Crepe Myrtle Bark Peeling Off? Hydrangeas Wilting? Grumpy to the Rescue!

June 25, 2010 | By | Comments (24)

Crepe Myrtle 002

Help Grumpy! I’m a new gardener and planted my first crepe myrtle two years ago. It was growing fine, then I noticed this morning all of the bark is peeling off. Is it dying? Should I spray it? What have I done wrong? Precious in Pine Bluff

Answer: Don’t worry, my Precious. You’ve done right by asking me. There is nothing wrong with your crepe myrtle. As all crepe myrtles grow, they shed last year’s bark in summer, often revealing colorful, mottled bark beneath. In this regard, crepe myrtles are like snakes — except, of course, that they don’t slither on their bellies, tempt humans in the Garden of Eden, and women like them.

Cut hydrangeas

When I cut hydrangea blooms for bouquets, most of the flowers go limp within a day. The leaves don’t wilt, just the blooms. Is it the weather or what? Willie

Answer: Nope, not the weather. The problem seems to be air getting inside the hollow stems and preventing the uptake of water. So try this. Cut the blooms early in the morning when it’s cool. Immediately plunge the stems into water and take inside. Fill a tall container with boiling water and place the hydrangea stems into the hot water for 30 seconds. Then remove the stems and place them in room temperature water. Don’t know why this works, but it keeps the blooms looking fresh — just like Grumpy.


Stump the Grump! Can you help me identify this plant? It has pretty flowers and tentacles for climbing. Bull in Durham 

Answer: Tentacles? Only if you’ve hooked onto the world’s first flowering squid. Actually, the plant in your photo is a Gloriosa lily (Gloriosa superba ‘Rothschildiana’). It’s a tropical vine native to Africa and Asia that climbs using tendrils. In summer, the plant bears showy flowers divided into six, recurved segments that are brilliant red banded with yellow. Gloriosa lily won’t survive winter except in south Florida, but you can dig and store the tubers over winter if you want to keep the plant.


Dear Grumpy: When I was potting annuals this spring, I ran out of potting soil. So I mixed up some degraded compost, a bit of vermiculite, some perlite, and some soil from last year’s pots. My plants are doing well. Is there a real reason for using potting soil? Carol in Charlotte

Answer: There are two main reasons. The first is that bagged potting soil that you buy at the garden center is free of bugs, fungi, and weed seeds. The second is that potting soil is lightweight and well-aerated, making it ideal for growing things in containers. Potting soils may also contain fertilizer, as well as water-holding granules that reduce the need to water. Using soil from your yard in containers is usually a death sentence, because it’s heavy, it compacts, it may contain pests, and it doesn’t drain well.


  1. Starting to say farewell to Summer 2014. | Loving Outdoor Living Blog

    […] are quickly starting to turn to seed, even though I dead-head the basil virtually every day. The crepe myrtles surrounding our property are loosing their flowers and the bark is starting it’s annual shedding […]

    July 31, 2014 at 8:19 am
  2. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Check out this link: It should help you.

    October 2, 2011 at 5:36 am
  3. p. miller

    I have harvested some passion flower pods. How can I use the seeds to start more plants? if I can, how do I go about preparing them. Can they directly into the ground or shuold I start in pots first?

    September 28, 2011 at 9:51 am
  4. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Hot weather is the cause of your problems. Keep them well watered, especially when it’s getting to be over 100 degrees almost every day. Here’s how to tell whether to water on a particular day. If the leaves look fine in the morning, don’t water. If they look wilted, water.

    July 4, 2011 at 10:54 am
  5. M. Walker

    Hi Grumpy,
    I planted some crepe myrtles a couple weeks back and they did great at first but now the flowers are wilting and some of the leaves are turning a reddish yellow. I live in north Texas and it’s plenty hot here now and the crepes get a full day’s sun. I was watering them both every day but then started skipping a couple of days to avoid overwatering. Should I switch back to watering every day? Thanks so much.

    June 28, 2011 at 10:01 pm
  6. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    The Grump never guesses. He knows.
    One way to keep the beetles off of your plants is to spray them according to label directions with neem oil. You can get this at garden and home centers. It’s safe to use, but makes the leaves smell and taste bad to beetles, so they’ll eat your neighbor’s crepe myrtle instead.

