Many call the crape myrtle one of the most versatile plants in the Texas landscape.
Why? It flowers all summer, comes in a variety of sizes and colors, has beautiful bark, is drought tolerant once well established, is disease resistant, grows well in alkaline or acidic soil as long as it’s well-drained, and is relatively fast growing with a long life span. The leaves even offer great fall color. What’s not to like?
Of course, the biggest value the crape myrtle brings is its blooms. The showy flowers come in dense clusters of crinkled, crepe paper-like flowers in shades of red, white, pink or lavender. The plant can vary in size from dwarf to large shrubs to trees and lives happiest in hot summer climates.
In spring, you might be impatient for your crape myrtles to bloom and showcase their prize blossoms. Let’s learn more about these favorites on your Texas commercial properties.
- When Do Crape Myrtles Bloom in Texas?
- What Kind of Care Should My Crape Myrtles Receive During the Winter/Early Spring?
- Crape Myrtles in the Fall and Winter
- The Pride of Texas
- Fixing A Crepe Myrtle That Is Not Blooming
- Reasons for No Flowers on Crepe Myrtle
- Here’s why crape myrtles may not bloom
- Why crape myrtles aren’t flowering well in Louisiana
- Crape Myrtle
- Mad about crape myrtle
- Pruning Crepe Myrtles
When Do Crape Myrtles Bloom in Texas?
The bloom times of crape myrtles vary, depending on a number of factors.
Some crape myrtles come into bloom with large clusters of flowers appearing on the tips of new branches in May, while other varieties wait until July or later.
Blooms continue into fall. After flowers fade and fall from the tree, the fruit can be cut from the plant to stimulate more blooms in 30 to 45 days.
Often property managers wonder why nearby crape myrtles will bloom before their own.
Crape myrtles love sun, so the amount of flowers they produce will be greatly reduced in light shade. Full shade can even prevent blooming altogether. So the location of your crape myrtles can make a big difference as to when they flower.
Another reason blooms may be late or nonexistent is because of improper pruning and care.
What Kind of Care Should My Crape Myrtles Receive During the Winter/Early Spring?
Despite what some people may believe or what you see some people do to their plants, crape myrtles don’t require heavy pruning to promote flower production.
While crape myrtles will produce flowers without any pruning, they will produce larger flowers and bloom more abundantly if lightly and properly pruned. By pruning your crape myrtles in late winter or early spring before growth starts, we can stimulate vigorous new growth when spring actually arrives.
Late winter is the best time to prune your crape myrtles because without leaves we can more easily see the plant’s branch structure and recognize which ones need removed. Fall pruning, especially in warm climates, can result in a quick growth response that prevents dormancy and makes winter freezes potentially terminal.
People who overprune their crape myrtles will usually cause them to bloom later (as much as four to eight weeks later) than they would if they were not pruned.
Also, the application of a high phosphorous, slow-release fertilizer in early spring can help promote healthy growth, insect and disease resistance, as well as more colorful and abundant blooms.
Crape Myrtles in the Fall and Winter
While crape myrtles are most valued for their summertime blooms, they have other attributes that make them desirable all year long.
In the fall, foliage turns into shades from delicate yellows to intense reds.
The attractive, exfoliating bark of crape myrtles peels away to expose a trunk which ranges in color from many handsome shades of brown to gray. This bark is especially noticeable in the winter months when the tree is leafless.
The Pride of Texas
Since the crape myrtle is the official state shrub of Texas, it’s no denying that it’s a favorite among people here and a commercial landscape enhancement we are asked about often.
If you need help tending to your crape myrtles or choosing the right crape myrtles to plant on your Texas commercial properties, contact Native Land Design for a free onsite consultation at 512-918-2270 or fill out our contact form online today.
Fixing A Crepe Myrtle That Is Not Blooming
You can go to a local nursery and purchase a crepe myrtle tree with plenty of blooms and plant it only to find that it is living, but doesn’t have many blooms on it. Do you know what the problem is? Read on to learn about crepe myrtle not blooming.
Reasons for No Flowers on Crepe Myrtle
Nothing is more beautiful than the flowers on a crepe myrtle. However, a crepe myrtle not blooming can be frustrating. Here are some reasons why this happens and tips for getting crepe myrtle trees to bloom.
Pruning too late
If there are no flowers on crepe myrtle, it could be that the tree was pruned late in the season, causing the new wood to be mistakenly removed, which causes the buds for the flowers to never really develop. Never prune a crepe myrtle before it blooms.
That being said, when do crepe myrtles bloom? Crepe myrtle bloom time is just after the other flowering trees. They are usually the last of the flowering trees and shrubs to bloom.
