Your college football team won its opening day game last weekend. A big earthquake hit Oklahoma, but you live in Georgia and didn’t feel a thing. So what’s not to love about this September? Then you walk outside a discover your beloved crepe myrtle is dropping all its leaves. Sacre bleu! Is the End of Days upon us?
Not yet. That won’t happen until the Presidential election. As for your poor crepe myrtle, it suffers from an affliction I’ve written about before called Cercospora leaf spot. It shows itself in late summer. Leaves prematurely turn bright orange and red and then drop. Pick one up and you’ll notice it’s covered with dark brown and blackish spots. What can you do about this fungus? Well, I have some good news and some bad news. First, the bad.
The Bad News. Back in the day when Grumpy was a wee lad, the primary disease affecting crepe myrtles was powdery mildew. Leaf spot was rare. So plant bred breeders bred a new race of crepe myrtles resistant to mildew, but not leaf spot. Those are the crepe myrtles people still plant today.
That wouldn’t be a big deal if only one person in the neighborhood had a crepe myrtle. But thanks to decades of yahoos like Grumpy (my bad) promoting it as the best all-around flowering tree for the South, today nearly every Southern yard boasts at least one. This situation set the stage for a plague of leaf spot. Because the first tree that gets it spreads it to the one next door and next door to that and next door to that…….well, you can see where this is going.
Cercospora leaf spot can be prevented by spraying crepe myrtles every couple of weeks starting in midsummer with a fungicide such as Natria Control or Daconil. But if your crepe myrtle is more than 20 feet tall, how are you going to reach the leaves at the top? Hang from a helicopter? Use a drone?
The Good News. In the garden, leaf spot’s toll is merely cosmetic. It will not kill your crepe myrtle. It will not affect its blooming next year. The leaves that fall were going to drop in a month or so anyway. The only consequence for you is if they fall on a porch, deck, walk, or patio below, forcing you to blow or sweep them off every couple of days to keep from tracking them into the house.
So step back from the ledge. Loosen that knot. Stop hoarding cans of spaghetti and meatballs. Life will go on. At least until the election.