More Crepe Myrtle Q & A

August 12, 2011 | By | Comments (225)

Famous Birmingham neuropathologist and amateur worm farmer Dr. Paymian Cash just confirmed what I’ve always known. Southerners have a serious case of lagercephaly, also known as crepe-myrtle-on-the-brain. Despite the fact that crepe myrtles adorn just about every yard, bloom for months on end, and are incredible simple to grow, Southerners obsess over what might go wrong with them, why they don’t look better, and what their neighbors will say in the unlikely event they actually succeed in killing their trees.

Crepe Myrtles 002
Fortunately, as always, you have Grumpy, the world’s foremost authority on Things That Go Wrong With Crepe Myrtles. Grumpy doesn’t mind staying up into the wee hours every night clutching his bottle of Booker’s while addressing your concerns, because, hey, your worries are his.

So with that, let’s get to this latest round of crepe myrtle questions.

 

Zombie Myrtle

Crepe Myrtles 001

Question: My crepe myrtle didn’t leaf out this spring and is still bare. Do crepe myrtles sometimes skip a year of growing and then come back to life?

Grumpy’s Excellent Answer: Crepe myrtles skip of year of growing about as often as you skip a week of breathing. Yours was probably killed to the ground due to winter damage. If you see small green sprouts growing near the base, your plant may grow back from the bottom, although the top is still dead and always will be, no matter if it’s featured on “True Blood” or not.

 

Acid Test

Floyd

Question: Is crepe myrtle an acid-loving plant?

Grumpy’s Excellent Answer: The only crepe myrtle I know of that requires acid is an old one called ‘Pink Floyd.’ It was the subject of several hit songs on the 1973 mega-platinum album, “Dark Side of the Bloom.” It’s quite hard to find now, because it alternates between branching out and trying to get back to its roots. Fortunately, other crepe myrtles aren’t fussy and accept acid, neutral, or alkaline soil.

 

New Sucker Every Minute

Suckers I’m so sick of these suckers!

 

Question: Suckers constantly grow from the base of my two big crepe myrtles. Is there anything I can do to prevent this annoying growth?

Grumpy’s Excellent Answer: One way would be to submerge your yard under 20 feet of water, but your neighbors would be peeved. Instead, closely inspect the base of each shoot where it connects to the trunk. You will see a little swollen knob. Cut off this knob flush with the trunk. This will reduce or prevent regrowth. If the suckers are coming from the roots, however, that’s probably a result of cutting the roots at some point, and there’s nothing much you can do to stop it.

 

What’s the White Stuff?

White stuffPowdery mildew on crepe myrtle. Yuck! I prefer it on powdered doughnuts.

Question: What can I do to prevent my crepe myrtles from getting this white stuff all over the leaves each summer?

Grumpy’s Excellent Answer: Assuming your crepe myrtles aren’t growing beneath a flock of pigeons, they probably have a fungus called powdery mildew. It covers and distorts the leaves and can keep flower buds from opening. Hybrids such as ‘Natchez,’ ‘Miami,’ ‘Dynamite,’ ‘Delta Jazz,‘ and ‘Pink Velour’ resist mildew, but many of the older types don’t. You can’t take the existing mildew off, but you can keep mildew from spreading by spraying healthy foliage according to label directions with horticultural oil, neem oil, or Spectracide Immunox.

 

Frazzled Not Dazzled

Dazzle‘Cherry Dazzle’

Question: My neighbor gave me 6 miniature crepe myrtles named “Dazzle” three years ago. I’ve planted them in various locations, given them fertilizer, and even coffee grounds, but they’re still only 6 inches tall. What do you suggest?

Grumpy’s Excellent Answer: Look on the bright side. Your crepe myrtles may be shrimps, but I’ll bet they’re alert! Dazzle is the name for a series of miniature crepe myrtles of various colors that came out a few years ago. They form tidy mounds 3-4 feet tall and wide. ‘Cherry Dazzle’ with cherry-red flowers is Grumpy’s favorite. The recipe for success here is fertile, well-drained soil; full sun; and regular watering when they’re getting established. Considering their slow growth, you might want to move them this fall. For more info about the Dazzles, click this here link.

 

Flaking Bark

Crepe Myrtles 003‘Miami’

Question: The bark on our crepe myrtles is flaking off in big pieces. Are they going to die?

Grumpy’s Excellent Answer: Well, of course — eventually everything dies. But you needn’t worry just yet. Crepe myrtle naturally sheds last year’s outer bark in summer to reveal beautiful, new bark underneath, like the chestnut-brown bark of ‘Miami,’ shown here. Such bark is especially showy in winter and helps make crepe myrtle a multi-season champ. However, if you chop down your crepe myrtles every spring, a crime I call “crepe murder,” this beautiful bark will never form.

