When Should You Fertilize Crepe Myrtle?

July 6, 2016 | By | Comments (9)
crepe myrtle

Photo: burkesbackyard.com.au

Faithful reader Lee asks, “When should I fertilize my crepe myrtles? They are old and about 25 feet tall. They never get pruned and don’t bloom the way I would like them to.”

Grumpy’s 124% Guaranteed Correct Response: Unless you’re planting them in pure sand or in very confined areas, crepe myrtles don’t need much fertilizer. They’re well-adapted to most soils and grow just fine without it. If you were to fertilize, the best time would be in spring just after they leaf out. Any controlled-release tree & shrub fertilizer would do.

You say you’re unhappy with the way your old crepe myrtles are blooming. My guess is that most of the blooms are way high up atop the branches. This is just the way that tall-growing types like ‘Natchez’ and ‘Muskogee’ do as they get bigger. Plus, their flower clusters get smaller, even though there are more of them.

The only way to change their blooming habits is by drastically shortening them in late winter. Cutting them back to thick stubs, a practice I call “crepe murder,” will give you bigger flower clusters lower down. I don’t do it, because I prefer my crepes to express their natural form. I grow them not solely for their flowers, but also for their beautiful bark and wonderful architectural shapes. However, this is a matter of individual taste, so you can choose to prune or not.

You can avoid Lee’s predicament by reading the label when you buy a crepe myrtle and choosing those that grow no taller than 10 to 12 feet — ones like ‘Acoma,’ ‘Black Diamond,’ ‘Delta Jazz,’ ‘Early Bird,’ ‘Pink Velour,’ ‘Siren Red,’ ‘Tonto,’ ‘Velma’s Royal Delight,’ and ‘Zuni.’ Check out their descriptions in The New Southern Living Garden Book. You’ll never have to murder them to keep the blooms down low.

COMMENTS

  1. Mary Jane Stone

    Why do my tomatoes have black spots on them looking as if they are about to rot?

    July 22, 2016 at 8:55 am
  2. Fan

    I can not believe I read Grumpy say that it is a person’s choice if they want to commit crepe murder instead of resoundingly condemning the practice. Armageddon is at hand.

    July 11, 2016 at 2:03 pm
  3. bevinsandiego

    Mine are about 5 years old, 9-10′ tall and look like crap. They’ve never been pruned (maybe they need a good whacking!) and are in the shape of a tree (I trim off all the sprouty bits). The leaves look a little bit green with lots of brown ugly areas on them, not blooms last season and none this season, just ugly and burnt looking. I was told they don’t like too much water, so I don’t water often (maybe once every 3-4 weeks they get a slow deep drip.) Why so horrible?! Should I just dig the stupid things out and put in something else that doesn’t look dead?

    July 11, 2016 at 1:39 am
  4. Pamela Rosevear

    Crepe Myrtles need heaps of water in December (here in Australia) and then will bloom brilliantly

    July 10, 2016 at 10:21 pm
  5. Debra

    Thanks for the advice. I planted a crepe myrtle last year and this year it did not bloom. Why?

    July 10, 2016 at 6:47 pm
  6. Lee@A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance

    Excellent advise on maintaining Crape Myrtles. I do not prune mine (except for water spouts) and fertilize them in the spring. They do require full sun, preferably six hours or more of exposure.

    July 10, 2016 at 11:13 am
  7. ArcadiaCam

    Fertilizing ours each spring causes a significant loss in blooms (they barely bloom at all) in favor of green growth. But we don’t have a choice because the fertilizer comes automatically in the Bayer “Feed & Protect” solution we HAVE to use every spring, in order to keep whatever it is away that causes both powdery mildew and black sooty mold. If we skip the Feed & Protect, our crepes sit all season covered in black mold, powdery mildew, and not only without blooms, but with stunted growth. My husband hates crepe myrtles because of all the issues we have with them.

    July 10, 2016 at 11:10 am
  8. Julie curtis

    Lisa that describes mine also………..in North Louisiana. First year with no blooms.

    July 6, 2016 at 12:54 pm
  9. Lisa

    My crêpe myrtle (country red) is approxameyly 1-1/2 yrs old and 10-12′ tall. My question is why hasn’t it bloomed yet? It’s in full sun and gets a little shade between 3:30 – 5:30 pm the summer months.

    July 6, 2016 at 12:27 pm

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