7 Best Fertilizer for Crotons | How and When to Use

Crotons aren’t fertilizer-hungry plants, but no matter how much (or how little) fertilizer you use, it’s necessary to buy the right product for the plant. 

Since each plant species has different needs and there are thousands of fertilizers on the market; save yourself the time spent on research and take a look at my personal pick of the very best products.

Best Fertilizer for Crotons

If you’re in a rush and already have a good idea of the fertilizer requirements for Crotons, here are my favorite fertilizers for crotons. Otherwise, sit back, relax and get ready to find out all you need to know about what, when why, and how you need to fertilize Crotons.

Down to Earth Organic Fruit Tree Fertilizer Mix 6-2-4

Best Outdoor Organic Fertilizer

Down to Earth Organic Fruit Tree Fertilizer Mix 6-2-4

100% organic in this slow-release fertilizer is ideal for outdoor plants. Don’t be fooled by it being a fruit fertilizer!

Dyna-Gro Foliage-Pro Fertilizer 9-3-6

Best Liquid Fertilizer

Dyna-Gro Foliage-Pro Fertilizer 9-3-6

Liquid concentrate fertilizer with the ideal NPK ratio for outdoor grown crotons. Perfect for providing an instant boost of nutrients to ailing plants.

miracle grow plant food_new small

Best Fertilizer for Indoor Crotons

Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Food 1-1-1

Fast-acting 1-1-1 fertilizer for crotons and other houseplants that can be pumped directly onto the soil or diluted in water.

Choosing the Best Fertilizer for Crotons

When choosing a fertilizer for any plant one of the most important aspects is the N-P-K ratio and mineral content. However, soil pH has a huge impact on the plant’s ability to draw on the nutrients. Finally, the form of application you choose to deliver also needs consideration, with either liquid, granules, or fertilizer spikes available to choose from.

Micronutrients, such as zinc, iron, and magnesium, are also important for the health of your plants too. 

I’ll be explaining the roles of each of these factors and which are best for fertilizing crotons indoors and outdoors.

Croton Fertilizer N-P-K Ratio

In simple terms, Crotons grow well with an NPK ratio of 3-1-2 or similar.

If you’re new to gardening, you might be wondering what the heck is an NPK ratio! Well, that’s the ratio of the macronutrient elements found in soil – Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium.

Every single fertilizer has a declaration showing its NPK ratio on the product label, and it’s important to buy the right one to meet your plant’s needs. Most plants do well with a balanced ratio of say 1-1-1, but certain plants like crotons have more specific needs.

The NPK numbers indicate the percentage of each macronutrient element found within the fertilizer. In the case of croton fertilizers, choosing a product with 3% nitrogen, 1% phosphorus, and 2% potassium will serve them well for the duration of the growing season.

Macronutrients

We know Nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus play a key role in plant development. However, there are a number of other macronutrients required by plants for optimum growth, including:

  • Nitrogen
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Sulfur
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Carbon
  • Oxygen
  • Hydrogen

Micronutrients

Most plants including croton also require essential micronutrients to support photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, and protein synthesis.

  • Boron
  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Copper

However, NPK ratio and minerals are not the only important aspect of feeding your Croton. Remember, I mentioned Soil pH plays a key role too.

Why not take a look at What Does A Plant Need To Survive And Grow? for a more detailed look at plant nutrient requirements?

Croton Soil pH and Nutrient Uptake

Many gardeners plant their crotons either directly into the soil in their backyard, or in pots and containers as houseplants, and neither of these options is wrong. However, garden soil from in-ground beds tends to retain nutrients for longer compared to soil in pots that have a tendency to leach nutrients during watering. 

For optimal growing conditions, crotons need the soil pH to stay between 4.5 and 6.5, which is slightly acidic to neutral. Not all plants share the same pH preferences, so it is important that you take a soil pH test to make sure your soil is suitably amended to allow for healthy crotons.

If your soil pH is wrong then the plant will not be able to make the best use of the available nutrients from the soil, leading to chlorosis or other nutrient deficiencies.

Granular vs Liquid Food

The debate between granular and liquid fertilizers is common among gardeners. Both of these types of fertilizers are available at gardening stores, while a third method, called fertilizer spikes, is also becoming more and more popular.

Liquid Fertilizer for Croton Plants

The biggest advantage of liquid fertilizers is the ease of application. They can be purchased in two formats. The first is a ready-to-use liquid that is pre-mixed and can be applied directly to the soil around your plants.

