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October 13, 2018
Our two crape myrtle trees in the back yard have already lost 90% of their leaves.
A lot of bark came off before this occurred. Should I be concerned? We live in Malvern.
That amount of leaf shed this early is not ideal, but the fact that they shed leaves
instead of dying and remaining attached is a good sign. Bark shed is a natural occurrence
on crape myrtles as they age. Did anything get sprayed near them? Do you see any
black on the stems or any white specks? Crape myrtle bark scale has hit the state
in a big way and heavy infestations can cause problems. Inspect the tree, if you
suspect the scale, you can treat now. If the bark is clean, all you can really do
now is wait for spring and see how they leaf out. We have had ample rainfall, so
watering isn't necessary right now.
September 15, 2018
All of a sudden my 3 crepe myrtle have leaves that turned a rusty color. The leaves
have some mottling color with a bit of green, but mostly rust color. I am rather house-bound
following knee surgery, but a couple of people have said they too have seen this change
of leaf color almost overnight.
We were starting to get quite dry in early to mid-August and we started seeing some
trees beginning their fall decline and starting to defoliate. If you have a red or
dark pink flowering crape myrtles, they often turn a rusty red color for fall foliage.
As long as the leaves that have turned, also fell off, I think you are ok. Do check
the trees for any insect damage—crape myrtle bark scale attacks the trunk and limbs
and can cause early decline too.
July 28, 2018
I followed your recommendations last spring and used a soil drench compound around
my crepe myrtles. It appears to have been successful and I see no indication this
summer of crepe myrtle scale on my plants. My question is: Do I need to do this again
next spring as a preventative or do I wait and see if there is any indication of a
Research has shown that one application tends to be good for two years or more, and
that recurring infestations may be handled by natural predators. That being said,
we really don’t know long-term ramifications, since we haven’t had the pest that long.
I would wait and see if problems reoccur before reapplying. I don’t believe in preventative
sprays at this point.
June 30, 2018
We suddenly lost a crape myrtle; maybe you can tell us why. It was a thriving, well-cared-for
tree which had been purchased and planted in our garden a couple of years ago. We
were gone for all of May this spring. When we came back, all foliage was gone and
the bark, cracking; new shoots had appeared in abundance from around the base. In
less than a 100 feet way is a Bartlett pear that appears to have fire blight. Our
other theory is gophers. They love our garden and are quite destructive. A young redbud
in the garden near the crape myrtle had also died. There had been adequate rain while
we were gone. Hope you can suggest why this happened.
Whenever I hear tales of multiple species suffering similar fates, I usually suspect
chemicals or something physical. I can’t see a gopher killing an established crape
myrtle overnight, nor a redbud. While it has been dry off and on, not long enough
to kill a crape myrtle. I would assess what has been sprayed nearby and do some investigating.
Take pictures of all the plants affected and take some samples of the damage to your
local county extension office. Identifying the problem is the first thing to do before
removing or replanting.
June 9, 2018
I am emailing for a friend who planted a few crepe myrtles last summer in south Arkansas. They did
experience some growth after planting. Now this summer the trees and limbs are dead,
but the roots appear to still be alive. Do you recommend pruning them back or any
solution for them?
It depends on what the person wants. By now, if the roots are alive, you should be
seeing suckers emerging from the soil line. They can choose 1-3 of the sprouts and
prune everything out and regrow the plants. If they want a more established tree
quicker, they might consider buying a new tree. Do they have any idea why the trees
died? Did they water when it was dry, could something have been sprayed on them, etc.?
Knowing the answer to that may also make a difference in what decision is made.
May 12, 2018
Do you know of any way other than continually snipping, to get rid of crepe myrtle
suckers? I tried just letting some of them grow to branches, but that will take
forever and looked so bad I finally cut them. Do you think I could Put Round Up on
some of the suckers without killing the entire plant?
Some varieties of crape myrtles will sucker every year for their entire lives, while
others don’t produce any suckers. If you have a suckering variety, cutting out the
suckers right beneath the soil surface once or twice a season should suffice. I would
not recommend using Roundup as the suckers are attached to the mother plant and you
could cause damage.
May 5, 2018
My wife and I have been to your classes so we know not to “murder”our crape myrtles.
I keep them fertilized and pest free - 2 weeks before the frost they were coming out
beautifully but the frost killed all the leaves and they aren’t coming back out -
what can I do, if anything?.
