More Crepe Myrtle Q & A

August 12, 2011 | By | Comments (175)

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


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.




  1. Kimberly

    My crepe Myrtle is very tall with 7 or 8 main trunks. This past summer we had a terrible storm with lots of rain . the branches were full of beautiful lush blooms and splayed out towards the ground. Two of the trunks ended up splitting in two. Is there a way to prune to prevent this?

    October 3, 2015 at 12:16 pm
  2. Steve Bender


    Your crepe myrtles will grow back. They probably won’t bloom this year, but absent another severe winter, they should bloom next year.

    September 4, 2015 at 11:22 am
  3. Steve Bender


    Branches of young crepe myrtles often droop after a rain because the branches aren’t yet strong enough to hold up wet flowers. As the trees grows, the branches will get stronger and this won’t be a problem any longer. It’s OK to prune the basal suckers, but leave the rest of the plant alone.

    September 4, 2015 at 11:21 am
  4. Steve Bender


    Just carefully remove any loose bark and be more careful with the string trimmer. The tree will heal over the wound by itself.

    September 4, 2015 at 11:18 am
  5. Eva

    I purchased 2 beautiful Muskogee Crape Myrtles trees and planted them where I live in New Jersey. We had a very cold winter this past year and the Crepe Myrtles did not make it. I cut the tree down and let the suckers grow as they were growing fast and quick. Is there a chance, as suggested, they will grow into nice bushes and bloom?

    August 27, 2015 at 7:58 pm
  6. Bob

    Myrtle Trees. How do you repair bark damage done by a hedger…or can you? I have two young trees with trunks about two inches in diameter. My gardener hit the trunks with the monofilament line of the hedger and it took off about half the bark around the circumference of the tree. The damage is about one and half inches is high in some places where the bark is stripped bare.

    August 24, 2015 at 9:56 am
  7. Julia

    I commented here a few months ago when I first planted my baby crape. I started to notice pigments of red in the leaves, and just as I suspected-it meant buds were on the way. My crape has flowered since but I have a few questions.
    1) When it rains the tall blooms droop all the way down and are top heavy, and some don’t perk up again. Is this normal?
    2) We trimmed a few suckers at the base, but next spring are we supposed to prune the crape? It’s only a baby planted last May.


    August 24, 2015 at 7:11 am
  8. Frances Walker Moss

    New leaves all over my little Crepe Myrtle!!!!! The other leaves are falling off now, as these new and bigger leaves have popped out. So far they are not turning color. Here’s hoping!

    August 23, 2015 at 11:27 pm
  9. Steve Bender

    John T,

    You can cut off the the suckers and root them by dipping the cut ends in rooting powder and then sticking them into pots filled with moist potting soil.

    August 23, 2015 at 2:48 pm
  10. John T

    Thanks for an informative reply. I wanted to know if I could start a new crepe mettle plant using the soft growth that is at the. Base of my Crepe myrtle trees. JT.

    August 20, 2015 at 9:33 pm
  11. Frances Walker Moss

    Thanks, Steve….I will leave it where it is, then. But GUESS WHAT? It is getting some new leaves! Hopefully, they won’t turn color like the others. I think I will also have to water it more than I used to, as I notice…for some reason the soil seems to have become rather fine, and think the water just basically runs right through. I think we’ll be ok…thanks again!

    August 7, 2015 at 6:45 pm
  12. Steve Bender


    You lead a charmed life!

    August 6, 2015 at 2:21 pm
  13. Steve Bender


    Premature fall color could be due to stress. It’s been hotter than normal out there this summer, yes? In any case, let it in a sunny spot. The more sun it gets, the more blooms you get.

    August 6, 2015 at 2:20 pm
  14. Matt Hart

    I live in Baltimore where winter can beat up a crape myrtle, but I can hardly believe it…my dead crape myrtle is coming to life in august. It’s potted, and I’ve left it outside every winter. This year, no foliage…until now. How’s that for a surprise!

    August 2, 2015 at 12:12 pm
  15. Frances Walker Moss

    Leaf spot? But there are no spots..I thought that caused a spotty appearance…no? These leaves just look like fall colors. I see no spotting on top or under the leaves. I think the best thing to do is what you first said. That it may be just stress. Just wait until these fall off in the fall and see what happens next season..Do you think I should move it out of the sun? It’s always been in the sun in Los Angeles, but maybe here the sun though by the sea, is more intense and clean. Let me know this and I’ll go from there. Thanks so much.

    July 30, 2015 at 4:45 pm
  16. Steve Bender


    This is done all the time. All of the crepe myrtles you see in garden centers are produced this way. When you need to do is take about 6-inch cutting just below a pair of leaves from a branch that has no flowers. The wood needs to be supple, but not fresh and soft. Pull off the lowest set of leaves, dust the cut end up to where the leaves were with rooting powder, and stick the cutting into a pot filled with moist potting soil. Keep the pot in shade.

    July 30, 2015 at 11:05 am
  17. Mary

    Has anyone been successful at cloning crepe myrtle? I would like to take cuttings from my neighbors purple flowered crepe myrtle and try to clone them.

    July 30, 2015 at 9:40 am
  18. Steve Bender


    It’s leaf spot.

    July 30, 2015 at 9:24 am
  19. Steve Bender


    No, it is not necessary to electrocute your plants. Transplant them when they are dormant (no leaves) and then just water well.

    July 30, 2015 at 9:23 am
  20. Debrah

    When the crepe myrtles ( Natches ) has seeds on the tree do you pick them and let them turn brown or let them turn on the tree?

    July 26, 2015 at 8:55 am
  21. Chuck Altizer

    When transplanting small young crepe myrtle is it necessary to bath the roots in a shock treatment?

    July 19, 2015 at 3:02 pm
  22. Steve Bender


    The reason your crepe is looking so bad is that half of its roots were just cut off. Although it seems logical to feed a stressed tree, that’s the worst thing you could do right now. The fertilizer would encourage it to grow more leaves, when what it really needs to do is replace its lost roots. So just give it TLC. Water regularly so that the soil stays moist. Hopefully, your plant will recover.

    July 9, 2015 at 2:48 pm
  23. Shara

    My pool builder had to dig a small trench a outs foot away from a huge 8 year established crepe myrtle. Now two weeks later, it’s leaves are turning yellow and looking a bit wilted. How serious do you think it’s condition may be and what should we do? We have some miracle grow quick start that is high in phosphorus, should we feed it to the tree? It would devastate our yard should we lose it as it as a sibling balancing our outdoor space, both flanking our massive outdoor fireplace. Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks.

    July 4, 2015 at 6:31 pm
  24. Frances Walker Moss

    Thank you, Steve, that’s a relief. No, the leaves are supple and red, orange and brown…new and mature leaves, both…and not falling off. That’s why it all seemed so strange. I wanted to post a picture earlier, in lieu of more explanation, but though you have pictures along with comments at the top of page, I didn’t see an option for it. Did I miss something? Anyway, thanks again…I won’t worry…probably environmental stress. I’ll just keep watering and giving it occasional coffee grounds, as I have always done. I suspect it won’t bloom this year until it adjusts.

    June 25, 2015 at 2:01 pm
  25. Steve Bender


    Sometimes leaves change color because of stress. Other times, the new foliage emerges a reddish color and turns greener later. If the leaves aren’t falling, I’d say there isn’t much to worry about.

    June 25, 2015 at 1:37 pm

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