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The Progress-Index Weekend - - LIFESTYLES - By Bon­nie Balis Prince Ge­orge Mas­ter Gar­dener

Check out all the rea­sons why Crepe Myr­tles are so pop­u­lar

There’s a rea­son that Crepe Myr­tles are so pop­u­lar. They are fast grow­ing, col­or­ful and pro­vide year-round in­ter­est. The Crepe Myr­tle is a plant that is tol­er­ant of both heat and hu­mid­ity.

The flow­ers are long last­ing and come in a va­ri­ety of col­ors: pink, red, pur­ple and white. It comes in a va­ri­ety of heights too. The larger va­ri­ety reaches from 15-20 feet while the dwarf va­ri­ety is two to five feet in height. Flow­ers bloom on new growth. Ma­ture trunks will peel and color. The leaves of Crepe Myr­tle are de­cid­u­ous and when the leaves fall in au­tumn, the in­ter­est­ing tex­tures of the bark are re­vealed.

Crepe Myr­tles are at­trac­tive and low main­te­nance. When the plant is young, if the num­ber of tree trunks is kept to half-dozen strong, straight branches, prun­ing is a fairly easy af­fair each spring. The dwarf va­ri­ety is suit­able for large con­tain­ers. Prun­ing in early spring en­sures a lovely spray of blooms and helps to main­tain a healthy, well-struc­tured plant. Al­ways prune dead, dis­eased, or bro­ken limbs. Prune ex­cess branches from the in­te­rior of the plant to im­prove air cir­cu­la­tion. This will re­duce in­ci­dence of dis­eases such as pow­dery mildew. Cut just above the node that is point­ing in the di­rec­tion that you would like the plant to grow. Limbs that are less than a pen­cil in di­am­e­ter should be re­moved as well.

Crepe Myr­tles tend to send up sucker shoots around the base of the plant. Cuts these back as close to the ground as pos­si­ble. Try and keep the num­ber of main trunks to no more than seven. Choose the strong­est and straight­est of the main trunks to keep. This will re­duce the amount of prun­ing that will be needed as the plant ma­tures. Avoid shear­ing the plant off at three to four feet. This is not only unattrac­tive, but will pro­duce weak­ened branches that will not have as many flow­ers. Butcher­ing the plant in this way pre­vents the trunk from ma­tur­ing.

Each spring, place mulch around the plant to the drip line, un­der the outer most branches, and at least two inches from the trunk of the tree to a depth of about two inches. This re­duces weeds and helps with wa­ter re­ten­tion. Wa­ter if the plant has not re­ceived at least an inch of wa­ter in a week.

Crepe Myr­tles are easy to prop­a­gate by air lay­er­ing, seed, cut­tings or di­vi­sions of sucker shoots. Place seeds in a pa­per towel, moisten and insert in a plas­tic bag. Put the plas­tic bag in the re­frig­er­a­tor for two months. Re­move and place in a lighted area. Once the seeds have sprouted, trans­plant into pots. Wait un­til the night­time tem­per­a­ture ex­ceeds 52 de­grees be­fore plant­ing in the ground. Given the choices of color and height there is prob­a­bly a plant just per­fect for a sunny spot on your prop­erty.

Bon­nie Balis is a Vir­ginia Mas­ter Gar­dener with the Vir­ginia Co­op­er­a­tive Ex­ten­sion Prince Ge­orge County Of­fice. Vir­ginia Mas­ter Gar­den­ers are vol­un­teer ed­u­ca­tors who work within their com­mu­ni­ties to en­cour­age and pro­mote en­vi­ron­men­tally sound hor­ti­cul­ture prac­tices through sus­tain­able land­scape man­age­ment ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing. Vir­ginia Mas­ter Gar­den­ers bring the re­sources of Vir­ginia’s land-uni­ver­si­ties, Vir­ginia Tech and Vir­ginia State Uni­ver­sity to the peo­ple of the Com­mon­wealth.

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