Crape Myrtles have become one of the most popular plants in the world, especially for people living in hot and humid climates. With their versatility, this is no surprise. The crape myrtle comes in such a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors that it really does fit everyone’s needs. Depending on where you want to grow your plant, you can get a small dwarf myrtle that more resembles a shrub; or you can get a tall tree. The colors of the flowers are highly varied as well, and as a result can match any aesthetic need.
Besides these advantages, the crape myrtle is a relatively low-maintenance plant, requiring little care compared to other popular flowering plants. As long as they receive about six hours of sunlight per day, they are very hardy plants. While they do prefer humid climates, they can tolerate drought quite well. They also aren’t picky about what type of soil you plant them in, as long as you make sure it’s well-drained. Ideally, you will use neutral or slightly acidic soil but crape myrtles are adaptable.
You can fertilize your crape myrtle once or twice a year. The best time to do this is in the early spring, as soon as leaves appear. Once you see these leaves, apply a slow-release, high nitrogen fertilizer but take care not to overdo it. If you use too much fertilizer, the crape myrtle may experience sucker growth – small, weak branches that are vulnerable to insect attacks – so take it nice and easy when using fertilizer. Excessive nitrogen content in your fertilizer can also prevent your plant from blooming; while you will see lots of leaves you may not see any flowers.
Crape myrtles do have a certain amount of vulnerability to insect infestations and diseases, such as powdery mildew, aphids, sooty mold, lichens and a few others. You will want to periodically inspect your plant for signs of disease or insect infestation and take proper preventative measures.
Properly cared for, a crape myrtle can dazzle you with a beautiful bloom. You have the freedom to choose whichever colors you like, as there are so many varieties of this wonderful plant. The Baton Rouge variety grows to about three feet in height and blooms with reddish pink flowers. The Byer’s White variety is, as its name suggests, white and grows up to twenty feet high. The Catawba variety grows about twelve to fifteen feet in height and has beautiful violet flowers. These are just a few of the varieties you can choose, since the plant comes in literally hundreds of colors and sizes.
While the crape myrtle is a hardy and versatile plant, you will have to take great care when pruning it to ensure a healthy bloom. Care for your crape myrtle throughout the year, making sure it is in a nice warm, humid climate. Make sure also it has access to plenty of sun and try to keep it from freezing during the winter. But most importantly of all, make sure you prune it properly.
Timing is absolutely essential when you are trimming your crape myrtle plants. If you trim your plant too early in the year, you may leave it vulnerable to cold snaps and infections. If you trim it too late, you may accidentally remove the shoots that will grow into the blooms you’re looking forward to seeing this year. Wait to trim until the late winter or very early spring; after the cold snaps have passed but before the plant begins to grow leaves again.
The size of your plant is a factor when trimming it as well; for a larger plant, make sure you’re able to reach the highest parts of it. Smaller plants actually may not need pruning, since some of them are only as large as medium shrubs. If you are trimming a larger plant, get a large pair of shears and a ladder to handle the branches at the highest point. You may also need a pair of pole pruners to reach high enough. For smaller plants – or smaller branches on larger plants – a small set of hand shears may be enough to get the job done.
If there are any suckers – small shoots growing from the base of the plant – you will need to remove them since they will draw energy away from the bloom later in the year. Any branches that are rubbing up against each other or crossing over one another should be removed, since the friction can lead to wounds that make the tree susceptible to infections. You should take care not to over prune your plant; only remove the branches you need to or you may leave the plant weakened and stressed, reducing the chances of experiencing a bloom and once again leaving it susceptible to infections.
If you take care to follow all these steps, you should be in for a wonderful bloom in the summertime! If you don’t want to prune your crape myrtle on your own, you can also call a professional tree service to do the job for you. They will make sure that your crape myrtle stays healthy and yields beautiful flowers during the summer.