Crepe myrtle not blooming due to crowded branches
If you have an older crepe myrtle that doesn’t bloom the way you think it should, wait until after crepe myrtle bloom time and encourage the crepe myrtle bloom by pruning it carefully.
If you trim away any of the dead branches that are inside the tree, this allows more sunshine and air to reach the tree. Further, don’t just hack away at the tree. Make sure to enhance the look of the tree carefully.
Crepe myrtle not blooming due to lack of sun
Another reason there will be no flowers on crepe myrtle is that the tree is planted where it doesn’t get enough sunshine. The crepe myrtle requires significant sunshine in order to bloom.
If you have a crepe myrtle not blooming, it may be planted in a bad place that lacks sunshine. Take a look around and see if something isn’t blocking the sun from the tree.
Crepe myrtle not blooming due to fertilizer
If the tree is getting plenty of sunshine and isn’t an old tree in need of pruning, it could be the soil. In this case, if you want to make crepe myrtle bloom, you might want to check the soil and see if it might not have enough phosphorus or too much nitrogen. Both of these situations can cause there to be no flowers on crepe myrtle.
Heavily fertilized garden beds and lawns may have too much nitrogen which promotes healthy leaves but fails to make crepe myrtle bloom. You might want to add a little bone meal around the tree which adds phosphorus over time to the soil.
So when you ask yourself, “How can I make crepe myrtle bloom,” you should know that checking all of the things mentioned and taking care of any issues will make your crepe myrtle bloom time better than you ever anticipated.
Here’s why crape myrtles may not bloom
News Release Distributed 06/14/12
By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings
What’s the most popular summer-blooming tree in Louisiana? Crape myrtles. Pretty easy question. Louisianians plant many crape myrtles in their landscapes every year. The lovely, long-lasting blooms make them attractive.
Most years, crape myrtles start blooming between mid-May and early June. Flowering continues for 90-120 days depending on the variety.
You may sometimes see crape myrtles not blooming well. “Why?” you might ask. Here are some factors to consider:
– New growth. How much new growth did your crape myrtles have this spring? Crape myrtles need to have new growth each spring in order to produce summer flowers. These flowers come on current-season growth, so late winter/early spring fertilization can aid crape myrtle flowering in the summer. It is not too late to fertilize this year if you haven’t yet.
– Shade. Crape myrtles require eight hours of direct sun daily to bloom well. Crape myrtles planted in areas that receive less than six hours of direct sun do not get enough sunlight for adequate bloom development.
– Variety. Some varieties don’t flower as vigorously as others. Hybrid crape myrtles usually flower first. Natchez, Tuscarora, Basham’s Party Pink and Muskogee are the easiest-flowering varieties. The semi-dwarf varieties such as Tonto, Acoma and Sioux follow a week or two later.
– Insects. Heavy infestations of aphids decrease flowering. This is the most common insect problem on crape myrtles. Ever feel like you’re being “rained” on under the canopy of a crape myrtle? That “rain” is actually bodily fluid being excreted from aphids. White flies and other insect also can cause problems for crape myrtles.
– Improper pruning. Drastic pruning or pruning after new spring growth can delay summer flowering. Drastic pruning, in fact, may promote excessive growth and less flowering. Sometimes the “crape murder” method of pruning can initiate too much growth at the expense of flowering.
– Too much fertilizer. Excessive fertilization, especially high amounts of nitrogen, in conjunction with other factors, primarily improper pruning, can eliminate or delay flowering.
– Leaf spot. Foliar diseases decrease plant vigor and flowering, especially in the absence of new growth in spring. The main cause of leaf spot in crape myrtles is the fungus Cercospora, and it’s bad this year. Long term, this disease is not detrimental to the plant. Using fungicides for control has not been very effective because they would have to be applied repeatedly throughout the growing season, and getting adequate coverage on larger trees is difficult.
– Wet soil. Crape myrtles need well-drained areas to grow well. Lichens growing on bark is common on crape myrtles growing in shady areas accompanied by poorly drained soils and low levels of native soil fertility.
So, that’s the list. Consider these reasons if your crape myrtles are not performing to their potential. Hopefully, your crape myrtles will bloom and bloom some more for you this summer.
Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
Why crape myrtles aren’t flowering well in Louisiana
HAMMOND – What’s the most popular summer-blooming tree in Louisiana? Crape myrtles. Pretty easy question. Louisianians plant many crape myrtles in their landscapes every year. The lovely, long-lasting blooms make them attractive.