I think you just need to be patient. I cannot imagine that you got cold enough in
Hot Springs to actually kill the crape myrtles. They got nipped, and then we had
cool temperatures for a bit after the frost. Now that we are getting up in the upper
70’s low 80’s I think you should see some rebounding soon. Once you see some new
foliage appearing, give them a little fertilizer to speed them along. In a worst
case scenario, they may have a little top kill but will still sprout out.
April 28, 2018
The April 7 freeze looks like it killed the bright red 1-2" new growth on my crape myrtles in
Benton. How much will this set back new growth? When can I expect to see any new
growth? Thank you.
The cold weather caused many plants to get nipped, some worse than others. I think
here in central Arkansas the plants should already be rebounding. If you don’t see
it now, after a few more warm, sunny days you should see new leaves beginning to pop.
We were already having a late spring, so it will delay the first blooms by a bit,
but not by much.
February 24, 2018
I just trimmed my crape myrtle and I'm afraid I may have committed an act of crape
murder. I just wanted to get it down to the height I could treat for this bark scale
thing. The tree is only a couple of years old and it's going to be taller than I really
want. I'm thinking about replacing it. Have any resistant varieties been identified?
At this time, we do not have any varieties that are known to be resistant to the crape
myrtle bark scale, but there is ongoing research to try to determine if there is any
difference in varieties and their susceptibility. We will share the findings once
we have them. We do have an excellent database of crape myrtles by size—you may want
to pick a variety that fits your height requirements to avoid future crape murder. https://uaex.uada.edu/yard-garden/resource-library/crape-myrtle/
November 25, 2017
We have several Crepe Myrtles in our yard that are not doing well & appear to have
dark “mold” on them. What do they need?
This is becoming one of the most frequently asked questions in Arkansas. Prior to
the arrival of the crape myrtle bark scale insect, we considered crape myrtles fairly
bulletproof. Occasionally a variety would be susceptible to powdery mildew or aphids
would attack, but many gardeners planted crape myrtles and just forgot about them.
Now that the leaves are falling off the trees we are seeing even more clearly the
black stems and trunks of many crape myrtles which is an indication that they have
a case of the crape myrtle bark scale. These insects feed on the trunks of the trees.
If you look closely you will see the white felt-covered insects. As they feed, they
give off a sticky substance called honeydew. It is on that substance that the black
sooty mold forms. The insects multiply rapidly during the growing season and a heavy
infestation makes the trees look unsightly with the black covering, but they can also
weaken the trees and impact blooming. If your trees are infested, use a soft brush
and soapy water and clean the trunks now. Then spray thoroughly with a dormant oil.
This will give you a good start on control, but unfortunately usually doesn’t give
total control. Crape myrtles have peeling bark as they age, and the insects can protect
themselves from contact sprays by getting up under the bark. Next spring, use a systemic
insecticide and you should get good control of the problem. This is a relatively new
insect for gardeners across the south, and researchers are working on other biological
controls and options. We will share as we get them.
November 18, 2017
Now that the leaves have fallen, is there anything we should do to our scale-infested
crape myrtles? I have never "murdered" mine, and don't want to, but they sure were
ugly with black leaves. I was afraid if I cut them back, they'd just get re-infested
in the spring anyway, and then I would have ruined the shape. Can this scale kill
the trees, or will it just make them look awful?
Now that the leaves have fallen, you can take a soft brush with warm, soapy water
and clean the trunks to remove the black sooty mold. Then spray with a dormant oil,
saturating as much of the tree as possible. Dormant oil smothers out the scale insects
they come in contact with, but keep in mind that crape myrtles have peeling bark where
scale insects can hide. Next year in March or April apply a systemic insecticide.
We don’t think the scale insects will kill a crape myrtle but they can keep them from
blooming well. They can also weaken the tree where something else could attack.
October 7, 2017
We moved back to Little Rock in April. The landscaping had suffered some neglect
because the house had been vacant for a few months. The Crape Myrtle pictured looks
like it might not survive. We're not sure if it is due to under watering during the
months he house was vacant, or if it's diseased. We'd appreciate your input and suggestions.