    September 2, 2010 at 10:41 am
  7. Nancy

    Dear Grumpy,
    You guessed correctly. We do have Japanese Beetles in my area (West Tennessee). I’ve seen the white grubs, but didn’t realize they were Japanese Beetle grubs until I looked at the photos online. Based on what I’ve now read on the Internet, I’ve got a big job ahead to attempt to control them, unless you know some magic solution. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

    September 1, 2010 at 1:26 pm
  8. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Do you by any chance have Japanese beetles in your area? This is exactly the kind of damage they do.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:35 am
  9. Nancy

    Dear Grumpy – I love your blog and articles and have learned a lot from both. I have 3 beautiful crepe myrtles that have never been murdered, but they have a problem. This year something ate the leaves, but left the veins. A neighbor said it was a worm, but I’ve never seen a worm on the trees. I have seen grasshoppers around them. Do you know what ate the leaves? Do I need to treat the plants now or next spring to keep this from happening next year? Thanks.

    August 25, 2010 at 3:28 pm
  10. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Figs don’t “bloom” like other plants. In fact, their fruits are like flowers turned inside-out. Does your plant get plenty of sun? Does it form little figs that fall off before maturing?
    Make sure what you’re looking at are buds and not seed pods. Seed pods are round, green,and shiny. If they are really flower buds, they may not open if the ground is really dry. Or they may not open if they get covered with powdery mildew.

    August 24, 2010 at 2:25 pm
  11. Dick Williams

    Our crepes have lots of buds on them, but most of them don’t bloom. What’s the problem?

    August 24, 2010 at 10:43 am
  12. janet Smith

    i have a fig tree that is 14ft.tall it has never bloomed or had fruit but the foulage is beautiful. what can i do to have figs next year Janet

    August 23, 2010 at 4:57 pm
  13. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    It sounds like your tree has cedar-apple rust, a fungal disease that spreads between native cedars and apples. You can order an organic fungicide to control it from Planet Natural. Here’s a link:

    August 1, 2010 at 11:39 am
  14. Sandi

    Why do my apple tree leaves have yellow spots all over them?

    July 31, 2010 at 1:25 pm
  15. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Mary Lee,
    You don’t have to cut off the blooms. However, if you want to do some pruning, do it now. Your plants will soon be forming flower buds for next year and you don’t want to unintentionally remove them. The exception to this is if you have a reblooming variety like ‘Endless Summer.’ Pruning off old blooms now will encourage it to send out more blooms.

    July 24, 2010 at 12:05 pm
  16. Mary Lee

    My beautiful hydranga blooms have faded. Should I cut the blooms off or prune further back? This was my best year for them and I have hopes for next year.

    July 23, 2010 at 3:12 pm
  17. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    I can’t say for sure ewithout seeing the foliage, but it sounds like the plants are affected with a fungus called anthracnose. To control it, remove and destroy all inefcted leaves. Then spray all healthy leaves according to label directions with Daconil. You can get this at garden centers.

    July 7, 2010 at 5:56 pm
  18. Sharonne in Nashville

    The leaves on my 5 yr. old lacecap hydrangea bushes are turning black(each leaf is half green/half black)and brittle. What do you recommend?

    July 5, 2010 at 2:02 pm
  19. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    I stand corrected, Henry, and will now fall on my sword.

    June 28, 2010 at 4:09 pm
  20. Henry H.

    Grump we have had pretty decent luck with the Gloriosas here in SE GA. We had about a dozen freezes, way more than usual, and they have come back beautifully. The ones I saw were semi-protected at best from the winter wind.

    June 27, 2010 at 2:49 pm
  21. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Hi Cameron,
    Don’t go contacting Sotheby’s yet. This is an experiment to see whether subscribers and newsstand buyers have different preferences when it comes to covers. So there are plenty of others with magazines just like yours.

    June 27, 2010 at 11:25 am
  22. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    The best time to prune this spring-blooming rose is right after it finishes flowering in spring. If you prune it back now, you’ll reduce flowering next year. However, given the placement of your roses, pruning now may be a necessity. Lady Banks grows fast, so you can cut off unwanted growth without damaging the plant.

    June 27, 2010 at 10:22 am
  23. georgiagirl

    I really, really need to know when and how to prune my Ladybanks rose bushes- they are currently trying to take over my front porch. Help!

    June 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm
  24. Cameron (Defining Your Home)

    The peeling bark of crepe myrtle is so appealing, don’t you think?
    I have a question that I think may stump you. My copy of Southern Living July issue has a very nice cover photo. I picked up a spare copy at Sam’s Club to give to my son. The photos are of the same subject, but the photo and fonts on the two covers are different!
    Your very, very important story, “Not Tonight, Deer!” on page 52, is the same in both magazines. That was a relief! 🙂
    So, how is it there are two different covers? Inquiring minds want to know. Have I have found a rare, valuable copy?

    June 25, 2010 at 7:15 pm

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