(Edited to add an intro, because this post started somewhat abruptly.)
Hello! I’m collecting information on this blog about all of my houseplants, mostly for my own reference/memory. But I also hope this will be helpful for others, since I’ve discovered that keeping plants alive – like sewing – is simply about accumulating and applying knowledge.
I posted this on instagram with a joke about that chocolate, and a friend complimented my croton. Until that point, I do not believe I knew what any of my plants were called, but this piece of information was galvanizing! “This is a croton.”
At some point in the spring I started an epic email chain with myself, attempting to identify my office plants by their REAL NAMES, and collecting information about their watering and sunlight preferences. This was referred to as the “stripey colorful one” since croton wasn’t yet a word that would stick in my mind.
At this point I’d done some more research and observation about this plant. I’d noticed that it would DRAMATICALLY let me know when it needed watering – at least weekly, or the branches and leaves would all droop significantly – but it would always recover within a few hours.
My favorite houseplant resource told me that it didn’t like too much direct sunlight, so I kept it away from the window. I was proud of the fact that it had grown taller, though I wished I could do something to make it more dense.
I’d been sick and missed my regular watering day. I think this was taken 3 days after the usual watering day. This is the most extreme example of the drooping leaves I’d seen so far, and even when it was watered again, the plant had a wan appearance.
Instead of giving up completely and tossing the sad sad plant (which, I forgot to mention, I bought at Trader Joe’s and had assumed wouldn’t last past the 2015 holiday season) I decided to do something bold.
LOOK AT THAT PITIFUL PLANT!
Okay, actually, this isn’t the plant. It’s a number of branches that I cut off the original, and somewhere I read that trimming back the leaves might help these cuttings to root. (It did not work. These sat in some soil in the window for a week or two, and nothing happened.)
But the pruning of the original plant turned out to be EXACTLY what it needed! The little note in my houseplant resource about pruning (“Trim the stems of your Croton to encourage new growth to keep the plant bushy and full.”) was the secret to success!
Of course, I didn’t know that immediately.
For many weeks I kept a close eye on this guy. I moved him next to the window (because I realized that the leggy branches AND the faded leaves probably meant it was sun-deprived), I stabilized the stems so they didn’t flop over, and I watered more frequently so that the droopy leaves never had to beg for it.
[My favorite way to check if this plant needs watering – pick it up. If it feels light, barely the weight of an empty planter, I water it.]
Do you see those bright green nubs at all of the branching places? THAT IS NEW GROWTH!
But wait, it gets better, because I’ve been studying them every day, wondering what was hidden within each of those nubs…
…and each one is more than I had even hoped! LOOK AT THOSE LEAVES! I think there are four leaves growing out of that one section alone!
So, I pruned 3 stems of this plant down to the lowest level of leaves (or the second lowest, because I couldn’t stand to have a pot with just three leaves sitting on my desk), and each of those cuts led to new growth in 2-3 more places. Once all of these leaves and branches develop, this plant is going to be SO DENSE!
That’s all for now, but I’m obviously excited to see how these leaves grow out, and I’m curious to discover how quickly it happens.