Crepe Myrtles are a staple in the southern garden for their colorful long blooming flowers in the heat of summer and their basically easy/no care. The following 4 care tips will help you have beautiful healthy crepe myrtles.
A wet spring can lead to powdery mildew on your crepe myrtles, especially if you are guilty of that harsh spring pruning (AKA: Crepe Murder!) that cuts crepe myrtles off at their knees. That type of pruning causes a mass of extremely thick weak growth, which in turn makes for the perfect fungus spore growing conditions.
The prevention is to stop doing the harsh “whack off pruning” and instead, prune only dead branches, criss-crossing branches, and thinning out the middle of the myrtle, providing adequate air flow.
If you do get mildew, treat it with a fungicide or with Neem Oil.
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Hopefully, you no longer perform Crepe Murder, but what about pruning??? No, you don’t need to give up pruning totally. Once a year, you should do a cleanup pruning. That means removing dead branches, removing any branches that cross over and in between other branches, creating a more open center for adequate air flow. Then cut off any sucker branches and any tiny new growth branches. Look at the difference this type of pruning made on my daughters front landscape…
She first wanted this crepe myrtle gone from in front of her dining room windows. She likes tidy and it wasn’t. Plus, it blocked her vision outside. She wanted to see the birds at the feeder from her table and was amazed that a good pruning was all it took.This post about basic simple cleanup pruning will help you get it done properly.
If you find Japanese Beetles eating up the leaves on your crepe myrtle, the best way to handle it is to hand pick them off. Take a cup of soapy water, and hold it underneath the branch with the beetles and tap the branch to knock them into the water. You have to hold it close though, they will fall a few inches, but then they will take off flying and you will miss them if your cup of water is more than an inch or two away. As a kid, I thought this was a fun job… so maybe try getting your kids or grandkids to help with this.
Neem Oil can work on the next generation as it will be passed on in the eggs, killing the larvae before becoming adults. You can also place Milky Spore on the ground surrounding your plants which will take care of the grubs before they grow into beetles.
Probably the most important tip of all, is to purchase the right size plant for your space and what you want to accomplish. Do NOT plant one that grows twenty feet tall in a spot where it will not have room to reach its full potential. There will be way too much pruning in your future and it’s just asking for problems.
This old beauty has plenty of room to show off those dark pink blooms up at 20-25 feet. Pruning consists only of suckers down low.
This shorter variety will only get 10-15 feet tall and is perfect for smaller areas, no crepe-murder necessary!
Check out this article in Southern Living for more information on pruning STOP! DON’T CHOP CREPE MYRTLES!
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