The other is a liquid concentrate where all you have to do is mix the fertilizer with water (I’m not mentioning ratios because every fertilizer has different instructions), shake the bottle, and pour it into the soil.

When it comes to the exact contents of fertilizers, they’re no different from granular fertilizers. The difference is apparent in releasing the nutrients.

Liquid fertilizers are quick-release and fast-acting fertilizers – which means that the plant drinks up the nutrients very quickly and the nutrients take effect almost immediately. All of this is great if you have an ailing plant that needs a quick burst of nutrients.

The downside of using liquid fertilizers is you need to feed your plants more often. However, this job can often be combined with when you’re watering your plants. 

Slow-Release Fertilizer Granules for Crotons

Granules offer a slow release of nutrients over a prolonged period of time. The granules take time to break down and become active in the soil. 

Some gardeners prefer this method because it means you can fertilize your plant once and leave it be for months before having to fertilize it again!

However, they’re more difficult to apply as you have to dig into the soil and spread the granules around. This isn’t that difficult, though, and if you don’t have to do it often (which you don’t when it comes to crotons), they’re a better option than liquid fertilizer.

Lastly, granular fertilizers often have a longer shelf-life than liquid fertilizers.

Fertilizer Spikes

Fertilizer spikes are a relatively new type of fertilizer and are the best of both worlds. The spikes are essentially tube-shaped blocks made from slow-releasing granular fertilizer.

Once you stick the spike in the soil, it starts to gradually release granular fertilizer into the soil. This combines the ease of application of liquid fertilizers with the slow release of granular fertilizers to achieve the optimal result.

Synthetic Vs Organic Fertilizers

The biggest difference between the two is the number of nutrients. Organic fertilizers have fewer nutrients, and they release more slowly. This means two things; firstly, it’s more difficult to overfertilize your plant with organic fertilizers, and secondly – they pack less of a punch than synthetic fertilizers.

Manufactured synthetic nutrients are typically stronger and their release rate is higher, which can be a good thing, but it also means that you could overfertilize your plant if you put too much of it in the soil.

Whether you are using synthetic or organic fertilizers, always be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Your plants will be fine as long as you don’t put too much fertilizer in the soil.

Best Croton Fertilizer Reviews

Here’s my pick of the best croton fertilizers!

Pros: 

  • Ideal NPK ratio for crotons
  • 100% organic and endorsed by OMCI 
  • Inclusion of additional micronutrients to support healthy plant growth

Cons: 

  • ‘Organic’ smell that pets can find attractive

6-2-4 fertilizers employ the same ratio as 3-1-2 fertilizers, but with a higher percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This granular fertilizer comes in a 25-pound bag, which makes it a good long-term option.

Although this fertilizer is primarily marketed for fruits as many fruit species have the same NPK requirements as crotons, it’s applicable on crotons and many fruiting canes, as well as shrubs.

Aside from the fish bone meal, which is standard in many fertilizers, this fertilizer packs calcium carbonate and potassium sulfate, the latter of which is a great source of both potassium and sulfur. 

Calcium carbonate, on the other hand, is used for soil acidity control, so it will keep your soil in that 4.5-6.5 range which is perfect for crotons.

How to use: For crotons grown outdoors, sprinkle fertilizer directly around the base of the plant and into the soil. Repeat this 3 times per year: Once in spring, another one month later, and then a third application another month after that.

Pros

  • Easy to apply and fast acting
  • Can be applied to soil and foliage
  • Suitable for use with many flowering plants 

Cons

  • Shelf life may not be as extensive as granular brands

If you don’t feel like spreading the granular fertilizer and you need something fast-acting, then this liquid fertilizer should be more than enough for crotons. It packs three times more nutrients than the standard 3-1-2 formula.

Dyna-Gro makes fertilizers that are free from urea and aim to eliminate salt. The 9-3-6 ratio is applicable for many flowers including roses as well as many tropical plants. 

The micronutrient count is also significant in this fertilizer too, boasting the inclusion of boron, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, chlorine, copper, iron, and manganese.

It is also very fast acting since the liquid formula will come in contact with the roots of your crotons soon after application. Aside from being poured into the soil, you can also apply it to the foliage.

