Basic Care

Most of us select crape myrtles because they’re easy and because they’re beautiful at all seasons.

Crape myrtles are easy-care landscape plants. Their requirements are minimal: full or nearly full sunlight, ample room to grow, good soil, moisture and nitrogen. Few shrubs and trees ask any less of us.

Click on whichever Basic Care tip that you wish:

Planting Hole: Dig the hole two to three times as wide, but no deeper than the height of, the root ball (not the container depth). In heavy clay soils where drainage can be a problem, it is helpful to dig the hole 1 to 2 inches shallower than the root ball so that the planted tree will end up slightly above the surrounding grade. Be sure the sides and the bottom of the hole are not “glazed,” that is, smoothed and compacted from the digging. Glazing forms a barrier that retards the passage of water. It is particularly likely to occur when digging in damp soil. Use a digging fork on the sides and bottom of the hole to roughen and break the glaze if necessary.

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Use soaker hoses, bubblers or drip irrigation emitters. You can also take the sprinkler off the end of your hose and water your plants directly. Create a berm of soil as you plant the new crape myrtles, then irrigate within it. Soak the soil deeply, then wait until the plants begin to show signs of drying before watering again.

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First application should be as the buds are breaking and new growth is beginning, probably late March into early April. The second application should be 6 to 8 weeks later, most likely in late May or early June. A third and final feeding can be made in late summer (mid- to late August) to promote a flush of fall growth.

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Powdery mildew (Erysiphe lagerstroemiae) is a fungal disease attacking crape myrtle leaves, shoots, buds and flowers. It produces numerous spores which, when seen under a microscope, resemble chains of beads. The result is a powder-like dusting that grows in thin layers on the plant tissue surfaces.

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A great percentage of the pruning done to crape myrtles annually is either unneeded or done incorrectly. What has taken Nature years to produce, we can ruin in mere minutes through improper pruning.

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The most difficult step in the propagation of crape myrtles is keeping each variety true to its type. Being able to identify a dormant young plant or hardwood cutting is next to impossible, so correct and efficient labeling is the most important part of getting new plants started.

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