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8 Reasons Why Your Croton Is Losing Leaves (And Solutions)

Croton plants are a great way to add a burst of color and variety to my houseplants. However, I’ve discovered that they aren’t the easiest houseplants to grow, as they require constant and specific growing conditions.

Leaves will fall off croton plants if they are under stress or in a state of imbalance. Fortunately, most of these causes of croton defoliation can be easily identified and corrected.

The most common causes of leaf drop in croton are drafts, overwatering, and temperature and light level fluctuations. During the winter, reduce the watering frequency and place it in a bright, non-drafty location where temperatures remain between 70-80°F (21-27°C). Defoliation can also be caused by transfer shock, low humidity, and pests.

Common Causes of Leaf Drop in Croton

[1] Low Light Levels

Croton plants require at least six hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day. With direct, unfiltered sunlight, they can’t stand it. 

In dim or dark rooms, they’ll be even worse off. If you’re dealing with low light or winter conditions, a grow light may be able to help you keep your plant well-lit.

Crotons lose their leaves quickly in response to either a reduction in the number of daylight hours or a decrease in light levels (aka intensity). 

You’re more likely to see this in the fall and winter than in the spring and summer months.

Consistent exposure to bright light is necessary to develop vibrant coloration and patterning. 

In a sudden decrease in light, variegations will be the first to succumb to the effects. 

To make matters worse, the plant’s leaves will begin to turn green and eventually fall off due to the continued lack of light.

Croton leaves may fall off even if the light levels and duration are adequate if the plant previously sat in a location with truly optimal light conditions. 

You can avoid this problem by gradually exposing your croton to lower light levels.

With a gradual decrease in light levels, older foliage may fall off. But thankfully, new leaves will emerge that are more accustomed to the lower light levels.

How to Deal with Low Light Levels

In the dead of winter, there’s nothing you can do about light levels and duration. You can, however, place your croton on the windowsill of a south-facing window.

Allow your croton to get used to the lower light levels over time so that it doesn’t freak out. 

Make sure to rotate your plant 90 degrees to ensure that all of its leaves receive adequate light for photosynthesis.

Invest in some foliage grow lights for the best results. I prefer LED models (check the latest price on Amazon here), as they provide both types of beneficial light spectrum similar to the sun.

Ensure that your grow lights can provide more than 6 hours of 200 FC light.

[2] Overwatering

Overwatered Croton Lost All Leaves

Stress from an overly wet or soggy potting mix is the most common cause of foliage loss in indoor croton plants. 

Watering your croton too frequently can lead to overwatering, but how much irrigation water you use doesn’t affect this.

If your soil is too wet or soggy, your plant’s roots will be unable to get enough oxygen.

In addition, waterlogged potting soil can lead to root rot, which can cause defoliation in the plant.

Croton overwatering can cause the following symptoms and signs:

  • Yellowing of leaves, significantly lower foliage
  • The appearance of fungus gnats, powdery mildew, etc.
  • Brown, water-soaked leaf tips and edges
  • Leaf edema
  • Brown spots on foliage often edged in yellow rings
  • Wilting leaves 
  • Mold or fungal growth on the soil surface, stems, or leaves
  • Stunted growth

How to Fix an Overwatered Croton

Overwatering croton during the winter months is more likely because the plant is not actively growing and does not make optimal use of its water. 

Wait until the top 2 inches of the growing medium are dry before re-watering.

Allowing overwatered crotons to air dry in a bright, warm location is best to cure them. Keep off watering until the problem is resolved, of course!

However, if your croton is infected with bacterial or fungal root rot, you’ll need to do more than remove the diseased roots. 

Most of the time, I take my croton plants out of their pots and check to see how damaged their roots are.

You can save your plant by removing the diseased parts and repotting them. Otherwise, it would be best if you started propagating with stem cuttings.

[3] Underwatering

Because croton plants grow quickly during the spring and summer, you must keep the soil around them moist but not wet. 

Codiaeum variegatum requires about an inch of water per week. In the winter, you can reduce irrigation frequency to every other week.

Leaf drop in crotons is usually caused by stress, but this isn’t always the case. 

Instead, Underwatering is most likely to blame if leaf loss is limited to the lower foliage and those leaves are crispy, dry, and brown.

Leaf wilting or yellowing may also occur before the leaves fall off. Severe water loss can cause the entire plant to appear limp and withered.

Croton leaves with brown tips and edges are another telltale sign of an underwatered croton plant.

Keep in mind that cold drafts and low humidity may also cause the loss of leaves with brown tips. Leaf wilting may be caused by cold currents, overwatering, and a severe deficiency in moisture.