 

Transplanting Time

PlantingSummer’s OK for planting a potted crepe myrtle, but not for digging one up.

 

Question: When is the right time to transplant a crepe myrtle?

Grumpy’s Excellent Answer: Definitely not now when it’s around 100 degrees. The best time is when the tree is dormant and has dropped its leaves. This means fall, winter (for some), and early spring.

 

Not Tonight, Deer

DeerBambi licks his chops after demolishing your daylily collection.

Question: My sister-in-law has trouble with deer eating all of her plants. Will they eat crepe myrtles?

Grumpy’s Excellent Answer: Not unless the only other available food comes from the Ganges River.

 

Start from Seed?

PodsThanx to apial for this seed pod shot. Green pods aren’t ripe.

Question: Can you use crepe myrtle seed pods to produce new plants? How?

Grumpy’s Excellent Answer: Absolutely! Crepe myrtles are very easy to grow from seeds, although seedlings won’t necessarily be the same color  as the parent plant. Wait until the seed pods ripen and turn brown. Then collect the seeds inside them. Seal the seeds inside a plastic ziplock bag and store it in your refrigerator for at least a month. Then sow the seeds into moist, potting soil, barely covering them. They should sprout in a few weeks.

 

 

COMMENTS

  1. Marsha Krassner

    what do you think is the probability of a mature crape myrtle (at least 10-12 feet tall) surviving if it is transplanted? My neighbor is removing 3 of them and I am thinking of purchasing one and replanting on my property. I live in south Texas and the temps are finally dropping.

    September 28, 2016 at 12:39 pm
  2. Grumpy Gardener

    Debora,
    You’re correct. Any time you cut a crepe myrtle root, it will send up a sucker. You can transplant these, but I would wait until fall after its leaves drop.

    Nana,
    It shouldn’t.

    August 25, 2016 at 1:50 pm
  3. Debora

    I have several @ 16 seedlings growing beneath and around my Natches Crepe Myrtle.
    Some have appeared along the new edging I cut to define the lawn from my garden area where my tree reside. I imagine these sprung up from a cut root. Many are almost knee high.

    Many more are growing in an area which I prepared for hostas by removing sod/grass beneath the tree.

    I would love to transplant any of them. Should I pot them up now, or let them winter over in the spot they sprung? And what is the possibility of their survival after transplanting?

    August 22, 2016 at 7:28 am
  4. Nana McBurney

    We transplanted a Crepe Myrtle this sping and it had sprouts of Plumbago ( not sure of SP) and the bush hasn’t bloomed but the Plumbago has, it looks pretty with all the blue, but will it hurt the Crepe Myrtle?
    Nana in Houston

    August 18, 2016 at 11:55 am
  5. Steve Bender

    TxAli369,
    Your crepe myrtle is covered with a fungus called Cercospora leaf spot. To get rid of it, rake and fallen any fallen leaves and put them out with the trash. Then spray your crepe myrtle according to label directions with neem oil or Natria Disease Control.

    August 18, 2016 at 11:40 am
  6. TxAli369

    My Crepe Myrtle leaves are turning Orange with black Dots. (In this case, Orange is NOT the new Black). What is wrong with it. The leaves are small and falling off in August (Still Summer here in the South). It’s not powdery black mold. This has happened in the past month! My neighbor’s have a type ofPalm Tree in the other side of the fence (right next to my Crepe Myrtle) that is also turning yellows-orange and dying! Plz help!!

    August 11, 2016 at 4:10 pm
  7. Grumpy Gardener

    Robert,
    Yep, just wait it out.

    August 11, 2016 at 10:48 am
  8. Robert Dyer

    Dear Grumpy,
    Deer did in fact, eat the buds off the ends of my young (and small) crape myrtle last spring. I fenced it but pretty much the whole top was pruned. I keep it watered but it just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Should I wait this one out?

    August 9, 2016 at 11:30 am
  9. Frances Walker Moss

    Update on my poor struggling Crepe Myrtle…last post – leaves were again turning bronze. Wow!! such a surprise! Suddenly getting all new leaves Aug. 1st 2016! I am amazed! Can’t explain any of it…but certainly not complaining.

