Yes, you can root a croton leaf … but it will never produce a plant. Photo: Gardening Upbeat, YouTube
Question: I have a question about a croton that I bought this summer. Following a blunder on my part, my plant died except for a leaf at the base which touched the soil and seems to have grown roots all on its own. Do I have a chance that it will ever grow into a new croton or will it be like a hoya and remain a single leaf until it dies?
Answer: Unfortunately, no plant will ever be produced.
It is easy enough to root a croton leaf (Codiaeum pictum): you can even do so in a glass of water. And the single leaf will develop a surprisingly robust root system. But to produce a new stem and, eventually, a complete plant, it would need an axillary bud. It is only from this bud that the plant can regenerate. Unfortunately, croton leaves don’t have the capacity to produce a bud from a leaf.
There is even a name for this phenomenon: a rooted cutting that never produces a plant is called a blind cutting.
The croton is not the only plant in this situation. Ficus, hoyas and several other plants, especially tropical ones, can produce what are called adventitious roots (adventitious: that appears from an unexpected place) from a leaf, but will always remain blind.
If, on the other hand, just a small piece of the stem accompanies the leaf and this piece did bear a dormant axillary bud (and that sometimes happens when a hoya leaf is removed), the plant could regenerate from this bud, but this is unlikely with a croton (or a ficus) whose stems are woody and unyielding.
Other plants (African violets, streptocarpus, crassulas, echeverias, snake plants, kalanchoes, sedums, etc.) do have the capacity to develop an adventitious bud directly from a leaf, even sometimes from just part of a leaf, so you can readily produce an entire plant from one leaf. But that capacity is a very rare trait and the croton simply doesn’t belong to this select group.
Don’t be surprised if your rooted croton leaf lives for years without further growth. I once kept a lucky heart hoya (Hoya kerrii) leaf alive 7 years before it finally died … without, of course, ever producing a plant.