I used this as a foliar spray for some lackluster, nutrient-deficient crotons with yellow leaves. The urgent concentration of nutrients that was directly absorbed by the leaves as well as the roots provided the perfect quick fix solution they needed. Meaning they were back to looking glorious in no time.How to use: For outdoor grown crotons, add ¼ tsp per 1 gallon of water in a watering can. Water as normal. Suitable for use every third watering.

Pros: 

  • Super easy application
  • Quick acting
  • Suitable for use for croton houseplants

Cons

  • Fertilizing according to the manufacturer’s instructions may be excessive for Croton

A 1-1-1 ratio is a very balanced and mild mix of nutrients that can be used for all houseplants and this particular fertilizer is instantly applicable when growing crotons as houseplants. 

You can dilute it in water (which is preferably for delicate-natured crotons) if you want to cover a larger area, but you can also provide your plants with a single pump’s worth of fertilizer if you feel more comfortable with it that.

Whatever you choose, this fertilizer is by far the easiest one to apply, even easier than fertilizer spikes. Additionally, just like the previous entry, it’s very quick acting and your plants will drink it up instantly.

How to Use: Simply mix four drops with one quart of water as required and apply taking special care to ensure the excess fluid will be drained out leaving the fertilizer to work its magic.

Pros

  • Requires minimal effort after applying
  • Plants continue to be fertilized for up to 2 months

Cons

  • Can cause root burn in crotons due to NPK ratio

The best thing about spikes is that you do very little and still get great results as they release granular fertilizer slowly. This is exactly what Jobe’s spikes do. After sticking them at the roots, the 13-4-5 spikes will feed your plants for at least 2 months before needing replacement.

Although the ratio isn’t precisely a multiplication of 3-1-2, the lack of potassium means that this fertilizer won’t hurt your plants.

Pack size of 50 spikes means that they should last your indoor-grown crotons for several seasons. Even though spikes are usually known as expensive, they might be worth the investment as they completely take the responsibility off your shoulders and have an exceptional shelf-life.

How To Use: Press each fertilizer spike into the soil until it is fully covered. Spikes should be placed at least halfway between the snake plant and the container edge.

Follow the included dosage directions to determine how many spikes to use per plant.

Pros

  • A balanced and mild formula so unlikely to burn
  • The fast-acting liquid formula gets to work quickly
  • Suitable for use on crotons as well as many other houseplants 

Cons

  • Very ‘natural’ odor!

Another balanced fertilizer, this solution is very close to the 3-1-2 ratio, making it suitable for crotons as well as many other houseplants. 

This solution from Espoma is 100% organic and soluble in water. It’s also quick acting just like other liquid fertilizers.

It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a fertilizer for a wide array of plants, especially if they are in need of a quick boost due to a soil-based nutrient deficiency which is often common-place for houseplants.

How to use: Mix ½ cap per quart of water in a watering can. Use when watering your croton by applying directly to the soil and water as normal. Mild enough to use every 2-4 weeks.

Pros

  • Slow-release that can last an entire season for crotons
  • Manufacturers guarantee that it won’t burn roots
  • Comes with a handy measuring scoop

Cons

  • The ratio doesn’t exactly fit the 3-1-2 preference for Croton

This fertilizer might be the ultimate long-term solution as it can feed a single plant for up to 6 months. Plus, you can use it to fertilize indoor and outdoor grown plants. 

Despite the uneven ratio and a high level of phosphorus, this slow-releasing granular fertilizer won’t harm your plants as the nutrients aren’t released quickly. That means your crotons won’t suffer a surge of phosphorus.

The nutrients encapsulated within the granules are dissolved when they’re drenched in water, and they’re released with changes in temperature. This fertilizer is more active during warmer periods, so it’s perfect for application during early spring for outdoor planted crotons but suitable for use year-long for indoor crotons.

How to use: Sprinkle 1 scoopful of granules in the soil around your outdoor plants, mix well to combine with soil and water in well. Use half the quantity for indoor plants. 

Pros: 

  • Incredibly rich in beneficial microbes and minerals
  • Won’t cause fertilizer burn
  • Becomes activated quickly for faster results

Cons

  • Can be a more costly option when compared to others on the list

Another great option, especially if you have a lot of plants as it can be purchased in a 40-pound bag, is this fertilizer from MicroLife. It comes with the widest specter of minerals out of all fertilizers on my list.

Not only does it fit the croton NPK formula perfectly, but it also uses over 3.6 trillion beneficial microbes per bag, while the formula contains more than 100 minerals.

