Question of the Week: October 20, 2016
“Neil, I saw your Facebook post showing the beautiful crape myrtles still in bloom last weekend in McKinney. Mine hardly bloomed at all in 2016. Why?”
I was taken by the glorious flower output just five days ago on this mature planting of crape myrtles near US 380 University Drive in McKinney. I took a photo and posted it onto my Facebook page, and almost immediately people were asking why their plants had hardly bloomed at all this past season.
I’ve been involved with the Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney Foundation for almost 20 years. During that time, our city and its residents have planted more than 20,000 crape myrtles in public and private areas across the city. We watch and love our crape myrtles.
2016 has been a really unusual year for them. Crape myrtles normally reach peak bloom in our area by the last week of June. Not in 2016. In fact, it was difficult to determine exactly when the “peak” bloom was happening this year. For many types it came in late July and into August, and I honestly saw more crape myrtles blooming beautifully in September than I did in June or July.
Some crape myrtles were still performing gorgeously as recently as three or four days ago, and that’s what prompted me to post this photo on my Facebook page last Saturday at 5 p.m.
As soon as I posted it, people started asking, “How come my crape myrtle didn’t bloom at all this year?” or “My dad’s crape myrtles never bloom. Why?” And so, on and on.
To bloom heavily…
Crape myrtles have several simple needs if they’re going to bloom well:
• Full sun. If they get more than a few hours of shade, crape myrtles’ flowering will drop off exponentially.
• Deep soils. Crape myrtles that are planted atop shallow, rocky soils won’t bloom well. They won’t have enough soil to capture and retain nutrients.
• Nitrogen. Crape myrtles bloom on new growth. Nitrogen is the fertilizer that promotes new growth. If they’re “hungry,” they won’t grow well, therefore they also won’t bloom well.
• No “topping.” This kind of silly whacking delays production of flowers and it also ruins the quality of the flower heads when they do form.
So, what’s the takeaway from all of this? Chalk much of it up to a bad year for crape myrtle blooms. And be patient. 2017 ought to be better.