Have you ever had the chance to sit back and enjoy the handsomeness of a Crape Myrtle for the first time, only to have its gnarly bark bare of beauty and seem lifeless the next season? Well, you’re not the only one! We often get panic phone calls of allegedly “dead” Crape Myrtles. Here are a few tips to ensure happy and healthy Crape Myrtles for years to come!
Dead or Alive?!
If you think that your Crape Myrtle has gone too soon, don’t fright! Scratch the bark with a knife starting at the top of the plant; if green flesh is beneath the bark, it is still alive. Just leave it alone and be patient… we know, this can be the hardest part!
It is because they are extremely late bloomers that most people think they’re dead. However, if the bark is brown, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is gone. Start at the top and cut the plant back. Work your way down the plant until the green flesh emerges under the bark. Cut it all the way back until that point and see if it pushes new growth.
Care + Tips
These beauties are drought tolerant, low-maintenance, generally disease and insect resistant, and like lots of sun. Typically in zone 6, Crape Myrtles start to bloom in July, but this can vary depending on the weather; and, they flower for very long periods of time. They do bloom on new wood, so it is important to take proper care of them during the cooler months.
We recommend checking the root ball weekly and watering regularly up until the ground freezes, as well as mulching before the ground freezes. It is important to insulate the root ball during the winter to ensure proper growth later on.
After the frost date passes in the early spring, remove the mulch from the ground and let the root ball warm up from the sun. During the growing season, we recommend only a light layer of mulch because as mentioned before, the sun will take the job of warming the root ball. Fertilize Crape Myrtles in the spring with Espoma Tree-Tone, but do not fertilize in the fall.
If the summer brings hot and dry weather, keep your Crape Myrtles watered. You may want to check the root ball more often if the summer graces us with such conditions. During the growing season, make sure that you prune the dead or spent flower heads regularly to promoted constant growth and continued flowering.
Crape Myrtles put on a show all year round. Their flowers speak for themselves, but their bark is also very pretty and showy. At Bucks Country Gardens, you can come pick out Crape Myrtles ranging from shades of white to hues of pinks and reds. Some of the varieties we are carrying this year are: Sioux, Muskogee, Tonto Red, Hopi Pink, and Natchez.
If you think your Crape Myrtle is dead, don’t fret! Follow the care steps above and take the proper precautions. If you still aren’t sure, take some pictures and come speak to one of our Pharmacy Experts. They are sure to lead you in the right direction!
Jessie Tanski | Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator
David Jones | Horticulturist, Arborist, & Customer Service Specialist