The Q&A Archives: Defoliated Croton Bearing New Leaves

Question: My 3 year old croton was doing beautifully in a foyer receiving lots of light from an overhead skylight. Suddenly,within a month, all the leaves turned yellow and dropped. I then placed it near a window that gets western light (which I control with vertical blinds) and it has sprouted new leaves on the top of its tall stem. Will leaves begin to sprout lower down on the stem or do I cut it back and let it start all over again? Thank you for your help.

Answer: Your croton won't develop leaves along the bare stem, so you can either cut the stem down or try air-layering to start a new plant. You may end up with two plants instead of one if you try layering. Here's how: make a slanting cut into the stem a few inches below the new growth and hold the injury open by sliding a toothpick in sideways. Wrap the area with moistened sphagnum moss, then with plastic, and secure both top and bottom with soft string. New roots should form in the moss, at which time you can cut the new plant away from the old, then shorten the remaining stem so new leaves will form at the soil level.

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