Most years, crape myrtles start blooming between mid-May and early June. Flowering continues for 90-120 days depending on the variety. Horticultural practices play the most significant role in how much a crape myrtle blooms. Weather conditions also play a role, too.
Here are some factors to consider if your crape myrtle trees did not bloom well this year:
• New growth. How much new growth did your crape myrtles have this spring? Crape myrtles need to have new growth each spring in order to produce summer flowers. These flowers come on current-season growth, so late winter/early spring fertilization can aid crape myrtle flowering in the summer. It is too late to fertilize trees now. Wait until next year.
• Shade. Crape myrtles require eight hours of direct sun daily to bloom well. Crape myrtles planted in areas that receive less than six hours of direct sun do not get enough sunlight for adequate bloom development. Many times you will see a crape myrtle that appears to be “leaning toward the sun.” This indicates inadequate sunlight for proper plant growth.
• Variety. Some varieties don’t flower as vigorously as others. Hybrid crape myrtles usually flower first. Natchez, Tuscarora, Basham’s Party Pink and Muskogee are the easiest-flowering varieties. The semi-dwarf varieties such as Tonto, Acoma and Sioux follow a week or two later. Burgundy and black-foliage varieties start blooming a little later than green-foliaged varieties.
• Insects. Heavy infestations of aphids decrease flowering. This is the most common insect problem on crape myrtles. Ever feel like you’re being “rained” on under the canopy of a crape myrtle? That “rain” is actually bodily fluid being excreted from aphids. White flies and other insect also can cause problems for crape myrtles.
• Improper pruning. Drastic pruning or pruning after new spring growth can delay summer flowering. Drastic pruning, in fact, may promote excessive growth and less flowering. Sometimes the “crape murder” method of pruning can initiate too much growth at the expense of flowering.
• Too much fertilizer. Excessive fertilization, especially high amounts of nitrogen, in conjunction with other factors, primarily improper pruning, can eliminate or delay flowering.
• Leaf spot. Foliar diseases decrease plant vigor and flowering, especially in the absence of new spring growth. The main cause of leaf spot in crape myrtles is the fungus Cercospora. Long term, this disease is not detrimental to the plant. Using fungicides for control has not been very effective because they would have to be applied repeatedly throughout the growing season, and getting adequate coverage on larger trees is difficult.
• Wet soil. Crape myrtles need well-drained areas to grow well. Lichens growing on bark is common on crape myrtles growing in shady areas accompanied by poorly drained soils and low levels of native soil fertility.
In terms of weather, cool springs can slow crape myrtle foliage growth, and this will result in later flowering. Also, hot summers usually yield more flower production than summers that have normal to slightly below-normal temperatures. Average to above-average rainfall lessens the amount of time that flowers look good. Dry weather favors improved flowering.
So, that’s the list. Consider these reasons if your crape myrtles are not performing to their potential. Hopefully, your crape myrtles will bloom and bloom some more for you this summer.
You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website at www.lsuagcenter.com/hammond. Also, like us on Facebook by going to www.facebook.com and typing Hammond Research Station in the search box. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.
Seasoned southern gardeners know that – while there are few hard-and-fast rules – you must have certain plants. Wilmington is home to the North Carolina Azalea Festival, so evergreen azaleas are a requirement. If you fail to do so the azalea police will eventually catch you. Camellias are the same even if the enforcement might be slightly less stringent. Buck this trend and you will be informed that Interstate 40 does have west-bound lanes that lead to the north-bound lanes of Interstate 95.
When the temperatures tickle the triple digits, it’s the time for another southern garden must-have to take center stage – crape myrtle. This summer superstar sports showy blooms in shades of pink, white, purple, lavender and red. Handle it right and you can have 3 months of color with minimal challenges beginning in late May and continuing through September.
Choosing the Perfect Crape Myrtle
Crape myrtles come in a wide array of sizes ranging from dwarfs that remain at three feet to towering trees reaching 45 feet. The smart move is to choose a variety that is just the right size for its particular garden location. Unfortunately, this point is over ignored and large growers such as ‘Natchez’, ‘Fantasy’, ‘High Cotton’ (white flowers) and ‘Muskogee’ and ‘Biloxi’ (pink flowers) that ultimately grow to at least 30 feet are planted where a 15-foot plant is needed. This poor choice results in horrific pruning practices that are often called “crape murder”.
Check with your favorite garden retailer about varieties they recommend.
Growing Crape Myrtle
Crape myrtles aren’t particularly fussy. Average soil that is well-drained but not terribly drought-prone and plenty of sun are all that’s required. Soil pH’s between 5.5 and 7.0 are acceptable but iron deficiencies will show up as you flirt with 7.0 and above.