How to Fix Underwatering in Crotons

Crotons are finicky when it comes to watering. Signs that your croton is thirsty include wilting, curling, and crisping of the young leaves.

If leaf drop occurs during the summer, increase watering frequency. However, before expanding the watering, make sure the top one or two inches of soil are completely dry. 

Then, fill drainage holes at the bottom of the plant to the brim with water. Bottom-watering your plant may help wilting croton

It’s time to think about a new pot for your croton if the leaves are drying out and falling off despite your best efforts at watering and misting. 

It’s best to get your hands on some good quality peat moss-based growing mix (Check the latest price on Amazon here).

[4] Heat and Inadequate Humidity

Low humidity is most likely to blame if your croton leaves become crunchy and brown before falling off. 

However, heat or hot drafts like open doors and heating vents are also common causes of underwatering.

Crotons, like tropical plants, require a lot of humidity. Leaf curling, crispness, and drop are signs of moisture stress when the relative humidity drops below 40%.

Additionally, brown leaf tips and margins can be seen on crotons suffering from extreme dehydration. The more often you water, the more thirsty your plant will get.

Unfortunately, a consistent lack of humidity makes your croton susceptible to spider mites, which can cause your plant to lose leaves.

Dealing with Heat and Low Humidity

Keep your crotons away from heat sources like radiators, stovetops, fireplaces, and windows/doors that let in cold air.

Croton needs to be kept where the humidity level is between 40% and 80% because it is from a tropical place.

Mist your croton with bottled or distilled water regularly. Alternatively, you can use a humidifier to make your plant feel at home.

You can increase the humidity around your croton by placing it in a shallow water tray filled with pebbles.

Grouping your houseplants can also help to create a significantly humid microclimate around your croton.

[5] Acclimation Shock

For starters, this native of the tropics is averse to change, especially sudden change. So your croton will go through acclimatization shock if you move it, transplant it, or repot it.

As a result, the plant becomes dejected and begins to drop its leaves in large numbers.

In my experience, a croton plant does not like when its environment or growing medium is altered.

When you move it, it will be subjected to stress or strain. As a result, your croton could lose all of its leaves to the point where it looks bare.

How to Fix It

I understand: croton with few or no leaves is unsightly. However, even if your plant is only a stalk, don’t throw it out just yet.

Leave your plant in its new environment without disturbing it. After a few weeks, fresh leaves will appear.

Keep in mind that crotons prefer bright, indirect sunlight. As a result, you should place it 2-3 feet away from the pane of a south-facing window.

If you provide lots of bright light, the new foliage will bloom green and develop unique variegation.

[6] Pests and Diseases

Crotons are relatively trouble-free tropical plants. However, sick or unhealthy croton will show its distress by shedding some or all of its leaves.

If the croton has poor drainage, its leaves will fall off because the roots will get rotten. Check for any signs of bacterial infections like crown gall or fungal infections like Anthracnose.

Heavy pest activity can also lead to the loss of your croton’s leaves. Generally, mealybugs and spider mites are blamed for croton leaf loss, but thrips and scale insects can also be a problem.

Keep an eye out for these bugs, their eggs, and larvae on the undersides of the leaves.

If these insects can roam freely, your croton’s leaf growth will be stunted, and its foliage will be shed in large quantities. Eventually, your plant will succumb to a swarm of insects.

Dealing with Croton Pests and Diseases

Always look for pests, such as mites and mealybugs, in the foliage’s nooks and crannies.

Pesticides like neem oil, insecticidal soap, and horticultural oil can be used to get rid of croton bugs, but I prefer less toxic alternatives like these.

Alternatively, you can use rubbing alcohol-soaked cotton swabs, a direct water spray, or a hand-held sprayer to exterminate the insects.

To combat croton disease, you’ll need to take drastic measures, such as:

  • Improving air circulation in your croton plant to reduce the spread and proliferation of fungal spores.
  • Remove and dispose of any fallen leaves and dead plant matter.
  • Avoid using soiled hands to handle your croton.
  • Avoid overhead irrigation and foliage splashing.
  • Applying a broad-spectrum fungicide, especially in the fall and early spring.

For the treatment of fungal diseases. Here are the fungicides I recommend:

Name of The FungicideAmountAmount of Water
Bonide 811 Copper 4E Fungicide1-4 tablespoons (.05-2.0 fl oz)1 gallon of water
Garden Safe Brand Fungicide32 tablespoons (1 fl oz) 1 gallon of water
Southern Ag – Liquid Copper Fungicide3-4 tablespoons1 gallon of water

[7] Not Enough Nutrients Available to Your Croton Plant

If your croton lacks nutrients, its health will suffer as a result. In addition, nutritional deficiency can lead to various problems, such as poor appearance, stunted leaf growth, disease, and insect infestation.

