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Crotons are not the easiest houseplants when it comes to maintenance. They grow slowly and take ages to reach 10 inches in height.
Moreover, they are prone to drop their leaves at the slightest exposure to leaf drop. So, it’s pretty nice to know that they are not so picky when it comes to light.
Most varieties can handle a wide range of lighting conditions. However, you should note that light exposure has a lot of impact on the croton leaf color.
If you want your croton to have vibrant colors, you must provide it with bright and shifting, indirect sun light. Your croton should get at least six hours of sun daily.
Anything between 6 and 8 hours is good enough for this plant outdoors, up to 8 hours if you have your croton indoors.
Else, the plant exudes dull hues and can even wilt and die if left in unfavorable lighting. Luckily, lighting is much easier to control than temperature, humidity, and other critical croton needs.
This guide explains the kind of light your croton needs, how you can afford it such light, and what to do when your lighting care falls short of the optimal levels. Let’s get into it:
What Type of Light Does My Croton Need?
Light is essential to the croton – not just for aesthetic value but also for growth. Without light, your croton cannot make the food that gives it the energy to absorb water and nutrients from the soil.
As such, the plant cannot grow fast (keep in mind that the plant is already a slow grower, so this only worsens the problem).
Such a plant also loses its vibrancy and can even show signs of wilting. While poor lighting is an issue, too much lighting is not a good thing either. It damages the plant by burning its foliage and thus affecting its ability to make food.
How can we ensure that we do not give the plant more or less than it needs? I find that it’s best to start by understanding what different types of light offer the plant, as follows:
1) Direct and Bright Light
When you stand in the sun, and the sun rays hit you on your face, your face gets bright and direct light.
And we all know how dermatologists feel about the sun on unprotected skin (this is also your reminder to wear sunscreen when leaving the house).
Plants also experience the same type of sunshine (about 2,000 to 3,000 lumens per square foot). Some crotons can withstand such light.
But most would burn under this kind of exposure. If you have a croton that calls for such light, you can leave it outdoors where it can get such light.
Or place it by a south-facing window as this spot receives bright direct light for several hours a day.
2) Bright and Indirect Light
Now, assume your croton does not appreciate direct sun exposure but still needs bright light to make food. What’s the in-between?
Bright and indirect light! Such is the type of light your croton would get if it were growing outdoors under the shade of taller plants.
That’s why it’s also referred to as dappled or filtered light. It features obstructions and enables your plant to shade itself while still making adequate food.
You can achieve this light outdoors by leaving your plant nestled among other taller species.
And indoors, you can get such light by placing the croton near an east or west-facing window – such light will average about 700 to 1500 lumens and will not damage the plant leaves.
3) Medium and Indirect Light
This light is like what you get with bright and indirect light. However, its intensity is much lower, averaging about 500 lumens.
It’s good enough to prompt healthy growth in some crotons. And you can get it by placing the plant in an east or west-facing room and ensuring the plant is about three to four meters from the window.
4) Low and Indirect Light
Crotons are light-loving plants and do not do well when left in low-light conditions. This light intensity (which is below 500 lumens) would not serve your plant well.
Instead, the plant would exhibit signs of distress, as we will cover later in this guide.
So, which areas should you avoid to ensure that the plant does not fall victim to low light intensity? – Hallways, dark bathrooms, and any rooms that don’t get adequate light.
Most crotons do well in dappled light, equivalent to bright and indirect light. And if you want your croton to be vibrant, you must give it such light.
Else, its leaves turn green, signalling how unhappy it is with the light it receives.
How Much Light Does a Croton Need?
Crotons rely on light for photosynthesis which fuels the other plant activities. As said before, your croton should get at least six hours of sun daily.
Anything between 6 and 8 hours is good enough for this plant outdoors. You may need to turn this exposure up to 8 hours indoors. But why is this much exposure necessary for the croton?
1) It enables the plant to maintain its unique color
Most people love the croton for its beauty. And who can deny just how gorgeous this plant looks in any room? But there is a caveat to this aesthetic.
It only shows when the plant gets enough light. That’s when the shiny vibrancy of the leaves comes out. In low light conditions, the plant’s leaves turn dark green.
2) It replicates what the plant would get in its native habitat
I cannot emphasize enough just how important it is to research your plant’s native habitat. Without knowing this, you cannot give the plant the care it needs to thrive in your home.
And with the croton, the native habitats are none other than India and Malaysia. And you know there’s no shortage of sunlight in these regions.
As for the light intensity, aim for at least 500 lumens a day. Anything between 500 and 2,000 lumens should be good enough for most crotons. But if your specific variety does best in full sun, go for 2,500 lumens.
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What Happens If Your Croton Gets Too Little Light?