While most crape myrtles are grown with 3 to 7 stems, you can find what nursery growers call a “standard”. That just means it has one main trunk. If you’re planting along a walkway or in a relatively formal garden like the Tribute Garden at the New Hanover County Arboretum where you need clearance for people to walk, the single-stem form makes sense. But, the picture of a crape myrtle in most people’s minds is multi-stemmed.
Plants, like children, should be trained when they are young and relatively easy to work with. That means setting the basic form and removing crossing limbs, suckers and basal sprouts.
But, the aforementioned “crape murder” is always a bad idea. Many people believe the plants bloom more after heavy pruning, but research proves that to be false. The result is weakly attached limbs that shear in a wind storm and plants that lose their natural beauty and form. Crape myrtles will tolerate it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.
Crape myrtle selections that bloom earlier in the season (June through early July) are easy to coax into a second bloom. As the flowers fade and form seeds, remove the clusters of seed pods and add a bit of nitrogen to support new growth. If the days are long enough and it’s still hot, you will be rewarded with lots of late-season color.
Problems with Crape Myrtle
Crape myrtle aphid, a light-green critter that clusters on the undersides of the leaves and drinks the sugary sap, is the most common insect pest. Leaves covered in shiny and sticky honeydew let you know the aphids are around. Left unchecked sooty mold will grow on the honeydew prompting the oft-asked question, “Why have my crape myrtles turned black?”
Check the undersides of the leaves as you walk through the garden for the aphids. And, learn to recognize the larvae and adults of lady beetles that are busy eating aphids and aphid eggs. This battle plays out on the ‘Osage’ (light pink flowers) in my garden each year. Sometimes the aphids finally win and I have to spray, but let them help you as long as you can. For those trying to avoid traditional pesticides, insecticidal soap works reasonably well if you cover the aphids with the spray solution. Traditional insecticides such as bifenthrin and acephate control the pesky critters but will remove the lady beetles in the process.
Powdery mildew, a fungal disease, distorts the new growth during cool weather in the spring. The best solution is to plant varieties with resistance including the many named for Native American tribes.
Cercospora leaf spot, another fungal disease, can cause leaf drop during warm, wet weather. It usually doesn’t warrant treatment with fungicides.
Clemson’s Cooperative Extension Service has an excellent publication at that discusses these problems in more detail.
For answers to your gardening questions visit http://ces.ncsu.edu, where you can post your questions via the ‘Ask an Expert’ link, or contact your local Cooperative Extension center Pender County l 259-1238; New Hanover County l 798-7660; Brunswick County 253-2610.
Al Hight, NHC Extension Director
Mad about crape myrtle
These summer bloomers are staple for Southern gardeners
The crape myrtle could arguably be called Wilmington’s “azalea of summer.”
You also might notice them during the winter when you can see their colorful shedding bark. You certainly don’t give them a second look during the spring, early summer or late fall when they’re not blooming.
Then, all of a sudden it seems, you see crape myrtles everywhere – just as you see azaleas that have been hiding in plain sight blooming all over the place in the spring. That small green tree biding its time there in the corner is actually a powerhouse of color waiting to explode.
Spring and fall are the most spectacular bloom times for our gardens.
The overall impression of a summer garden in the South is “green.” Everything is lush and overgrown. Fall flowers are weeks away from bloom, and while the jungle effect can be soothing, it can also be boring.
That’s where crape myrtles come in. Because they’re everywhere, they can fall into the classification of “uninteresting plant that everyone has.” Sometimes, though, you just want a little pop to break the monotony. Along with rose of Sharon and hardy hibiscus, crape myrtles are your go-to plants of summer.
A common reason cited by people who dislike crape myrtles is that they’re “ugly.” Generally, someone who thinks crape myrtles are ugly hasn’t seen a beautiful specimen that’s been well-pruned. They’ve only seen crape myrtles that have been “murdered” or hacked back to the same place every year. This technique, called “pollarding,” results in branch ends that look like clenched fists.
Summer growth from pollarded trees looks more like wild chicken feathers from an exotic breed than graceful tree branches. Street trees in Europe are often pollarded to maintain shape and formality, but the technique isn’t a good match for crape myrtles.
It’s too bad that more people don’t engage in artistic pruning of these trees because their beautiful vase- or umbrella-shaped tree canopy and shedding bark makes them, if properly cared for, beautiful winter specimens in the garden.
