Question: My croton seems to be dying. The leaves, especially at the bottom of the plant, are turning crisp. I can’t see any insects, and I’m sure I’m watering it properly. What could go wrong?

Answer: That’s probably spider mites. Crotons are very susceptible, although the mites can be stopped if you identify the problem early enough. Where plants’ leaves will turn tan and mottled when spider mites hit, that’s hard to identify with a brightly variegated plant like a croton. Spray the top and bottom leaf surfaces with an insecticide labeled for spider mites to control these nearly microscopic pests. You can see them before you spray if you’ll thump one of the leaves over a sheet of white paper. As large as crotons’ leaves are, you could eliminate most of the spider mites with warm, soapy water. Use two sponges, one on top of the leaves, the other beneath, and wipe them clean.

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