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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.