Plant propagation

Can You Grow a Croton From a Single Leaf?

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?

Jojo

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.

Ficus leaves (here, Ficus lyrata) can also produce roots, but will never give a new plant. Photo: @ohiotropics

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.

Echeveria leaves, each producing one new plant. Photo: leafandclay.co

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.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

25 comments on “Can You Grow a Croton From a Single Leaf?

  1. That is weird that they will not produce adventitious shoots. So many plants produce undifferentiated growth where the roots emerge, and the undifferentiated growth can produce adventitious shoots, like the African violets. Leaves sometimes fall from rhododendron cuttings in the flats, and develop roots, but that is all they ever do.

  2. Adele Charness

    My beautiful curly boy croton is having its leaves dry out and fall, even from the new growths. How can I save it?

    • Two things to consider. First, give it a real soaking, then let drain very well for a day. That’s just in case the original cause was a lack of water. That will help the roots (slowly) recover.

      However, it’s more likely the dry air is getting to it. I’m assuming you’re growing this plant indoors in a pot. If so, read this: https://laidbackgardener.blog/2019/12/04/stopping-croton-leaf-loss/

      • Adele Vicki Charness

        Thank you for your response. A bit more information for you before I soak my croton and then greenhouse it. I use packets in my fridge fruit and vegetable drawers to counteract the spoilage from the gas they emit. The product suggestion was, that after its use in the fridge, to add it to plant soil. I did this to my croton, as well as a beautiful cyclamen , that I had had for years. The cyclamen died and now my croton, which has been in the same place for 10 years , is doing poorly. Do you think I, unwittingly, poisoned the plants? Should I repot the croton in fresh soil before I greenhouse it? Adele Charness

      • If you send me the name of the product, I can do some research. I’ve never heard of this use before, so, honestly, I can’t really respond. That said, by literally leaching the soil (taking the pot to the sink and letting water pour through), that might help remove anything terribly toxic.

      • Adele Vicki Charness

        I appreciate your prompt response. I looked it up and the active ingredient is zeolite (clinoptilolite) which is used in fertilizers! Maybe it was a coincidence that both healthy plants were affected at the same time or they got an overdose?

        On Mon, Jan 4, 2021, 10:13 AM Laidback Gardener, wrote:

        > Laidback Gardener commented: “If you send me the name of the product, I > can do some research. I’ve never heard of this use before, so, honestly, I > can’t really respond. That said, by literally leaching the soil (taking the > pot to the sink and letting water pour through), that might he” >

      • Thanks. I’m finding lots of mentions about “trying it on a small scale”, but it doesn’t seem to something either particularly good for plants nor harmful. It’s probably not the problem.

      • Adele Vicki Charness

        Thanks again. Off we go to the sink. Hope it works. I live in Montreal and mine is the only Curley Boy croton any of us have ever seen.

        On Mon, Jan 4, 2021, 10:56 AM Laidback Gardener, wrote:

        > Laidback Gardener commented: “Thanks. I’m finding lots of mentions about > “trying it on a small scale”, but it doesn’t seem to something either > particularly good for plants nor harmful. It’s probably not the problem.” >

      • Adele Charness

        Hi,
        I’m back with 2 questions about my poor Curly Boy croton that is having leaves turn brown and fall off.
        It is quite a large plant. I leached it 2 days ago. Some water is still coming out.
        Question 1 Do I need to wait until there is absolutely no more water before sealing it in a plastic bag?
        Question 2 As the soil is quite wet, is there a danger of root rot in the bag?
        soil is quite wet,

      • Adele Charness

        Hi,
        I am back again with 2 questions about my poor Curly Boy croton whose leaves are turning brown and falling off.
        It is quite a large plant. I leached it 2 days ago and some water is still coming out.
        Question 1: Do I have to wait until absolutely no water is coming out before I put it in a plastic bag?
        Question 2: Because the soil is quite wet, do I have to worry about root rot once it is in the bag?
        Thank you for your help.

      • 1. Yes, it must be completely drained.
        2. Once the soil has drained, it will be only slightly moist, so live roots won’t have a problem with rot. However, if many of the roots are already dead, they might decompose slowly.

      • Adele Vicki Charness

        Thank you, once again

        On Wed, Jan 6, 2021, 11:47 AM Laidback Gardener, wrote:

        > Laidback Gardener commented: “1. Yes, it must be completely drained. 2. > Once the soil has drained, it will be only slightly moist, so live roots > won’t have a problem with rot. However, if many of the roots are already > dead, they might decompose slowly.” >

    • Hi, how did it go? Did your curly boy pull through?

