Tree of the Month: Crepe Myrtles
If you live in the South and want to add a beautiful, meaningful tree to your garden, crepe myrtles are a great choice. The flowers, which have a crinkled appearance resembling crepe paper, have a rich history behind them. While their meaning differs slightly from culture to culture, myrtle flowers are typically associated with marriage, chastity, good luck and prosperity.
About Crepe Myrtles
The premier summer-flowering tree of the South, most crepe myrtle trees are either L. indica or hybrids of L. indica and L. fauriei, a variety native to Japan. Queen’s crepe myrtle, or L. speciosa, grows only in tropical climates. Different types range from dwarf varieties that grow to less than 3 feet tall to full-size trees that grow to 20 or 30 feet tall with wide, outward-arching branches.
In some areas, crepe myrtles line every street, and for good reason. Not many trees can match the beauty and uniqueness of crepe myrtles. Their attractive trunks have a smooth gray outer bark and glossy cinnamon brown bark underneath. Beautiful flower clusters in a variety of colors from red to purple to white bloom in early summer and often again in late summer. Many varieties also yield and impressive fall leaf display, meaning the tree actively enhances your yard’s appearance for many months of the year.
In the Upper South, occasional cold temperatures may freeze crepe myrtles to the ground, but they re-sprout on their own. If you live in an area prone to freezing, you should choose a cold-hardy variety.
Caring for Crepe Myrtle Trees
Thanks to heat, drought and humidity tolerance, crepe myrtles do well in most types of soil. Just make sure to plant your tree in a well drained area where it can receive plenty of sun. Also be aware of the tree’s mature height so you plant it in a place where it can flourish. Late fall to early spring is the best time of year to plant.
Before your transfer your crepe myrtle to the ground, water the root ball thoroughly. This helps it take up water more effectively once planted. Continue to water your crepe myrtle moderately all year round with a little extra water in the summer during the growing season.
To keep your crepe myrtle healthy, prune it back each winter or early spring. As your tree grows larger, remove twiggy growth, basal suckers, crossing branches and branches growing toward the center of the tree. Refrain from chopping the branches back to ugly stubs, as this ruins the tree’s natural form and encourages the growth of spindly branches. During the growing season, clip off spent blossoms to promote a second bloom.
Crepe Myrtle Diseases and Pests
Because of the South’s humid climate, mildew can be a problem. Spray your tree with triforine (brand name Funginex or Immunox) at the first sign of white, powdery fungus growth to prevent it from spreading. You can also plant mildew-resistant crepe myrtle hybrids.
As soon as the leaves unfurl, keep a look out for aphids. They leave sooty excretions behind that make the leaves appear black and unattractive. To prevent a bad infestation, control these pests with insecticides designed to target aphids, including malathion, diazinon or ultra-fine horticultural oil. Apply your chosen insecticide in the summer as soon you notice these pests appearing and repeat as necessary.
If you’re interested in planting a beautiful crepe myrtle tree on your property, or your existing tree is showing signs of mildew or other disease, please contact The Grounds Guys®. We can help you get the most from your landscaping this year.