Green Thumb Magic: Gold Dust Croton Plant Care Simplified

Croton varieties flaunt their vivid yellows, oranges, and reds in an array of leaf shapes. My Gold Dust Croton (Codiaeum variegatum ‘Gold Dust’) is a speckled variety that brightens up my office windowsill with a pop of color.

This fun plant displays random yellow spots on its dark green, ovate leaves as if yellow paint had been spattered over the foliage. It makes an eye-catching houseplant or a garden plant for warm climates.

Crotons are native to Indonesia, Malaysia, and northern Australia. The common name, Croton, used for the decorative Codiaeum species, can be confusing because there is another genus of plants with the scientific name Croton, also from tropical Southeast Asia. They’re both in the Spurge family but are quite different plants.

My Gold Dust is needy and requires specific care, or it protests and drops its leaves. Below is an outline of what works for me to keep my plant in tip-top shape.

Quick Plant Care Summary

The Gold Dust Croton requires bright, direct or bright indirect sunlight, and thrives in temperatures of 60°-70°F. High humidity over 50% is ideal, achievable with a pebble tray or humidifier. Water when the top soil is slightly dry, about 1″ per week, using distilled or rainwater. Monthly fertilizing with half-strength balanced fertilizer during the growing season keeps it healthy.

101 Care Guide for Gold Dust Croton Plants

Image Credit: Author-Nancy Maffia

Light, temperature, and humidity are all essential factors when caring for Codiaeum variegatum of any variety.

Light

Image Credit: Author-Nancy Maffia

Crotons like a lot of light. I have my Gold Dust in a west-facing window where it gets approximately four hours of direct sunlight daily.

I recommend direct sun or very bright, indirect light to keep your Croton colorful and happy. Too little light will cause the leaves to turn all green.

Set it in a west- or south-facing window to get maximum light, or a bright east- or north-facing window if the other exposure isn’t available.

Temperature

Warm temperatures are essential for Croton care. They like temperatures above 60 degrees F and protection from cold drafts.

Keep your Croton away from drafty winter windows and out of the way of air conditioner vents, or it may drop its leaves.

Humidity

High humidity is also important. They do best in humidity above 50%, which is higher than in most households. You can boost the humidity by keeping your plant in an area of the house that has high humidity levels, like in the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room, if there is enough light.

You can also mist the plant daily, set it on a pebble tray with water, or use a humidifier to keep the humidity levels comfortable for your plant. I have mine on a pebble tray, and during the winter, I move it to a warm spot under a grow light, away from drafts.

NOTE: Low humidity can make your Gold Dust more susceptible to spider mites, so keep the humidity up around the plant.

Soil and Pot

Image Credit: Amornie/Shutterstock.

Crotons grow best in a good quality potting mix that is well-draining and slightly acidic. I find that it’s beneficial to add some perlite and peat to my indoor mix to ensure good drainage.

The most important feature of the pot you choose is that it must have at least one drainage hole in the bottom. Since Crotons are thirsty plants that need frequent watering, I feel that plastic or ceramic pots are better choices than terracotta to keep the soil from drying out so quickly.

Water

Crotons need their soil to be evenly moist but not soggy. My Gold Dust needs about 1″ of water per week. I don’t measure it, though, or keep a watering schedule. It’s best to feel the soil, and when it’s dry a quarter to a half inch down from the top, it’s time to water.

If you forget, your Gold Dust will let you know by drooping its leaves.

When you water, allow it to run through the pot and out the drainage hole so that the soil is soaked through, and let it drain completely.

It’s also a good idea to avoid using tap water for your Croton. In most of the country, tap water contains mineral salts that are hard on plants, causing their leaves to curl and drop. Some plants are more sensitive to the minerals in tap water than others, but it’s safer to use distilled or rainwater instead for all your plants.

Distilled water is a good choice, but can get expensive if you have a lot of plants to water. A more cost-effective choice is to collect rainwater. I use multiple containers, but rain barrels are also a good option.

Fertilizer

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My Gold Dust appreciates some fertilizer during the growing season to keep it healthy and robust. I use half-strength of a balanced soluble crystal fertilizer once a month from mid-spring to early fall. Once a month, prepared liquid fertilizer works just as well, but only use slow-release pellets twice or three times during the season.

NOTE: It’s important to cut the concentration to half-strength of the recommended amount on the package to protect your plant against fertilizer burn.

Pests

Mealybugs, scale, and spider mites commonly infest Gold Dust Croton.

Mealybugs

Male mealybugs can fly, but females are fluffy, cottony insects that attach to leaves and stems and suck plant juices, causing wilted, distorted foliage. Luckily, they are big enough to see and eliminate.

 You can control these bugs by picking them off with tweezers and then spraying the plant with horticultural soap, Neem oil, or a 3:1 solution of water and 92% isopropyl alcohol with two tablespoons of Dawn dish detergent stirred in.

If you have a bad infestation, you may have to repeat the treatment until the pests are gone.

Scale

Scale insects are related to mealybugs but are hard and smooth, so they are impervious to horticultural soap and Neem oil sprays. You can control scale by picking them off with tweezers and then wiping them with 92% isopropyl alcohol or with the solution mentioned above.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are tiny, eight-legged creatures that suck plant juices and cause stunted growth and stippling and curling of the leaves. The little red bugs are hard to see, but they produce a tell-tale sign of webbing over the leaves and stems that is easily visible.

Control them with a spray of horticultural soap, Neem oil, or the isopropyl alcohol solution.

Pruning

When your Gold Dust grows big enough to prune, cut the branches just above the nodes with clean scissors and remove any dead or dying branches. You can prune your indoor Croton any time of the year, although late fall and winter are best when the plant slows down its growth.  

When it resumes its growth in the spring, you should see new growth from the nodes near where you trimmed.

Propagation

The best way to propagate your Gold Dust is by stem cuttings:

  1. Take a 4″-6″ cutting with clean scissors, or use the pruned stems.
  2. Remove the bottom three or four leaves, leaving three or four on the top.
  3. Dip the cut ends in rooting hormone.
  4. Plant it in moist soil with plenty of peat and perlite.
  5. Fit a plastic bag over the pot to create a mini greenhouse with high humidity.
  6. Water it lightly to maintain moist soil.
  7. Roots will develop after about a month.

Toxicity

All parts of Gold Dust Croton are poisonous to people and pets. They cause irritation and burning of the mouth and can cause digestive issues. Ensure your plant is out of the way of little hands and paws to keep your family safe.

Author & Editor | + posts

Nancy has been a plant person from an early age. That interest blossomed into a bachelor’s in biology from Elmira College and a master’s degree in horticulture and communications from the University of Kentucky. Nancy worked in plant taxonomy at the University of Florida and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, and wrote and edited gardening books at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA. Her interests are plant identification, gardening, hiking, and reading.