Whether you keep the Croton as a houseplant or grow it outdoors, there’s no denying the appeal of a croton plant (codiaeum variegatum). Unfortunately, they also face croton pests.
They’re a perennial evergreen hailing from the Euphorbiaceae family.
Crotons come from tropical Indonesia and Malaysia. There are a growing number of croton varieties available:
This tropical plant is easy to care for, preferring moist soil and full sun. They love high humidity.
The main attraction of crotons is their variegated leaves, which come in a wide range of colors.
Crotons are grown as indoor and outdoor plants. They are quite resilient but are affected by a small number of diseases. These include:
- Crown gall
- Nectriella pironii
- Powdery mildew
- Root rot
Crotons are also susceptible to a few common pests. These pests can cause serious damage to the plant if not treated quickly.
What Are Some Common Croton Pests?
Even though there are only a few common pests that attack croton, the damage they do can be immense.
They can also infect other houseplants, making it even more important to get rid of them quickly.
These little pests belong to the Pseudococcidae family of scale insects, wearing a waxy coating that makes them immune to water-based pesticides and resembles tiny puffs of cotton.
These tiny pests create lesions in new growth and drink the sap, leaving behind honeydew that can invite additional problems such as sooty mold.
Four different species are known to attack crotons: citrus, longtailed, Madeira, and obscure.
Scale is a frustrating pest for any gardener or plant enthusiast, but crotons are particularly plagued by a species of softshell called the croton scale (Phalacrococcus howertoni), discovered in 2008 according to the University of Florida.
Since discovered, the croton scale has been found to infest 72 croton species throughout Florida. It may have spread from nursery shipments to other states.
In addition to mealybugs, the scale includes two other families: the soft-shelled Coccidae and the hard-shelled Diaspididae (also referred to as armored scale).
Soft-shelled scale produces the largest amount of honeydew, but the armored scale can be the most difficult to combat.
Red Spider Mites
Spider mites are a problem for most plants. Croton plants are a veritable feast for these common pests.
Crotons growing as indoor plants in dry heat attract spider mites.
The most visible symptom of spider mites is the whitish spots on the undersides of the leaves. They can be harder to see on variegated leaves.
Another sign of a spider mite infestation.
You may see thin webs along the underside of leaves or attached to the stems.
Failure to treat spider mites can result in leaf drop and other major health problems for your plant.
Thrips are very small (between 1/50 and 1/25” inches long). You’ll know when your plant has them from the damage they cause.
Rather than strain, your eyes look for brownish streaks, silver speckling, or white spots on the leaves.
These plant pests can stunt the growth of new leaves, and make a mess of your croton’s foliage. They can reduce the croton to a bunch of dead leaves, and also carry diseases that affect your other plants.
How To Control Croton Pests?
Finding an infestation on your prized gold dust or Petra isn’t the end of the world. But, different pests require different treatments.
The following methods all use products you have at home or can easily order online.
Water-based insecticides have little effect on mealybugs. You need to go with methods that target their armor.
There are two great ways to end an infestation, one uses common household products.
Insecticidal soap is a quick and easy method of control.
Place the plant in a shaded area with a protective covering around it. This helps avoid getting any residue on nearby surfaces.
Wear protective clothing, including goggles and gloves, to cut exposure to the soap.
- Following the label’s instructions
- Spray all surfaces of the plant
- This includes the crevasses and underside of all croton leaves.
You’ll need to perform extra applications every few days, with the exact frequency depending on the product you’re using.
This ensures any newly hatched eggs or survivors are killed.
A cheaper home remedy requires only cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol.
- Dip an end of the cotton swab into the alcohol
- Touch the backs of every mealybug you can find
- Remember to check under the leaves and in crevasses.
It can take about two days for the alcohol to completely dissolve a mealybug’s coating, killing them in the process.
Use a sprayer to rinse away the corpses, eggs, and newly hatched larvae.
Besides the methods used on mealybugs, there are a few additional options available.
Organic Neem oil for plants is a common, all-natural insecticide that kills scale and other pests.
Neem oil can kill armored scale. But, its effects are more limited and tend to affect only the crawler stage and younger.
Make sure you thoroughly coat the plant to avoid any escapees.
Another, more brutal option, is to use a neem-based insecticide such as AzaMax.
AzaMax has a higher concentration of azadirachtin, the substance in neem oil that slowly poisons pests.
When you only see scale insects on a few leaves, you may be able to prune the infected foliage away. But you should check the plant to make sure you didn’t miss any eggs.
How Do You Get Rid Of Red Spider Mites on Crotons?
Being a tropical plant, croton loves humidity, but red spider mites feel quite the opposite.
Use this to your advantage. Spray the leaves with water while the plant is away from direct sunlight.
You may choose to clean the leaves with neem oil or insecticidal soap. Be sure in both cases to also get the undersides of each leaf.
Spider mites also hate cold water, so a quick rinse or wipe with chilled H₂O can work wonders.
Not only will these protect your croton from spider mites, but also help keep your plants looking vibrant.
Thrips can be a pain to deal with, they often fly away if you get too close.
Some remedies that help get rid of thrips include washing the plant in insecticidal soap or coating it with neem oil.
You can also coat the undersides of the leaves with diatomaceous earth.
As with spider mites, thrips prefer a dry, dusty environment. Make a part of your croton plant care regimen to wipe down the leaves and make sure its potting soil never dries out.