Crepe Myrtle


Crepe Myrtle is a beautiful summer flowering tree/shrub.  It is often thought of as a southern plant that is not able to be grown here which is not exactly true.  When planted at the right location and protected from winter cold, it does well in our climate. It generally grows a little smaller here than in the South.


Culture
Plant in full sun in a protected area (protected from winter winds). Crepe Myrtles like most well drained soils.


Watering
After your Crepe Myrtle is established (1-2 years after planting) you shouldn't need to water too often. They do best is they get approximately 1" of rain per week. If in summer you go through some drier periods, it would be good to give them a good soaking. This is best done by leaving a hose trickling near the base of the tree or using a soaker hose around the tree and leaving it on for 30-60 minutes. Deep soaking waterings are better than light surface waterings.


Feeding
Crepe Myrtles are heavy feeders. Start established plants in spring once you start to see leaves pushing out. (Note: they are one of the last plants to show signs of life in the spring. Be patient! Many times it will not be until May that you will see any growth.) We recommend Bumper Crop Rose and Flower Food or Espoma Garden Food 5-10-5 to use as a fertilizer. Follow the directions on the label for how oftn to fertilize. We recommend the last feeding to be in August.


Pruning and Protection
Crepe Myrtle blooms on the ends of the branches of the current year's growth. It is best to prune them in spring after they leaf out. Cut out any dead branches and prune to shape the tree/shrub. This would also be the time to thin the plant out if needed. The next pruning would be immediately after the first flush of flowers - usually in July or early August. Prune the spent flowers off; it is best to prune back to stems no thicker than your finger. Many times, you will get another flush of flowers after this pruning as the plant continues to push new growth. We do not recommend pruning in September or later.

In the late fall/early winter you can put a burlap or chicken wire fence about 2’ in diameter and 2’ tall around the base of the plant.  Stuff the area with leaves or pine needles so it helps to insulate the plant from the cold.  In spring, take away the fence and leaves.  As mentioned before, give the Crepe Myrtle time to push out new growth.  Crepe Myrtles grow rapidly and flower on new growth, so even if the plant dies to the ground - which is rare unless we have a very cold winter- it will still grow and bloom that year.


With a little care, Crepe Myrtles do well in our area. The flowers are wonderful in summer/fall and the bark is nice in winter as mature bark peels away and exposes varicolored mottled browns and grays.