Why Won’t My Crepe Myrtle Bloom?

August 3, 2014 | By | Comments (27)
'Red Rocket' crepe myrtle

‘Red Rocket’ crepe myrtle. Photo: Steve Bender / Southern Living

Right now, no one in the South cares about the meaning of life, sea level rise, or whether Beyonce will have another baby. (Yes.) All they want to know is how come my stupid crepe myrtle isn’t blooming while all of my neighbor’s are? There, there, don’t pop an artery. Let Grumpy help.

There are four common reasons why a crepe myrtle doesn’t bloom. Let’s discuss.

Reason #1. You planted it in the shade. Crepe myrtle likes full sun. The more sun it gets, the more flowers you get.

Reason #2. The leaves and flower buds get covered with this fuzzy, white fungus called powdery mildew. Most crepe myrtles nowadays are mildew resistant, but old selections like ‘Carolina Beauty’ and ‘Watermelon Red’ aren’t. Powdery mildew causes leaves to shrivel and flower buds to die. So before you buy, check the plant label to see if the selection you’re considering resists mildew. If your crepe myrtle already has mildew, spray it according to label directions with either neem oil or Natria Disease Control, two natural fungicides you can get at garden centers. Next year, spray before it gets mildew.

Reason #3. Hot, dry weather. Long stretches of hot, dry weather can cause crepe myrtles to stop growing and go to sleep. They just sit there, waiting. I’ve seen my ‘Miami’ crepe myrtle fully loaded with flower buds that don’t open for weeks waiting for the rain. Then we get a frog-strangler and voila! Blooms!

Reason #4. You are an evil person. Yes, you. Sometime in your past you did something absolutely horrible that you have yet to make right. You know exactly what I’m talking about. As a result, universal justice is now being visited upon you. And until you right that wrong, you won’t ever see another stinking bloom on your crepe myrtle. The garden may be cruel, but it’s fair. Repent! Atone! And stop complaining!

COMMENTS

  1. plan cul mature

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on crepe myrtle. Regards

    September 22, 2014 at 5:40 am
  2. Steve Bender

    N. Bradley,
    Sometimes with a plant you just have to put your foot down! No blooms again and you’re mulch!

    August 28, 2014 at 1:08 pm
  3. Steve Bender

    Irene,
    I think this is a result of a common leaf spot disease. My crepe myrtle gets it too. It’s to big to spray with a fungicide, so I just let it happen. Fortunately, it doesn’t affect the blooming.

    August 28, 2014 at 1:07 pm
  4. N. Bradley

    A very bountiful white-flowering natchez cm decorates one side of the garden, 5 years there.;A very scrawny supposedly red-flowered cm sits passively on the other, not a bud nor flower in 4 years. Same soil, exposure, hours in the sun. It was sited there to provide shade! Its modest foliage begins as reddish sprouts, which invite the illusion of budding. Well, that’s over. One more flowerless season and it’s gone!

    August 27, 2014 at 3:12 pm
  5. Sonja

    None of the above. Hahaha. I think it’s the soil because I fertilized 1 and it is blooming like crazy 3 I didn’t (I ran out) they aren’t blooming hardly at all so I think I know the problem. Trust me, it won’t happen again.

    August 24, 2014 at 5:11 pm
  6. Irene Adams

    The leaves of one of my CM turned red and then fell off. Is it a fungus? If yes, how do I treat it?

    August 24, 2014 at 2:23 pm
  7. Steve Bender

    Bella,

    It depends on how big the crepe myrtle is when you plant it. Very small ones may not bloom the first year, but most will.

    August 22, 2014 at 12:14 pm
  8. Bella James

    Thank you. I love your humorous way of sharing your knowledge so gardeners new and old can learn without being offended. Is it true that first-year crepe myrtles do not bloom?

    August 22, 2014 at 10:25 am
  9. roberta4949

    love reason number four, made me laugh, you know if you fertilize them to much they wont flower either, I just use composted manure in the fall to bury them for protection and that is all they get as far as fertizliers except occasionally I give them Epsom salts which helps the colors. you can use milk and garlic for powerdery mildew works quite well for this on roses, I just blend it in a blender the garlic and whole milk and sift it through hankerchief several times to get all the little bits and use my sprayer, the milk makes it stick to the leaves and the garlic does the rest. Epsom salts in the soil help to for the plant to absorb and protect leaves from the inside.

    August 16, 2014 at 2:55 pm
  10. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Beverly,
    It’s OK to spray them while they’re in the containers, but in the future follow the label directions when mixing fungicide. I don’t think your plants will die from this, but following label directions will make sure they don’t.

