When trim crepe myrtle

best time to plant Crepe myrtle trees and reseed my lawn

Early spring is a good time to plant crapemyrtles.
There are many kinds, from small 3-4 foot shrubby plants to those in the 10-15 foot range and those 25 to 30 feet tall. No matter what, you should plan for their mature height and spread. When well sited in an appropriate spot, they hardly need any pruning at all. (this is a surprise to many people)
All need full sun to do bloom well, and you will need to keep them watered for the first 18 months until established. A 2-3 inch layer of mulch is helpful.
Here is a page from the U.S. National Arboretum, where there have been many fine introductions of new varieties: http://www.usna.usda.gov/PhotoGallery/CrapemyrtleGallery/
The best time to reseed your lawn is actually in late summer into the fall. The second best time is now, but there is a LOT of weed seed competition in the spring. Once a seeded area is moistened, it MUST stay damp to germinate properly. Chances for that, if you don’t want to water, is probably in the spring. Given the cost of good seed, it’s worth keeping it watered and preparing the site well before hand.
Here is our lawn page; take a look at the link to HG102 for all the specifics: http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/plants/lawns
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Crape Myrtle Guide

Planning

Start by selecting a spot that will allow plenty of space for the mature plant. The common crape myrtle can reach a height of 15–25′ and a spread of 6–15′ at maturity. With ideal planting conditions this shrub grows at a fast rate, with height increases of more than 24″ per year. Full sun is the ideal condition for this shrub, meaning it should get at least 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day. Crape myrtle grows in a wide range of soils from slightly alkaline to acidic. It prefers moist, well-drained sites but has some drought tolerance.

Planting

Now dig a hole about three times the size of your pot and the same depth as the root ball. Set the soil you have dug out aside and mix it with compost. Remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen the root ball. Place the plant in the planting hole and replace the soil with the mix and gently pack down the dirt. To avoid planting to deep make sure the plant is at a position with the top most roots at the soil line.

After planting, water thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots. If desired, construct a water basin at the base of the tree about 36 inches in diameter.

Mulch in the spring & fall. The mulch should be about 4-6 inches deep (acid mulch, pine bark or oak leaves). Keep mulch a few inches away from the trunk of the tree. Do not mulch with mushroom compost.

Fertilization

The crape myrtle prefers well-draining clay, loam, or sandy soils. The pH level of the soil should be 5.5 to 7.5. Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer in the spring as soon as the leaves appear and again in two months.

A complete general-purpose garden fertilizer — such as 8-8-8, 10-10-10, 12-4-8 or 16-4-8 — is ideal for crape myrtle. To newly planted small plants (1-gallon size), apply 1 teaspoon of fertilizer monthly from March to August along the perimeter of the planting hole. Larger, established plants will benefit from one broadcast application of fertilizer in spring. Apply 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 at a rate of 1 lb. per 100 sq. ft. or 12-4-8 or 16-4-8 at a rate of ½ lb. per 100 sq. ft. Avoid over-fertilization because it causes excess growth and reduced flowering. The best time to fertilize is just before a rain. Otherwise, water in the fertilizer after application with irrigation. It is not necessary to remove mulch when fertilizing.

Water

The first year is a critical time for your new crape myrtle. It has not had time to establish itself yet and therefore is not as strong as an older shrub. To prevent the plant from dying, it must be watered once a week. Be sure to soak the entire root system deeply, this will take about 45-60 minutes.

For best growth and production, crape myrtle should receive at least one inch of water a week. During dry spells, water is mandatory. If not properly watered during dry spells, flowers may be mitigated. Keep at least 4 feet around the shrub clear of grass and weeds, for less competition for water.

Once your tree reaches maturity, it will be naturally drought-resistant.

Pruning

Crape myrtle flowers on new growth of the season, so if you choose to prune, do so in the dormant season, i.e. later winter to early spring before growth resumes. Avoid pruning in early fall before the first frost, because pruning forces new growth and keeps the plant from going dormant. Severe freezes can kill the plant if it is not fully dormant.

It is a common misconception that crape myrtles require pruning in order to flower. This is not only false but has also resulted in virtually millions of plants being pruned very aggressively, a practice commonly referred to as “crape murder.” The most natural and beautiful crape myrtle trees result from limited or no pruning. In addition, aggressive pruning leads to increased suckering (shoots arising from below-ground roots) which is not only undesirable but it could result in powdery mildew spreading from the suckers to the canopy of the tree. Aphids are also attracted to the succulent growth which results from aggressive pruning.

It is far better to plant dwarf, or semi-dwarf varieties which grow to desired mature heights than to continue fighting with a more vigorous, larger cultivars planted in a too-small space.

If you choose to prune however, follow the simple steps: First, remove suckers from the base of the plant. Second, as the tree grows, remove lower branches form the bottom third of the tree to expose the trunk character. Last, remove crowded or crossing branches from the canopy.