    August 5, 2016 at 8:28 pm
  10. Jo

    How do I sell min . I’m in hot springs Arkansas

    August 5, 2016 at 2:48 pm
  11. Grumpy Gardener

    Kitty,
    That sounds like a saddleback caterpillar to me. It fends off predators with its poisonous spines and touching them can be quite painful. You can get rid them by spraying your plants with Bacillus thurigiensis (Dipel), neem oil, or spinosad according to label directions.

    August 3, 2016 at 1:56 pm
  12. Julene Onken

    Thanks much! Really enjoy your column and blog.

    August 1, 2016 at 7:39 pm
  13. Kitty Ostermann

    One of my numerous crepe myrtles was losing its leaves so I carefully checked for insects. Low and behold I found these green caterpillar type worms eating away. I thought I cut them all off but three days later I found more. I tried to pick them off with a leaf but to my surprise they have some type of spikey ends on them and had highly irritated fingers after as it went through the leaf into my fingers. What are they and what do I use to kill them all?

    August 1, 2016 at 7:07 pm
  14. Steve Bender

    Jae,
    Gotcha! Natchez grows up to 35 feet tall. I think you could move them by taking out the same size root balls as you planted.

    Edward,
    Problems like this are usually weather related. My best advice is to stay patient and hope they bloom this August.

    August 1, 2016 at 3:11 pm
  15. Jae

    Last Nov. I planted two Natchez crape myrtles. They were about 3 feet tall and are doing great. Unfortunately, I beleived the nursery tag saying they grew 15-20 feet tall. I have discovered that is a gross underestimate of height, and want to move them to an appropriate location this November. Would appreciate any advice on how far out from the trunk to start digging the roots. Probably inch and a half thick trunks, probably 4-5 feet tall by then. I am in North GA, borderline zones 7-8. Thanks much.

    July 28, 2016 at 8:48 pm
  16. Edward Mattax

    First time with Crepe Myrtle. Last year had “Dynamite Crepe Myrtle” planted in year. It got nice flowers. This year, end of July, it has new growth, but no flowers. I knocked off the suckers on the trucks. Does this often happens during the second year, or is something wrong?

    July 27, 2016 at 12:59 pm
  17. Grumpy Gardener

    Robert,
    Yes, there is hope, but only if you can prevent future attacks by deer. You could protect the plant with deer repellent or a wire cage.

    July 19, 2016 at 3:36 pm
  18. Robert Dyer

    This spring, deer nibbled the new leaves or shoots that had just appeared, off the top of my small crepe myrtle planted last year. (These ain’t starving deer…the neighbors keep them well fed!) Now it appears that any growth has stalled.
    Is there hope for this puppy?

    July 17, 2016 at 9:40 am
  19. Grumpy Gardener

    Sandra,
    Your plant should be OK as long as you keep it watered.

    Kara,
    The flowers of Dynamite do this when they open on an overcast day. The ones that open on a sunny day open red.

    July 12, 2016 at 3:37 pm
  20. Kara

    i purchased four 7 foot red dynamite crepes this april and now they are starting to bloom but the blooms are pink and white…did the nursery plant the wrong ones?

    July 10, 2016 at 2:27 pm
  21. Sandra Connors

    I have a warermelon red crepe myrtle that was in a small 3 gallon pot about 12 ” tall that I just planted 2 months ago, I realized it was not the best spot for it so I transplanted it. It had put on about 10 inches with lots of blooms. I picked a very cool weekend aprox. 70 degrees with some rain to transplant it. Do you think the move will harm this little guy?

    July 9, 2016 at 11:12 pm
  22. Steve Bender

    King Lou,
    How is Marie Antoinette doing? She never calls anymore.

    Margaret,
    Your crepe myrtles should leaf out again.

    Shirley,
    The white specks could be scales. Try spraying the undersides of the leaves with horticultural oil. Most crepes grow with multiple trunks, but some are trained to single trunls.

    July 6, 2016 at 4:26 pm
  23. King Lou

    Grumpy- Straight answers w/o ur poor jokes would be appreciated. Ur not funny. Stick to ur day job. #unfunny

    July 3, 2016 at 2:26 am
  24. margaret

    My goat ate all of the leaves from my new crape myrtles, before I could place a protective fence around them. Will they grow new leaves this season?

    June 29, 2016 at 6:19 pm
  25. Shirley P Cornelious

    I had 2 crepes planted last Spring,full sun,well drained. One bloomed, other didn’t. This summer,slacker blooms, bloomer has ew leaves but white specks and bugs that look like chrysalis from locusts on underside of some leaves. Also, my myrtles have one single trunk. All others I’ve seen have more than one. Good or not?

    June 29, 2016 at 2:50 am

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