From the picture I cannot see any signs of the crape myrtle bark scale, nor do I think
it looks like it is on death’s door. Many plants right now from trees and shrubs
to perennials are looking peaked from lack of water. I would get it through until
February and then prune it back some from the top and thin it out a bit to build more
structure. I typically prefer 3 or 5 main trunks, and then take out anything that
is smaller than a pencil in diameter. Monitor its growth next spring and see how
it leafs out.
September 30, 2017
Is it too late for me to trim crape myrtles and red top photinias? I also have some
large woody plants that are growing around my back yard that I have cut back but they
just seem to be doing better than ever. I have heard that you put salt on them to
kill them. Is it rock salt, how do you do it without killing everything around it?
The time to prune crape myrtles is in February, before new growth begins. Pruning
them in the fall can expose them to winter damage if we have a cold winter. The key
is to get them through the bulk of the winter before pruning. If your red top photinia
just needs a light trim, that is fine to do now, but severe pruning--removing more
than 1/3 of the plant should be done in the spring; you don’t want to encourage too
much new growth this late in the season. I do not like to use salt to kill plants,
as salt will stay in the soil for a long time and can leach out and damage nearby
root systems. Once you cut the trees down, you can paint the stumps with an herbicide
such as Brush-B-Gon, Brush Killer or Roundup Super Concentrate. Monitor these trees
next spring as new growth begins, and if you see new growth repeat the above process.
August 26, 2017
I have just recently been seeing something on our crape myrtles that I've never seen
before. Can you please tell me: what is this white fuzzy stuff? Is it harmful, and,
most importantly, how do I get rid of it? Thanks so very much!
It is powdery mildew, a common fungal disease of crape myrtles. The frequent rains
and high humidity have made it worse this late in the season. Some varieties are more
susceptible than others, but from the photo it looks like your foliage is fairly clean.
I would deadhead—cut off the infected blooms and see if you might not get another
set of flowers that are not affected. I would not advise spraying this late in the
August 12, 2017
I have an out of control "shrub" that is made from runners off a tall crape myrtle.
Cutting it back only seems to exacerbate the problem. How can I get it under control?
It sounds like you have root suckers coming up. If possible cut the sprouts right
below the ground line. Some varieties sucker more than others, but typically it is
just at the base of the tree—it sounds like yours are moving a bit further away.
Herbicides would damage the mother tree as well as the sprouts, so avoid those.
July 1, 2017
Is this a butterfly bush? Can you identify?
No it is not a butterfly bush but a young or small crape myrtle.
June 17, 2017
I have six crape myrtles that are about ten to twelve feet tall, and have bloomed
for the last five years. This year one has lots of blooms and the others have none.
They are green and healthy looking. Do some bloom at different times? I don't remember
them doing that, but maybe I did not pay close attention.
There can be some variability to blooming of crape myrtles based on variety, amount
of sunlight they receive, age of the tree, and how much or little they were pruned.
If they are getting at least 8 hours of sunlight a day, they should bloom. I would
also check for any possible crape myrtle bark scale damage on the trunks. We have
found that a heavy infestation does impact blooming.
May 20, 2017
I have 5 single trunk crepe myrtles that planted in 2009. The trees are all healthy
and have developed beautiful thick trunks. They have never been pruned and are now
over 20' tall. I know they are overdue for a good prune. When is the optimal time
and how far down should I go? Their blooming hasn't been great due to the larger oaks
around but I'm sure they could look better. I prefer a high fairly dense crown.
I do like the look of a single-trunked crape myrtle as well as the multi-trunked versions.
The time to do any pruning would be in late February through early March. If you
prune this late you will remove potential blooms or delay flowering. How much you
take off would be based on what you are looking for. I normally don’t recommend taking
off more than 1/3, but if there is room for them to grow tall, possibly just a little
thinning may be all that is needed. Definitely keep those beautiful large trunks intact.
Blooming is always best on crape myrtles in full sun.
April 15, 2017
If you have big knots on crape myrtles from previous prunings, can you prune below
the knots and will the plants be OK?
You can prune below the knots or choose three of the biggest sprouts coming from
the knots and prune out everything else. If you do prune below the knots, as they
begin to sprout out, again, selectively limit how many sprouts you leave. While pruning
this late is not going to kill your plants, it will delay the first blooms. Most crape
myrtles are fully leafed out by now. You might do a third of the knobs this year
and tackle the rest next February.
