More Crepe Myrtle Q & A

August 12, 2011 | By | Comments (119)

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. Steve Bender

    Nancy Carlson,

    Some crepe myrtles bloom later than others. And some don’t bloom as heavily. If you’re unsatisfied with yours after this summer, you may want to replace it with a different kind.

    July 31, 2014 at 1:46 pm
  2. Nancy Carlson

    From earlier comment from me, we live in Hampton Roads Virginia and had crepe myrtles at our pervious house. They bloomed and were beautiful without us doing much to them.

    July 24, 2014 at 12:15 pm
  3. Nancy

    We bought a house last spring (2013) with a large Crepe Myrtle in the front yard. It has never bloomed and we have not pruned it. It has flower buds growing, but they do not seem to mature to the point of flowering. We tried to fertilize last fall, but it has not helped. My husband wants to cut the myrtle down if it will not bloom. What can we do?

    July 24, 2014 at 12:12 pm
  4. Steve Bender

    Nancy,
    Your crepe myrtle was damaged by the winter cold. It;’s growing back from the roots. The top is dead. So remove any branches and trunks that have no leaves and let the suckers at the bottom grow back.

    July 17, 2014 at 3:41 pm
  5. Nancy

    We are from Ohio and have 2 crepe myrtles on each side of our large front window.And yes we cut them way back every year.But this year now July. ALL of the growth is coming from the bottom.Should we cut the wood down?Is this like a whole new plant coming up? We do get alot of nice comments on them.It also makes me wonder just how many people have never seen these.I guess they’ve never been to the south.I can also say i haven’t seen alot of people with these in Ohio.

    July 15, 2014 at 8:23 pm
  6. Steve Bender

    Jan,
    Unless your crepe myrtle dried up, my guess is that your plant has a fungus called powdery mildew. It forms a whitish coating on leaves, flowers, and buds and causes flowers and flower buds to wither. You can control it by spraying according to label directions with neem oil or Natria Disease Control.

    July 10, 2014 at 2:46 pm
  7. Jan Lane

    My Crepe Myrtle blooms & then within a week the blooms shrivel up & die.

    July 7, 2014 at 7:32 pm
  8. Steve Bender

    Kim,
    That depends on how cold it gets in winter in Gardenerville. If it gets below zero, wouldn’t plant one. Otherwise, give it a shot.

    June 30, 2014 at 2:09 pm
  9. Steve Bender

    Nancy,
    Crepe myrtles don’t mind hot weather. They thrive on it. It is the lack of rainfall fall that would probably kill your seedlings. You need to set them outside where they can get sun, but also keep them watered. When they get about 6-8 inches tall, I’d plant each peat pot in a 10-inch pot and make sure to keep that watered. Next spring, plant them in the ground outside and water them regularly for the first year. Once established, they’re pretty drought-tolerant.

    June 30, 2014 at 1:59 pm
  10. Kim

    I live in gardnerville nv. Can a myrtle survive here?

    June 29, 2014 at 7:52 pm
  11. Nancy Freeman

    hi steve…I live in Tucson, AZ…temps hovering, daily , now around the 105 mark :((
    ….I am successfully growing about 10 crepe myrtles from seeds gathered from the trees at my office…each ‘tree’ (think only 2-3 inches tall at this point!) is growing in its own peat-pot in a sunny window and they are watered as often as needed.
    Question: can I expect them to survive, like this, growing in the house until outside temps return to normal ?…..that is usually around Thanksgiving…at which I can set them out on the patio table to experience sunlight and daytime highs near 80* and then of course, it seems I will need to wait until spring to actually plant them…….seems like a long time for them to hang on inside, with no outside exposure, etc……
    thanks for taking time to answer and also for all the helpful info you provide here on this site……I too cringe at the “myrtle-murders” I see !
    Nancy Freeman
    Tucson, AZ

    June 23, 2014 at 7:44 pm
  12. Steve Bender

    Margaret,

    Cut off all the dead now. You crepe myrtle will grow back from the roots. Select about 4-5 well-spaced suckers to become the new main trunks. Then cut off all others at the ground.

    June 23, 2014 at 3:57 pm
  13. Steve Bender

    Dee,
    You can prune now and still get flowers this year.

    June 23, 2014 at 3:55 pm
  14. margaret eser

    my crepe myrtle has seem growth on one side of the tree nad the other sode looks like their all dead branches there are alot of shoots coming out of the base,should i cut down all the dead branches? or what should I do.

    June 23, 2014 at 11:39 am
  15. dee

    My crepe myrtle on eastern Long lsland,New York has a lot of dead on the ends of the branches and throughout the tree. Was unable to prune in March and want to know if I can prune now—I know I’d lose this years flowers. I’d have to bring it down a few feet to give it a good shape, or should I wait. Won’t be here to prune in March—don’t arrive until May.

    June 20, 2014 at 9:20 am
  16. Steve Bender

    Remove any torn bark from around the edges of the wound and then just let it be. The crepe myrtle will heal itself. GG

    May 17, 2013 at 8:45 am
  17. Steve Bender

    Shelley,

    It might be that your crepe myrtle is going to die back and come up from the base. Let it be for the moment and see what happens. If it still hasn’t leafed out up top in a couple of weeks, cut it back to where you see new growth happening. GG

    May 17, 2013 at 7:17 am
  18. Steve Bender

    Cynthia, What you need to do now is scratch the bark to find green underneath and cut back the plant to the highest point you can find green. Any branch or trunk that has no green is dead. If you can’t find green anywhere, replace the plant. It won’t leaf out. GG

    May 17, 2013 at 7:14 am
  19. shelly

    Sorry again i meant zone 7 lol sorry

    May 10, 2013 at 2:18 pm

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