    August 14, 2014 at 9:38 am
  11. Beverly Gunter

    I bought 4 peace forever and ever azaleas on a really good sale. Thenleaves were getting brown spots on them and they said they just needed fungicide spray. I left them in their containers and spray with Ortho insecticide and fungus and added more than necessay to mix. Will the heavy mixture kill them? Did I do right by spraying in their containers before planting? Please advise. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

    August 11, 2014 at 6:30 pm
  12. Steve Bender

    Dea,
    That could be possible, as too much nitrogen can cause leafy growth at the expense of flowers.

    August 8, 2014 at 11:19 am
  13. Dea

    Crepes hate me. So I am probably (definitely?) a #4. But… My arborist who helped me when my water oak got a bad case of scale said that most of the crepe myrtles that weren’t blooming in our neighborhood were overfertilized with a nitrogen-high fertilizer when the folks fertilized their lawns in the late spring. I can see that it would be pretty easy to have some over-blow if fertilizing with one of those rotary spreaders. That might be the culprit for one crepe in a yard blooming when another doesn’t — just the fact that one of them was over dosed with nitrogen fertilizer during the spring.

    August 6, 2014 at 7:38 pm
  14. Cat Williams

    Sprinkle some epson salt around the tree and water it in. Boom it helps your trees draw the nutrients it needs. Coffee grounds too, I keep all mine a sprinkle them around anything that blooms or are evergreens.

    August 5, 2014 at 9:11 am
  15. Betty

    I have 2 and they reside on the dock on a small lake in East Texas. We have had a mild summer with rain and I water as needed. When I purchased them 3 years ago they had white blooms, last year they got black powdery mildew so I hand washed them with dawn dish washing soap and water. No blooms…this year, no blooms or seed pods either and the foliage is a pretty shade of orange. Would love to have some flowers!

    August 4, 2014 at 9:31 pm
  16. Sharon

    Planted mine 4-5 years ago and never had a bloom on it. This year has not been too bad, plenty of weekly rain and sun yet still no blooms. Any ideas on this?

    August 4, 2014 at 8:16 pm
  17. Sue

    Most of the time I feel my whole garden is responding to #4. Not only the crepe myrtles.

    August 4, 2014 at 7:53 pm
  18. Shelia Jones

    These are all funny, but so true!!! Have 4 Natchez crepe’s, only 1 is blooming :( , guess I am 1/3 of # 4… Hoping another year will make a difference!!! Glad I’m not alone:)

    August 4, 2014 at 7:49 pm
  19. Vickie in Charleston

    Well none of that was helpful. Have two Natchez planted in the back yard withing 20 feet of each other. The one of the right is covered in blooms, the one on the left has nothing. What’s up with that? Maybe I am 50% of #4…

    August 4, 2014 at 2:17 pm
  20. Cindy

    as soon as I trimmed the ‘dead’ plant down to 4 ft tall it bloomed. -_-

    August 4, 2014 at 1:42 pm
  21. Laura Ross

    I think the harsh winter hit our large crepes. The center branches are completely bare, but new growth is spurting from the ground and growing around the (still) bare branches. Should we cut out the old branches or let it go another year and hope the new growth takes over?

    August 4, 2014 at 1:35 pm
  22. Linda Burton

    I use bloom booster on my crepe myrtles. It seems to really help.

    August 4, 2014 at 11:19 am
  23. Rosie Cross Kirkland

    Guess, I’m #3 & #4, living in N. California, everything’s fried this year!!

    August 3, 2014 at 10:58 pm
  24. Lynn Case, Owensboro, KY

    My crepe myrtle tried to commit “suicide” this past rough winter and died back to the ground (we live in zone 6). It had just reached more of a tree form (around 15 feet tall with smooth multi-trunk form) when it decided to try to end its life. Now I have an ugly tree stump with new growth sprouting around it. Is it possible to get it back into more of a tree shape or is the only option to let it grow more like a shrub? I just don’t know what to do with it – they seem to be impossible to dig up.

    August 3, 2014 at 12:52 pm
  25. Susan

    Mine doesn’t get much morning sun. I think that is the culprit. Because otherwise it gets 8 hours of sun. The neighbors CMs get morning sun and less than 8 hours (plus they chopped it / Crape Murder style) and theirs get blooms bigger than the size of your head. Their Chopped Crepe Myrtles have been steady blooming since June and my Miami is just now starting to bloom Aug 1. Maybe Miami is a slow Bloomer??????

    August 3, 2014 at 12:25 pm
  26. @

    I have 2 in my front yard.They look pretty good but don’t get many flowers. What can I do to get more blooms?

    August 3, 2014 at 11:50 am
  27. Teri

    Love #4. I am watching my neighbor’s fenceline crepe and decided in his case it is #3.

    August 3, 2014 at 11:41 am

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