Crotons do not adapt well to low light conditions as they interfere with their ability to make food. How can you tell that your croton needs more light?
- Its leaves appear dull: Crotons boast vibrant leaves. So, if the leaves are becoming pale, that’s likely due to inadequate light exposure,
- Its leaves are weak: Ordinarily, croton leaves are broad, thick, and shiny. Thus, if they appear otherwise, you should take note of the lighting,
- Its leaves are falling off: Light-loving crotons cannot withstand low light and will start dropping their leaves in the event of poor light exposure,
- The plant appears leggy: Crotons are slow growers. If their growth appears leggy with weak stems and few leaves, that’s a sign that they are trying to reach more light.
How can you deal with this light issue? Your options are as follows:
- You can move the plant to a spot that receives more light. Ideally, this would be near or against a south-facing window. Ensure you add some sheers if the light intensity is too high,
- You can add some grow lights to the room: This option works best in the colder months when light intensity drops below optimal.
Please be careful when moving the plant to a sunnier location or adding grow lights. Sometimes, too much light exposure harms the plant, as detailed below:
What Happens If Your Croton Gets Too Much Light?
While most crotons are light-loving plants, they can burn in the sun’s glare, more so if your variety prefers partial shade. Sunburn shows in the following ways:
- The leaves develop brown spots,
- The leaf edges show signs of burning and discoloration, or
- The leaves lose their vibrancy and start looking dull.
How can you deal with sunburn? It’s best to add some sheers to the window to filter the light reaching the plant.
In some cases, you can move the plant if adding sheers does not work. But if curtains and sheers work the magic, do not alter the plant’s position.
Can you do anything about the browning leaves? Sunburn is irreversible. So, you can either leave the brown leaves on the plant or cut them off using a sterilized sharp knife or scissors.
Where To Place Your Croton to Get The Best Light
Positioning your croton is not an easy task. I advise that you first research your croton to understand the kind of light it prefers.
Then once you move it to a spot with similar conditions, you can start moving it around to see how it responds to the environment. But you should only move it when it shows signs of distress.
Below is how you can position your croton to ensure it’s healthy and colorful:
Some crotons do well in direct sun, and you can place them near south-facing windows. Here, they can access bright direct sunlight for most of the day.
Ensure the plant is near or against the window for full effect. But for plants that burn under such direct exposure, you need to place the plants near (not against) east or west-facing windows.
Such rooms receive direct sunlight for a few hours each day and bright light for the rest of the day. As such, ensure the bright rays do not hit the plant by moving it a few meters away from the window.
If your plant prefers mixed light, you can leave it against an east or west-facing window. For a few hours, it will receive direct sun, but the exposure will be indirect for the rest of the day.
Please note that the afternoon sun tends to be harsher than the morning sun. Thus, if you notice signs of sunburn, move the plant towards an east-facing window where the rays are gentler.
While east and west-facing windows are ideal for the summer when the temperatures are high, they are not great for the winter.
During the colder months, the light intensity drops considerably, leaving the plant with very little on which to survive.
Thus, plants growing in such rooms should be moved to south-facing windows where the exposure is much more prolonged.
For light-loving plants that grow in south-facing windows in summer, the best thing to do in winter is to introduce artificial lights to supplement the natural light.
I will cover this in the next section. In the summer, south-facing windows can receive too much light that burns the plant’s leaves.
You can move the plant to an east or west-facing window to protect it. Or you can add blinds or sheers to the windows to filter the direct sun rays.
North-facing windows are not ideal for crotons as these spots receive the least amount of light. Crotons in such rooms appear dull and have very slow growth rates.
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Can Crotons Grow in Artificial Light?
As much as crotons love bright light exposure, we cannot guarantee such conditions throughout the year.
It’s especially harder to meet this need in the winter due to the low light intensity that can fall under 500 lumens.
But luckily, we do not need to rely on natural light in winter. Instead, we can add artificial lights to our croton care routines.
How To Grow a Croton Using An Artificial Light
It’s advisable to invest in grow lights or artificial lights. The options include LEDs, halogen lights, incandescent bulbs, and fluorescent lights.
When buying the lights, consider the ideal lumens for your croton based on its preferred light type. Then mount the light above the plant, leaving at least six inches between the plant top and light.
Leave the light on for at least 6 hours. If it shows signs of poor light exposure, add more time. And if it shows signs of sunburn, increase the distance between the plant and the light.
Please note that crotons are sensitive to sudden changes. Thus, do not move them around so much.
If a plant does not get the light it needs in a spot, think of how you can increase or decrease its light exposure without moving the plant so much.
Else, the stress of moving will trigger it to start dropping its leaves which will not help the problem much.