March 11, 2017
My wife and I enjoy your column. Recently I was rereading one of your articles in
the NW Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about treating crape myrtle trees infested with the
invasive bark scale insect. You advised pruning heavily infested branches and said
that burning would be the preferred disposition, but that you cannot burn refuse in
city limits. That is certainly not true in Fayetteville, unless it's so dry that
a burn ban is in effect. I just call the fire department and give them my address.
They used to issue permits, but no longer do that, just give permission. Perhaps
your statement is true in Little Rock, but I'll bet the local authorities would have
no problem with a small fire to get rid of infested yard waste if the circumstances
were explained. The double bagging you recommended is cumbersome and not effective
if the branches poke holes in the bags.
A good point--double bagging a lot of refuse is not easy. I think your recommendation
to check with your local fire department is a great idea. The key is to ask permission,
February 25, 2017
I read your article on the scale problem in the LR area. I have heavy infestation
of my Crape Myrtles and my Privet bushes. I tried to wash the scale and the mold
off with soapy water. It was very difficult and slow going. I then used my electric
pressure washer (1600 psi) and it cleaned the trunks and branches in no time and it
was much easier. The bark seems very clean with no sigh of damage. Next, weather
permitting, I will treat with dormant oil and then the systemic insecticide.
Great idea, just make sure when using the pressure washer that it is not too intense
to cause damage to the trunks.
September 24, 2016
My husband is very cautious about planting trees and large shrubs too close to the
house because of roots. I planted a crape myrtle bush right in front of our large
picture window on my own years ago (picture included). Now that it is getting bigger,
my husband is talking about pulling it up because he's concerned about it being too
close to the house. I do not want it moved! I see crape myrtles planted right in front
of people's houses everywhere in our surrounding area. Is this indeed going to be
I am not concerned with the roots interfering with the house, but I don’t think it
is in a good location. The crape myrtle will continue to grow larger and it is covering
up your window. I think it would have so much more potential if you moved it to a
location where it had room to grow and bloom.
September 17, 2016
We have three very large approximately 25 ft. tall crape myrtles lining our drive
way. They are very messy constantly dropping flowers on our cars. I would like to
know if there is a time of year to prune so they won't bloom. If I cut them back
to about 3 feet what will happen? .
I believe this is a first! Most people want to know why their trees are not blooming,
or how to make them bloom better, but I have never been asked how to make them
stop blooming. The reason for planting crape myrtles is to enjoy the flowers. Crape
myrtles bloom on the new growth, so even pruning them hard will still allow them to
set flowers, but you will typically have weeping crape myrtles which may actually
have branches hitting your cars, depending on how close to the drive they are planted.
If you really don’t want blooms, watch for them to begin to set buds, and prune in
late June or July. You could also plant some other trees to provide shade-crape myrtles
don’t bloom in the shade. If it were me, I would enjoy the blooms.
September 10, 2016
I have three crepe myrtle trees. One has no suckers, one tree has a few suckers,
and the tree in my front yard has so many suckers I can hardly keep up with cutting
them down each week. It looks like a small forest around the base of the tree. Are
there any alternatives to physically cutting off the suckers such as a spray or other
chemical application? I am exhausted.
Some varieties of crape myrtles sucker more than others as you have found out. Chemical
controls won’t work, as they could hurt the mother plant as well. Try getting to
the suckers early in the summer when they first get started, and try cutting slightly
beneath the soil line. Then mulch around and see if that hinders them a bit.
August 13, 2016
When is best time to cut back Crape myrtle?
Crape myrtles are pruned in late February to mid-March, before new growth begins.
July 9, 2016
Could you send me the info on the 'white' mold that is one the crepe myrtles
this year? I know you wrote about it earlier this spring. What is the treatment
Since you are in Bella Vista I would guess you have powdery mildew, a white powdery
substance that covers the leaves, and not the white felt scale which those of us in
central Arkansas are seeing everywhere which gets on the branch and trunk. I have
seen some trees heavily covered in the powdery mildew, so it is bad this year too.
Use a general fungicide such as Daconil. It will be difficult to eradicate, but you
can slow it down. If you have a tree that gets it every year, a preventative spray
may help, but if it was an isolated incident, use good sanitation this fall and see
what happens next spring.
May 21, 2016
I bought 3 crepe myrtles a few years ago, red, white, and purple. After a couple years,
the red quit blooming. I replaced it after 2 non blooming years. I moved it, instead
of destroying it, but want to know if there is any way to get it to bloom again?
