The amazing crape myrtle
If you follow sports, a player no matter the sport can become more valuable if they can play multiple positions. Those players have the ability and characteristics of helping the team win in multiple fashions. With college football bowl season in full swing, think about the players that are the keys to a victory.
Many times, the players have versatile abilities that help the team success. In theory, the same can be said of a crape myrtle. This popular landscape item brings a lot to the table as a proven ornamental flowering shrub/tree that can keep your property looking great while being very problem free.
My daughters have played basketball over the years. Winter time is high school basketball and then we would move to travel basketball which can find us in many states in the spring and summer. Lindsay now plays college basketball. There is not much time to worry about the landscape items.
Crape myrtles are one of my favorite plants because once established, they can require little maintenance while looking great. I will be sharing information today from a UGA publication by Dr. Bodie Pennisi, UGA Commercial Landscape Horticulturist and Dr. Jean Woodward, UGA Extension Plant Pathologist.
For starters, we are not going to discuss pruning of crape myrtles in detail today. I will state that if you choose to prune your crape myrtles, it needs to be done in the dormant season such as late winter to early spring before growth starts. Avoid fall pruning because pruning stimulates new growth this can keep the plant from going dormant.
Pruning at the wrong time can also set the plant up for death from hard freezes. Keep in mind you do not have to prune crape myrtles either. Some of the best looking crape myrtles that look natural and awesome are the ones with limited or no pruning. You can also have more aphid problems due to increased succulent growth caused by aggressive pruning.
I will say that crape myrtles have qualities that should fit most ever landscape. They are very drought tolerant when established and they have little issues with disease and insects for the most part.
Crape myrtles bring a lot to the table as far as flower color ranging from red and pink to lavender and white. You even have options in growing height with some of the newer cultivars with crape myrtles that will grow less than 3 feet to some that will grow in excess of 20 feet. I will add that our information states that many of the newer cultivars will have improved flower color, better fall leaf color, a more appealing bark look and better cold and disease resistance. If you decide to plant crape myrtles on the property, site selection is an important decision. Ideally, you plant crape myrtles in full sun. This will help aid growth and flowering.
If you plant in heavy shade, it can lead to reduced growth and flowering plus a greater chance of problems such as sooty mold and powdery mildew. In addition, if you are planting in heavy shade, you are probably planting around larger trees. These trees will compete with the crape myrtles for moisture thus increasing the chance of poor growth and flowering. Our information states that lack of sunlight and moisture are the common causes of poor growth and flowering. Just keep in mind that planting in the right spot in the first place can take care of a problems in the beginning.
When you plant, keep in mind that crape myrtles can make it in some poor soil conditions, but will do better in prepared soil. Note that good soil preparation is worth the effort. Soil preparation does involve digging a large planting hole. The planting hole should be two times wider than the root ball.
Set the plant in the hole no deeper than it grew either in the container or the field. You then back-fill the hole with the same soil that was removed. Take time to breakup soil clods and remove rocks and debris.
Research work has shown that organic matter amendments are not necessary if you are planting in individual holes. Amendments in the hole can keep roots from spreading out into the surrounding native soil. Amendments can be helpful if they are incorporated evenly throughout the soil surrounding the planting hole. After planting, you need to water completely to help settle the soil around the root area.
Mulch can come into play at this time. If you mulch, 3 to 5 inches of pine straw, pine bark, shredded hardwood mulch or shredded leaves can be placed over the planting hole.
If you have the time and material, mulching a larger area beyond the planting hole is better. I had said it before that mulch can help in many areas. Mulch will help conserve valuable soil moisture, help reduce weed issues and can help insulate roots from cold and heat.
Again, water crape myrtles well at planting time and then once per week in the absence of rainfall for the first two months after planting. As I stated earlier, established crape myrtles can tolerate drought times, but your summer flowering will be better if the plants are watered during dry times that happen during the flowering season.
Finally, general purpose fertilizers such as 8-8-8, 10-10-10, 12-4-8 or 16-4-8 are great for crape myrtles. For the freshly planted one-gallon plants, you can apply 1 teaspoon of fertilizer monthly from March to August.
The larger established plants can use a spring broadcast fertilization. It is suggested to apply 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 at a rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet or 12-4-8 or 16-4-8 at a rate of 1⁄2 pound per 100 square feet.