The seedheads are an attractive feature and should be left on the tree. As the new growth pushed in the spring, the seedheads fall off. Some folks find that objectionable; if desired the seedheads can be removed by heading back to above where a leaf joins the stem, or if no leaves are present, just above a lateral bud. On some cultivars, pruning to remove spent flower blossoms after they fade will stimulate new growth and another blossom flush in late summer. A second bloom is sometimes difficult to force on cultivars that bloom after mid-July.

Crape myrtles in tree form make wonderful accent plants or specimen trees. Many cultivars develop attractive trunks with exfoliating bark that add interest to the winter garden. To develop a tree shape, select three to five radially-spaced branches slightly leaning to the outside, these will become the main trunks. spaced shoots growing from ground level as the main trunks. Then remove side branches from these shoots about halfway up their height. As the plant grows taller, more lower branches can be removed each year so the canopy begins 3 to 4 feet above ground level. You may also need to remove suckers (new young succulent spouts that grow from the base) periodically in order to maintain the desired tree shape. Some landscapers apply a synthetic plant growth regulator, called NAA (naphthalene acetic acid), to suckers after pruning to prevent them from re-sprouting.

Insect & Disease Control

Several diseases occur on crape myrtle including powdery mildew, Cercospora leaf spot, root rot and sooty mold. Powdery mildew is the most widespread and serious disease. Powdery mildew typically develops in late spring and fall and is associated with warm day and cool night temperatures and high humidity. Leaves, young shoots and flowers are heavily coated with a powdery, white mold that can distort new growth. Infected flower buds may not open, and severely infected leaves and buds often drop early.

The other most damaging disease is a leaf spot caused by the fungus Cercospora lythracearum. Spots develop in mid-summer through fall during wet, humid weather. Large, dark brown spots develop on lower leaves and progress upward through the plant. Infected leaves turn yellow around the spots and drop prematurely. Sometimes even one spot will cause a leaf to drop on susceptible cultivars and can cause significant defoliation prior to frost.

Powdery mildew and Cercospora leaf spot can be controlled by applying fungicides when the diseases are first noticed. The best approach to prevent diseases is to plant disease resistant crape myrtle cultivars. A number of new crape myrtle cultivars from the U.S. National Arboretum and other nurserymen are resistant to powdery mildew and Cercospora leaf spot. They are ideal for gardeners wanting low-maintenance landscapes.

Sooty mold is an unsightly superficial, dark brown or black coating on leaves and stems that can be removed by rubbing. It is the result of a fungus growing on honeydew excretions made by insects such as aphids, which are the most serious insect pest on crape myrtle. Sooty mold usually causes little direct damage, but it can cut vigor by reducing photosynthesis in the leaves. Using crape myrtle aphid-resistant cultivars and insecticide sprays can reduce sooty mold.

Root rots can be prevented by growing plants in well-drained soil.

Color Chart and Variety Information for Crape Myrtles can be found here.

Best Crepe Myrtle Pruning Time: When To Prune Crepe Myrtle

Though pruning a crepe myrtle tree is not necessary to the health of the plant, many people do like to prune crepe myrtle trees in order to neaten the look of the tree or to encourage new growth. After these people have decided to prune the crepe myrtle trees in their yard, their next question is normally, “When to prune crepe myrtle trees?”

This question on crepe myrtle pruning time has a different answer depending on why you wish to prune a crepe myrtle tree. Most likely you are either pruning for general maintenance or to try to coax a second bloom out of the tree in one year.

Crepe Myrtle Pruning Time for General Maintenance

If you are just looking to perform general maintenance on your tree, the ideal crepe myrtle pruning time is either in the late winter or early spring when the tree is in its dormancy. This is the best time to prune if you are reshaping the tree, removing deep or weak branches, trying to encourage new growth or size maintenance.

Crepe Myrtle Pruning Time for Second Bloom

Like many plants, a crepe myrtle tree can be encouraged to put forth a second round of blossoms through a practice called deadheading. When to prune the crepe myrtle tree in this case is shortly after the tree’s first round of blossoms have faded. Prune the blossoms off.

This practice should not be done too late in the year, as it may cause the tree to delay going into dormancy which in turn could kill it over the winter. It is not advisable to try this after the beginning of August. If the first round of blossoms is not finished by the beginning of August, you would probably not be able to get a second round of blooms before the winter comes anyway.

When to prune crepe myrtle is something that every crepe myrtle owner should know if they plan on taking the time to prune a crepe myrtle tree. Choosing the appropriate crepe myrtle pruning time will ensure that the tree stays healthy and beautiful for many years to come.

How to Prune Crape Myrtles

Prune crape myrtles now for floral abundance this summer.

January 3, 2018

Saige Roberts

Whether you spell it “crepe myrtle” or “crape myrtle,” Lagerstroemia indica is a classic southern small tree or shrub that is a popular substitute for northern lilacs here in the Deep South. It’s often the victim of “crape murder,” a severe topping of the tree that is supposed to increase blooming, but does real damage to the overall health of the tree. It’s important to prune your crape myrtle correctly, in February, while it is dormant.