A deficiency of nutrients will cause the leaves to lose their variegation, turn yellow, and fall off.

How to Fix It

Extreme nutrient deficiency in most cases is caused by poor watering habits, root-bound plants, or a poor growing environment.

When repotting your croton, the most common solution is to use a new batch of compost or peat moss-enriched potting mix that drains well and has a high concentration of humus.

You can also apply slow-release pellets or well-balanced liquid fertilizer every month during the growing season.

However, reduce the fertilizer’s strength by half before applying it to your croton, as too much fertilizer salts can cause the leaves to fall.

[8] Cold Drafts and Temperature Drop

Aside from the temperature and light exposure, crotons are very particular about their growing conditions.

Any time the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), your Codiaeum variegatum will begin to shed its leaves.

If your croton is near a cold air duct, window panes, open doors, or other cool drafts, it’s likely to drop leaves inside your house. But, even if it’s inside, it will lose its leaves when the weather gets colder.

The oldest and lowest leaves are the first to succumb to cold drafts and temperature drops.

As a result, there will be some irregularity in your croton leaf loss, and this will cause your plant to lose its distinctive appearance.

Solution for Cold Drafts and Temperature Drops

If the temperature is expected to drop below 50°F (10°C), you should bring your croton inside. A temperature range of 70-80°F (21-27°C) is ideal for crotons.

Keep your croton away from any cool or cold drafts as a general rule.

Lift your plant and place it on a rack or plank of wood, rather than directly on the cold floor, to keep it from wilting.

Is It Normal For Crotons To Lose Their Leaves?

Yes, it’s normal for crotons to shed their leaves as they adjust to new environments. This is common when you move it or bring it home from the nursery, greenhouse, or plant shop.

Remember that it’s normal for older leaves to lose vigor, turn yellow, and dry out before falling off the parent plant.

How Long Does It Take Croton To Grow New Leaves?

For about 3-4 weeks. If your croton is subjected to sudden or drastic environmental changes, it will lose almost all of its leaves.

The good news is that crotons are relatively hardy and difficult to kill. So there’s no need to panic if your plant is nearly leafless or has no leaves.

Scratch the central stalk of your croton lightly. Your croton is still alive and can be revived if the tissue beneath the stem is green.

Keep your plant in the same place and keep up on its feeding and watering. Your croton will reward your perseverance and hard work with the first blooms of new, bright foliage in about 3-4 weeks.

6 Ways to Make Croton Grow More Leaves

Give Your Croton Lots of Light

The light that is bright and filtered is ideal for Crotons. However, the croton may be getting too little light if the leaves fade back to green, lose their vibrant colors, or fall off.

Even though your croton can tolerate medium light, it will not produce as many leaves or have as intense color.

So ensure it gets at least six to eight hours of bright, indirect sunlight from a south-facing window. During the winter, you can supplement with foliage grow lights.

Water Your Croton When the First Inch of the Soil Feels Dry

Crotons are moist-loving tropical plants. Therefore, the soil needs to be evenly moist at all times.

As a result, you should water your plant regularly but not so much that the soil becomes soggy.

Make it a habit to moisturize your croton during the growing season when the top inch of soil feels parched.

Before re-irrigating, you should wait until the first two inches of soil have dried out completely.

Start Using A Fertilizer

As a fast-growing plant, your croton will respond positively to fertilizer application. Therefore, from March to the end of September, apply a high-quality liquid fertilizer at half the recommended concentration.

If you use pellets, use an acidifying fertilizer containing sulfur-coated urea, ammonium sulfate, or ammonium nitrate. Throughout the growing season, only apply three times.

Remove Dead Leaves, Stems, and Branches

Dead plant matter should be removed and discarded as soon as possible.

They not only serve as a breeding ground for pests and disease pathogens, but they can also serve as an overwintering site for various fungal spores.

Use Nutrient-Rich and Well-Draining Soil

Crotons do not thrive in a poorly drained growing medium. They’ll lose their vibrant leaves and become more vulnerable to pests and disease.

So instead, use well-drained soil that has been enriched with organic matter or compost. I prefer a humus-rich mixture with peat moss as the foundation.

Add Organic Matter to the Soil

Again, adding organic matter to your croton growing medium would be beneficial. The best solution is to use compost and peat moss.

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