To avoid “crape murder” prune crape myrtles in January or February and remove only branches or twigs that are smaller in diameter than a pencil or your pinky finger. Tom Ericson, co-owner of The Transplanted Garden in Wilmington, also recommends deadheading and cleaning up crape myrtles after their first bloom in mid to late summer.
“You can encourage the plant to bloom more in the fall and keep the plant from growing too wide with a light summer pruning in addition to the winter pruning,” Ericson said.
Most people don’t realize, because they cut back their crape myrtles so severely, that these trees can grow as wide as they are tall.
Right plant, right place
While there are many new varieties of crape myrtles hitting the market, including smaller, 3- to 4-foot dwarf varieties, Ericson prefers time-tested, larger varieties such as Tonto, Natchez, Zuni, Pink Velour and Dynamite. If you want to enjoy the natural shape of your crape myrtle, you need to pick the right plant for the right place.
“Crape myrtles growing in shade stop blooming and start to decline,” Ericson said.
If you’ve noticed the tall, beautiful crape myrtles with white blooms while driving around town, you’ve seen the Natchez variety in all its glory. These are just finishing their first bloom cycle. Natchez crape myrtles can grow up to 30 feet tall, which makes it a small to medium-sized tree. If you want a graceful arch of white flowers from summer into fall, this is your plant. Put it where it has room to grow so you get the full effect of its majestic shape.
Acoma is another white variety that is shorter than Natchez. It only grows to a height of 11 to 15 feet.
Another reason to sit on the crape myrtle fence is the bloom color. Pastel pink and purple flowers become washed out by harsh summer sun in the South. Luckily, there are other choices. Tonto is a mildew-resistant, small- to medium-sized tree that grows to 10 to 12 feet tall, and wide, at maturity.
“It’s my favorite,” Ericson said. “The flowers are an almost raspberry-red color.”
Purple Magic is a dwarf variety (8 to 12 feet) with deep purple flowers. Both are sure to satisfy your need for high-volume pops of color during the summer.
Crape myrtle care
The first step of crape myrtle care is buying a mildew-resistant variety, so read the tag while shopping. Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that strikes during humid, dry weather, covering the leaves with a grayish coat. All of the varieties mentioned in this article are mildew-resistant.
Ericson recommends fertilizing crape myrtles with a slow-release fertilizer once a month.
“The labels say the fertilizer lasts for three to six months, but that’s at 70 degrees,” he said. “Fertilizers break down more quickly here in the South.”
In the winter, fertilize with triple phosphate to encourage profuse summer blooming. Because crape myrtles bloom on “new wood,” or this year’s growth, you can prune them after the first bloom to encourage new growth and a second round of flowers in the fall.
“Many crape myrtles will bloom into October,” Ericson said.
Most crape myrtles are grown as multi-stemmed trees, although they can be pruned to grow as single stems. Once the main one to five stems per plant have been established, remove the suckers that appear at the bottoms of the trees by clipping them off at the ground level.
“Never use weed killer on crape myrtle suckers,” Ericson said. “You’ll kill the tree.”
Pruning Crepe Myrtles
About The Crepe Myrtle
You have undoubtedly seen them lining the streets and enhancing the landscape of many southern neighborhoods. But their attractive flowing flowers are not their only appeal.
The crepe myrtle, or Lythraceae is native to southeastern United States, which is likely why it thrives here. In addition to their hardiness throughout the hot summer, crepe myrtles are also popular among homeowners for their attractive summer blooms, complimented by the pleasing texture of their crepe-like bark. They are also typically deer resistant, which makes choosing where to place them on your property an easier decision.
To maximize the potential of your crepe myrtles, plant them in an area of your yard that receives full sun and ensure that they receive moderate water. Do this, and they are sure to perform for you spring through fall.
So what is the best way to care for these beloved ornamental trees? There seem to be an infinite number of theories out there. Here at Canopy, we follow the general philosophy that crepe myrtles are best maintained by pruning during the winter season, or very early spring.
How To Properly Prune Crepe Myrtles
Crepe myrtles bloom through new wood, so it is important to to keep them properly pruned. The amount of pruning you do, ultimately depends on the size that your tree or shrub currently is and the size you would like it to be in the future. As a general rule of thumb, pruning in the winter during dormancy helps maintain the size of ornamental trees and shrubs. When you prune during the spring, plants will regenerate and grow larger.
When pruning crepe myrtles, we remove the basal suckers, along with all twiggy growth. We then thoughtfully remove the side branches, leaving space for new growth to come through in the spring.
Do you have questions about pruning or need a professional that can keep your crepe myrtles and the rest of your landscape looking great? Contact Canopy Lawn Care today!