want to stop fertilizing. If it shows signs of nutrient deficiency, apply fertilizer at ¼-strength.
  3. If you see a white scab on the surface of the soil, that’s a sign of fertilizer salt build-up. Take that as a cue to repot your croton using fresh soil.

Final Words

Your croton is choosy when it comes to its growing requirements. Too little or too much water will cause the leaves to droop. 

The same will happen due to poor light, temperature stress, infections, pest infestation, sudden movements, and tap water. You must stay on top of all aspects of your croton care to revive and keep it healthy.