Cutting Back Croton Leaves: Should You Prune Crotons

Woman Observing Croton Leaves
(Image credit: Olga_Anourina)

Get off a plane in Cancun and the airport landscaping will treat you with the glory and color that is the croton plant. These are quite easy to grow as houseplants or outside in warm regions, and they have few pests or disease issues. They can grow quite leggy, however, and leaves may develop damage due to thrip feeding. Cutting back a croton can help you acquire a thicker bush or remove ugly leaves. Whatever the purpose, a few tips on croton pruning will have your plant looking healthier and more attractive.

Pruning a Croton Plant

Croton care is very straightforward and generally something even a novice gardener can accomplish with ease. So, should you prune crotons? The plant only needs rejuvenation trimming when it gets too sparse and light pruning to remove dead leaves. Pruning a croton is not rocket science, but you should use proper sanitation procedures to prevent the spread of disease.

Crotons can easily get 6 to 10 feet (2-3 m.) in height quite quickly. If you want a shorter plant, pruning a croton will achieve that end. Sometimes growers want a denser, bushier plant. Cutting back a croton to where you want the bushing to start will help develop a more lush and thicker foliaged plant.

When should you prune a croton? Croton pruning can be done at any time of the year but avoid cutting the plant when a cold snap is forecast and when it is in its most active period of growth. These perennials don't really go dormant but they do not produce new leaves and other growth in the cooler season. Early spring is generally the best time for pruning most plants.

How to Trim a Croton

If you don't want a fungal or bacterial disease to invade your plant during trimming, sterilize those pruners or shears. A swipe of alcohol on the blade or a 3% solution of bleach to water will do the trick. Also, make sure your cutting implement is sharp to prevent inadvertent injury.

You can cut off the petiole of dead or damaged leaves just outside the main stem. To create a thicker, bushier plant, cut a foot (31 cm.) above where you want the plant to flush out. Never cut the plant back by more than one third.

Make cuts just above a leaf bud and at a slight angle that will propel water away from the cut. Keep the plant watered and feed in spring to fuel new growth.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.