It also contains yucca, which is a wetting agent allowing the granules to get to the roots quicker. Despite the punch, this fertilizer packs, the manufacturer claims it does not burn and you don’t need to worry about that.

On top of all that, it’s rich in iron sulfate, which enables slightly acidic plants (such as crotons) to take up nutrients more efficiently.

MicroLife’s fertilizer has a very long shelf life, and you can keep it for years as long as it stays dry. However, it is a bit costly in comparison to other fertilizers I’ve found, which makes it an option only if you’re not on a tight budget.

How to use: For outdoor grown crotons, apply 2lb per 10 sq foot and combine well with the soil. Water well after applying. Suitable for use in spring, summer, and autumn feeding.

How to Fertilize Crotons

If your croton is potted, cover the entire pot with fertilizer (no matter what type of fertilizer you choose), while crotons in outdoor soil have a wider rate of application (about 1 foot in diameter).

There are three methods of application, depending on the type of fertilizer: granules, liquid, and spikes.

How to Apply Granular Fertilizer

After taking as much fertilizer as you need (that depends on the plant size and the exact fertilizer – follow the instructions on the label to know how much to take), spread it around the soil.

Follow the rule seen above when it comes to outdoor crotons, as their roots are usually wider than the roots of potted croton.

Cover the granules with some soil and water the soil thoroughly.

How to Apply Liquid Fertilizer

To apply liquid fertilizer, all you have to do is mix the fertilizer with enough water and pour that solution around the soil. Follow the instructions printed on the label to make the solution properly.

How to Apply Fertilizer Spikes

Spikes are the easiest to apply out of all three methods – just insert the spike into the soil. Make sure to avoid damaging the root system of your plant by inserting the spikes with care.

It will be much easier to insert spikes if you water the soil the day before.

Avoiding Fertilizer Burn

Fertilizer burn is most often the result of overfertilization (too much nitrogen, to be precise), but it can also occur because of using a fertilizer that’s too strong, or because you haven’t watered the soil after applying granular fertilizer.

Too much nitrogen inhibits cellular respiration, which can lead to root rot. Root rot leads to the plant absorbing harmful nutrients, which in turn leads to wilting.

In crotons, fertilizing too much leads to reduced intensity of the color of the leaves, while the roots might shrink.

When to Fertilize Croton Plants

Since overfertilization is the biggest danger that comes with croton fertilization, it’s important to know when and how often to fertilize these plants.

How Often to Feed a Croton

Crotons need fertilization no more than three times a year – once in early spring, once in mid-spring, and once during the summer. They aren’t hungry plants and they’re easy to overfertilize.

Because they’re fertilized only three times a year, it is best to use granular fertilizer because of its slow-release formula.

Fertilizing Crotons in Winter

Crotons are dormant during the winter, and you shouldn’t fertilize them. Plants generally don’t grow throughout the coldest season and adding fertilizer is just a waste of money, not to mention that you could harm your plant.

Verdict: Best Fertilizer for Crotons

Down to Earth’s Organic Fruit Tree, Granular Fertilizer is definitely the best choice, with MicroLife’s Liquid Fertilizer coming in as a close second. Both are great options for fertilizing outdoor grown crotons – it all comes down to which method of application you prefer.

Down to Earth Organic Fruit Tree Fertilizer Mix 6-2-4

Best Organic Fertilizer

Down to Earth Organic Fruit Tree Fertilizer Mix 6-2-4

100% organic ingredients in this slow-release fertilizer from Down to Earth with the perfect NPK ratio for crotons.

Dyna-Gro Foliage-Pro Fertilizer 9-3-6

Best Liquid Fertilizer

Dyna-Gro Foliage-Pro Fertilizer 9-3-6

Liquid concentrate fertilizer with the ideal NPK ratio for outdoor grown crotons. Perfect for providing an instant boost of nutrients to ailing plants.

For indoor grown crotons, I recommend you choose Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Food. Its gentle 1-1-1 NPK and super easy pump action application method makes fertilizing crotons easy, convenient, and means less chance of over-fertilizing – which is so easy with this variety of plants.

miracle grow plant food_new small

Best Fertilizer for Indoor Crotons

Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Food 1-1-1

Fast-acting 1-1-1 fertilizer for crotons and other houseplants that can be pumped directly onto the soil or diluted in water.

FAQ’s Fertilizing Crotons