      • Adele Charness

        You read my mind. I was just going to contact you!
        I did soak it and put it in a plastic bag until March. The leaves continued to turn brown and fall off. When I took it out of the plastic, I fertilized it with Job sticks. Now it has a lot of new growth. But still has the same problem. Sometimes the leaves get to a mature length and then turn brown and sometimes it happens to the “babies”.
        I have just started to mist it.
        I have not changed the location since I bought it.
        Help!!

      • Adele Vicki Charness

        You read my mind. I was just going to contact you! I followed your suggestions and soaked and then tented my plant over the winter. I checked it occasionally to make sure it had not dried out. However, leaves continued to turn brown and fall off. In March, I took off the plastic and fertilized it with Job sticks. I have not changed the location since I bought it. I have also started to mist it every few days. It has a lot of new growth, but the problem continues. Some leaves grow to mature length before they turn brown and fall, and sometimes it happens to the “babies “. Not all the leaves, of course, but way too many to hope for a complete recovery. They start to turn brown at the tip which becomes brittle and then continues up the leaf. Not all the leaves, of course, but too many to hope for a complete recovery. Help! Sincerely, Adele Charness

        On Wed, Apr 21, 2021, 4:57 AM Laidback Gardener, wrote:

        > xsie commented: “Hi, how did it go? Did your curly boy pull through?” >

      • Adele Vicki Charness

        Thanks for your prompt reply. Repotting is worth a try. Do I need to put it in a bigger pot? Hope not because this one fits in its place. I’ll try to send you pics if my tech knowledge allows. Adele Charness

        On Wed, Apr 21, 2021, 4:57 AM Laidback Gardener, wrote:

        > xsie commented: “Hi, how did it go? Did your curly boy pull through?” >

  3. You could try repotting, removing as much of the old soil as possible. If it’s been in the same pot for years, it could be suffering from a potting mixseriously contaminated with mineral salts.

    • Hmm.
      I got a notice that my e mail didn’t go through. So here we go again.
      I will repot it. I asked if I need to put it in a bigger pot.
      Hoping I don’t cuz the pot fits in its place.
      Sent you one pic when I got the error message. Will send you the second pic now.
      So hope you got 1 comment and 2 pictures.
      (Modern technology is great, when it works. Mostly, I hate machines. Love people and plants. I’m 83. Maybe that’s why!)

      • You can’t send photos through this system. Repot into the same size pot: that will help keep it from growing any bigger.

      • Adele Vicki Charness

        Oh wow. Ok. Will do. Thanks so much!!

        On Wed, Apr 21, 2021, 1:45 PM Laidback Gardener, wrote:

        > Laidback Gardener commented: “You can’t send photos through this system. > Repot into the same size pot: that will help keep it from growing any > bigger.” >

      • Adele Charness

        Re my poor Curley Boy Croton.
        I changed the soil as you suggested. There were several new growths, but now the leaves are turning brown on the whole plant again and are wilting. Regretfully, I’m convinced it cannot be saved.
        I appreciate all your input over the past months.
        My question for you now is, where can I buy a new plant? I have never seen another one since I bought this one a decade ago. I called a few places. No one seemed to know what I wanted.

      • Adele Charness

        Re my poor Curley Boy Croton .
        I changed the soil as you suggested. There were several new sprouts, but now they and the older leaves are turning brown and the whole plant is wilting. Regretfully, I no longer feel it can be saved.
        I appreciate your advice over the past months.
        Do you know where I can buy a new one?
        I have never seen another one since I bought it at Home Depot a decade ago. The places I have called don’t know what I am talking about.
        I live in Montreal.

      • With crotons, mixed varieties get shipped in from the US, but mostly the most common varieties. Occasionally a rare one gets mixed in, but finding ‘Curley Boy’ is going to be difficult. Just keep looking and you might be lucky!

      • Adele Vicki Charness

        Thanks. I’ll keep looking. If you come across one, let me know.

        On Fri, May 21, 2021, 4:57 AM Laidback Gardener, wrote:

        > Laidback Gardener commented: “With crotons, mixed varieties get shipped in > from the US, but mostly the most common varieties. Occasionally a rare one > gets mixed in, but finding ‘Curley Boy’ is going to be difficult. Just keep > looking and you might be lucky!” >

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