  1. Remove suckers from the bottom of the plant. Remove any damaged and diseased branches. Remove branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other, trimming the weaker of the two limbs.
  2. Thin out small twiggy growth, particularly small branches that are growing back into the plant, to allow air to better circulate.
  3. The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences recommends pruning the tips of branches to remove old flowers that remain from last summer’s bloom. If old blooms are removed, a second blooming may occur.
  4. If your crape myrtle was the victim of “crape murder,” you have two options. First one: Pick the two or three strongest sprouts from each stub and remove the rest, nurturing the survivors for the next couple of seasons and removing other sprouts as they emerge. Or, while the tree is dormant, cut it back to within one to two inches of the ground. Two or three weeks later, select three to five of the most vigorous new shoots on each trunk and remove all others. Remove any new shoots that emerge later. Within three to five years, you will again have a natural-looking crape myrtle.

January 3, 2018 Categories: Gardening

Crape Myrtle Tree

Lagerstroemia spp.

The crape myrtle tree gives a classic sign that summer is here as the tree bursts into bloom with huge, colorful flowers.

The large, drooping flower clusters in gorgeous colors are reminiscent of lilacs (which, sadly, won’t grow here). Blooms are followed by heavy seed pods that cause the branches to weep.

Though its branches are bare from January into April, this highly-prized ornamental tree is worth the wait for its fabulous show of summer color.

The silhouette and sometimes patterned or colored bark won’t put too much of a damper on your winter landscape since most other plants in your yard will still be green.

Available in single or multiple trunk specimens, some crapes are more shrubby than others and sizes can vary greatly – from 6 feet to 25 feet tall.

So base your buying decision not just on flower color but also on the ultimate size of the plant.

Queen crape myrtle is the largest of them all.

Its blooms are lilac-purple and the plant is more tropical (hardy to Zone 10A).

A big plus is that it’s only semi-deciduous (loses its leaves for a shorter amount of time as it sheds old ones before new ones form).

Read more about it here.

Flower colors on these plants range from white to reds and pinks of all shades, and even purple.

A newer cultivar “Dynamite” crape myrtle (shown in the large photo above) is the reddest of the red and becoming very popular.

Dynamite is not a smaller crape, but a slower grower and one you can keep about 6 feet tall.

It’s a good idea to buy when the plants are in bloom to be sure the color is the one you want.

Crape myrtles are considered deer-resistant plants (though nothing is deer-proof).

Plant specs

These are fast-growing plants that need a sunny, well-drained area to thrive.

Crape myrtles are cold hardy – anywhere throughout Zone 9 or 10 is fine – but they are deciduous, with some varieties putting on a show of fall color before losing their leaves.

Flowers begin to appear in late spring to early summer, depending on variety.

(To keep the plant blooming all summer, see Plant Care tips below.)

After the flower begins to die, heavy clusters of seed pods form, causing each branch to droop and the plant to have a weeping appearance. The pods remain on the plant even after it loses its leaves.

Plant care

Add top soil or organic peat humus to the hole when you plant – ideally combining one of those with composted cow manure.

Watering regularly – especially if you plant a crape myrtle tree in summer when it’s in bloom – is essential.

Trim back after the first bloom to deadhead and you’ll get a second bloom. Keep deadheading (if you can reach the flowers, that is) for further flowering. Cut several inches past the seed pod that’s forming.

You can prune a crape myrtle tree in spring – late March at the earliest – but don’t get carried away…too heavy a pruning (often called “crape murder”) results in weakened new shoots and ugly dead ends on branches.

This is another key reason to buy a variety with an ultimate height you can live with.
Seed pods can unleash a multitude of seeds, causing new shoots to spring up around your crape myrtle. If you can’t reach the pods to remove them, try to keep the area around the base cleaned up so you don’t end up with a thicket of myrtles.

Cut off sucker shoots that grow out from the base of the plant.

Fertilize in spring summer and fall with a good granular fertilizer, adding a liquid supplement after trimming off the first bloom to promote a second one.

Plant spacing

How far from the house to plant depends on the variety of crape myrtle tree you choose.

Small ones can go as close as 3 to 4 feet.

Larger crape myrtles need to be placed 10 feet or more away.

If you plant a row of myrtles, place them about 4 to 6 feet or more apart (again, depending on variety).

These plants are way too big for container growing.

Landscape uses for the crape myrtle tree

  • Single specimen for the yard
  • lining the property border
  • along a drive or walk

GOOD SNOWBIRD PLANT? NO

COMPANION PLANT SUGGESTIONS: Surround the base with low growers such as liriope, Indian hawthorne, Japanese boxwood, and flowering perennials like white buttercup or Mexican heather.

Other small flowering trees you might like: Cassia Trees (especially Cassia fistula), Bougainvillea Tree

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