Crepe Myrtles (also spelled Crape Myrtle) are one of the area’s most beautiful flowering trees and are commonly used as landscape plants. Their distinctive, bright pink, white, red, or purple blossoms begin to bloom during the summer months. If you have one on your landscape you know that this beautiful sight enhances the look of your home and improves your property value.
To keep your Crepe Myrtles looking their best, they should be regularly pruned, fertilized, and treated for the conditions they are prone too.
Crepe Myrtle Pruning
Crepe Myrtle pruning is important to make sure your tree flourishes. To achieve an aesthetically pleasing look, Crape Myrtles should be pruned every year. However; if you are okay with a more “natural” look you can prune your Crepe Myrtles every 3-5 years.
When To Prune Crepe Myrtle Trees:
Crepe Myrtle Pruning should ideally be done after the last frost of winter. Around our area that usually takes place in mid-April. Unlike other flowering trees, Crepe Myrtle blooms do not grow off of last year’s growth. Instead, they grow off of the new growth that is developed in the spring.
To increase flower production and have the best blooming season possible you will need to reduce old growth and stimulate new growth during the end of winter/beginning of spring. This can be achieved by pruning your Crepe Myrtles shortly after the last frost.
Is It Too Late To Prune Crepe Myrtle Trees?
No, although Crepe Myrtles see the best results when pruning after the last frost it is okay to prune them year round. Pruning any time during the year will not hurt the tree; however, if you prune in fall you may see a decline in flowers the next spring.
How Much Can You Prune A Crepe Myrtle?
Proper Crepe Myrtle pruning focuses on removing thin and poorly placed branches to open up the center leading to better air circulation. You may have seen Crepe Myrtles drastically cut back; however, this type of pruning is bad for the tree. Cutting back or “topping” Crepe Myrtles will leave knobby, misshapen stumps and branches that are not strong enough to hold up flowers in the spring.
How Do You Prune A Crepe Myrtle?
Because Crepe Myrtles tend to be bush-small tree sized many homeowners think they should be able to prune the tree themselves. This is a bad idea. With any tree pruning, improper cuts and pruning the wrong limbs can cause damage to the tree.
Additionally, if you have to stand on a ladder to reach the branches or hold a power tool above your head, you risk injuring yourself. It’s best to hire a Certified Arborist that knows how to properly prune a Crepe Myrtle.
Need Help With Crepe Myrtle Pruning?
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Crape Myrtle Fertilization
Crepe Myrtles should be fertilized in the Spring and Fall using Organic Bio-Stimulants. Bio-Stimulants contain a natural blend of sugars, bacteria, humic acid, sea kelp extract, and fungi. This mix feeds the soil and naturally fertilizes the tree. By introducing this blend to the critical root zone it will re-establish good soil composition and act as a multi-vitamin for your tree.
Benefits Of Bio-Stimulant Fertilization
- Enhance root and foliage development.
- Increased chlorophyll production (greener leaves)
- Increase availability of nutrients and antioxidants.
- Improve a plant’s ability to recover from disease and insect damage.
- Improve resistance to environmental stressors.
- Increase water-holding capacity (make they more resistant to drought damage)
Crepe Myrtle Diseases & Insects
Crepe myrtles have a few diseases and insects they are prone to.
Powdery Mildew is a tree fungus that coats the tree’s leaves, blocking the process of photosynthesis. Every year trees and shrubs rely on photosynthesis to create food for new leaf growth. When this process is interrupted by powdery mildew the food reserves aren’t replenished and the tree/shrub’s growth will be stunted which can affect overall health. The stress caused by Powdery Mildew also makes the tree more susceptible to other diseases and insect infestations.
Symptoms: Powdery mildew is characterized by spots or patches of white to grayish, talcum-powder like growth on the upper side of leaves.
Cercospora Leaf Spot:
The tree fungus begins as a small spot on the leaves. As the disease progresses more spots appear until the leaf ceases to function as the site of the tree’s food production process and falls off of the tree.
Symptoms: Round leaf spots (may have purple or dark brown borders), tiny black flecks (fungal spores) in the center of the spots.
Crape Myrtle Aphids:
Aphids, also known as plant lice, are among the most destructive tree bugs. These plant-sucking insects feed on the sap of a tree or shrub. Their excrement, referred to as honeydew, is commonly mistaken for sap dripping from a tree’s canopy.
Symptoms: Drooping leaves, yellow spots, black small dots on the underside of the leaves (what aphids look like to the naked eye), honeydew, sooty mold, ants on the tree.
First brought to the United States in 1916 in a shipment of iris bulbs, these invasive tree bugs can defoliate an entire tree in a matter of days.
Symptoms: Large amounts of brown chewed leaves, skeletonized leaves (only the veins of the leaf left intact), leaves falling off trees, trees that look scorched by fire from a distance.
Sooty mold is a fungus that grows on top of honeydew (the excrement of plant-sucking insects) and coats the leaves to the point where they can no longer absorb sunlight. This interrupts photosynthesis and the tree will not be able to produce the nutrients they need for survival. If your trees and shrubs are turning black you most likely have a sooty mold problem caused by an insect infestation.