Crepe Myrtle Tree Care
The crepe myrtle (Myrtlica macrocarpa) is one of the most popular evergreen trees in Florida. They are native to South America and grow well here in Florida where they make excellent shade trees. They have small white flowers with pink centers that last from late summer through early fall. The leaves are opposite, oblong-shaped, greenish-white and are very thin and wiry looking. They are usually hairy and leathery, but not always.
Their fruit is a purple seed pod with three white seeds. These fruits ripen from July through September when they look like little tiny grapes. The pods contain many small black seeds that range in size from the size of pebbles to large peas. The seeds are so small that they don’t even fit into your fingernail! The seeds germinate in two days and begin growing within 24 hours. Within four weeks the young plants are producing new shoots and branches. By August the plant will produce a bunch of berries which ripen from October through December.
In Florida, crepe myrtle trees thrive in full sun or partial shade, but prefer moist soil with good drainage. They resist insects, diseases and pollution making them a low-maintenance tree. They take up large amounts of space so should only be planted in areas with adequate room and away from power lines. The crepe myrtle is not a true myrtle, but belongs to the Lythracea family. They are closely related to the Cape Mango trees from South Africa, which are also not true myrtles, but members of the Lythracea family.
Crepe myrtles are related to the common garden and wild myrtles that grow along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Crepe myrtles are available in shades of white, pink, red, orange or purple.
Crepe myrtle fertilizer is not necessary since they get all the nutrients they need from the soil and water. If your soil is nutrient poor, you can apply a slow-release fertilizer in the spring after the last frost. To help your crepe myrtle grow better you can add manure or compost to the roots. Crepe myrtle root pruning should be done every three to five years to promote new growth and rejuvenate the tree. In the fall, you should cut one/third of the roots from the shrub.
In the spring, you can cut another one/third of the roots that have grown back. Crepe myrtle tree pruning should only be done by a professional to avoid damaging or killing the plant.
Crepe myrtle diseases are few and far between and can mainly be prevented by providing good care. They are more likely to be damaged by pests such as aphids, scale insects, whiteflies, mealybugs, thrips and caterpillars. You can check your crepe myrtle for pests by looking on the underside of leaves for honey dew, small bumps or whiteflies, oblong white eggs on the bottom side of leaves or little black pellets. These can all be treated with an insecticidal soap available at garden centers without a prescription. If you see larger insects or caterpillars, you can pick them off by hand.
Crepe myrtle are also prone to fungal diseases such as leaf spot, dieback and anthracnose. These can be treated with a fungicide containing potassium salts of fatty acids, but should only be applied when the tree is in active growth.
Some people feel crepe myrtles are invasive plants that take over their surroundings, but this isn’t necessarily true if they are planted in an isolated area or in a place where there is plenty of room. As the years go by, they do tend to sucker from the roots and grow outward, but this can be pruned if desired. Crepe myrtle trees are beautiful, long-lasting plants that provide a wealth of colorful flowers for months at a time. They also have many appealing attributes such as their resistance to insects and diseases, their ability to thrive in different soil types and their low maintenance requirements. While crepe myrtle fertilizer isn’t necessary, it can promote better flowering and growth if applied at the beginning of the growing season.
You can purchase crepe myrtle fertilizer in granular or liquid form at garden centers or home improvement stores. Follow the instructions on the label for proper application. In general, you should apply crepe myrtle fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season before new growth begins. Apply it according to the package directions and water it in well after application.
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