Crape Myrtle Tips for the Summer
No shrub or small tree that we grow gives any better summer color. The 2005 Crape Myrtle Conference, held recently in McKinney, was an unqualified success. Here are a few summertime tips gleaned from the speakers.
Start with the best possible named and labeled variety for the color you want and the space you have available. This can’t be emphasized enough. Never use pruning as a means of controlling height for your crape myrtles. Ask plenty of questions before hand. With more than 100 varieties in the nursery trade, there is a color and plant size to fit every need.
Pruning crape myrtles should be confined to removing damaged branches. You do not have to prune off old seed heads to get additional flower production. New shoots will quickly grow around them.
Fertilizer applied in late summer or into the fall can stimulate soft new growth that could be damaged by the first freeze. Be guarded in how you fertilize turf and other shrubs and groundcovers from late summer on. Try to keep it away from your crape myrtles.
Water is important in the health and vigor of crape myrtles. Soak them deeply when you do water, then let their soil dry out somewhat before you water again.
Mulch is a good thing, but don’t apply more than 3 inches. If you add more, research from Texas A&M shows that it will decrease plant growth. It seems to tie up moisture and even nutrients, preventing them from reaching the actual root zones of your plants.
Be especially careful using your line trimmer near crape myrtles and other trees. If you cut through their bark, the trees will be severely damaged or killed back to the ground.
If you have sprouts that continue to grow out from the trunks of your crape myrtles, snap them off while they’re still short and brittle. If you can pop them out with your hands (instead of cutting them with shears), they aren’t as likely to come back.