Crape myrtles bloom on the new growth. The only thing that would totally keep a crape
myrtle from blooming is lack of sunlight. The more sunlight they receive, the more
they bloom. Winter damage in 2014 and 2015 did cause some delay in blooming, but
eventually they did have flowers, just maybe not as many.
April 23, 2016
We received an email from a local nursery that recommended treating all crepe myrtles
with Bonide Annual Tree & Shrub Insect Control in late April or early May due to the
prevalence of Crepe Myrtle bark scale in west Little Rock. It also recommended following
up in late summer or early fall with Bonide Systemic Insect Control. Would you share
your thoughts and recommendations about this topic? We enjoy reading your newspaper
I personally think that is an extreme approach. While we are getting more and more
cases of the crape myrtle barks scale, it is not something that I would do a preventative
program for. While the insect can cause problems with blooming, it is not something
that is going to kill a crape myrtle overnight. If you monitor your plants regularly,
you can first detect a problem, and then take action if needed.
April 2, 2016
I live in a condominium complex which was built in the 70's. We have many old, large
crape myrtles which have been "murdered" year after year and have the resulting ugly
knots. How can we get them back to their natural growing form? What do we do about
You have a few options. One is to cut the knot off and then choose up to three of
the sprouts that grow and prune everything else out. You can also keep the knot and
again let the sprouts begin growth and choose up to three of the new sprouts to train
into trunks. Next year, take the three new branches that you chose last year and
only prune them where they get smaller than a pencil in diameter. Eventually they
will form into well-structured trees with beautiful bark. It won’t happen overnight,
but it can be done.
March 19, 2016
My husband and I live in Texarkana. We went out this morning to cut back our two
crepe myrtles which we planted at the corners of the front porch 20+ years ago. We've
never had any trouble with the crepes, but this morning we discovered that one of
them looks like it has been burnt (pictures attached) and has white patches down the
length of the tree with white tiny round things where the bark is peeling. The tree
on the north end of the porch is in the most trouble but the other tree is beginning
to look the same but is less severe - so far. Could you tell me what is causing this
and what can be done; or, should we cut them down and start over?
You have a classic case of the new insect on crape myrtles called crape myrtle felt
scale. The black color is coming from a sooty mold that forms on the sticky residue
given off by the scale insects feeding on the tree. From the pictures, it also likes
you all practice ‘Crape Murder’ in your pruning of your crape myrtles. That huge
knob you cut it back to is not the most attractive way to prune a crape myrtle. The
scale insects will not kill the tree, but it can reduce the amount of flowers in the
summer. I would use a soft brush with soapy water and clean the trunks, then spray
with a dormant oil right now. In a few weeks you can use a systemic insecticide around
the dripline of the tree to kill the insects. Here is a link to our fact sheet on
this new pest problem http://www.uaex.uada.edu/publications/PDF/fsa-7086.pdf which we are seeing from Little Rock south. Each year we get more and more reports
of this pest.
March 12, 2016
I feel sure that you have previously discussed this, but it would be helpful to everyone
if you would go over the treatment for crepe myrtles that are infected with the disease
that is going around our area of the state. This is the one that is most obvious
by the large amount of black sooty deposits under the tree or shrub itself and on
its leaves. I am a volunteer who works with the Lakewood Improvement District here
in North Little Rock. We have eight or ten large crepe myrtles that are infected.
Obviously, we would like to treat these plants. We hope that you can advise us.
The relatively new problem you are referring to is not a disease but an insect—the
crape myrtle felt scale. The small white felt covered insects attach themselves to
the tree and suck sap out of the plant. As they feed, they give off a sweet substance
called honeydew. Where the honeydew forms on the trunks, branches and leaves, and
black sooty mold forms. Before the trees leaf out you can get in and using a small
soft brush wash the trunks with a soapy solution to clean the trunks of the sooty
mold. A dormant oil can be used in late fall through mid-winter, but you are getting
a bit late for that to have much effect. In a few weeks, apply a systemic insecticide
containing Imidacloprid around the trunk of the plant. Mix according to the label
instructions. The plant will absorb the insecticide as it is moving energy throughout
the plant. This will kill the insects. Once dead, they won’t disappear, but you
should see no new signs and there should be no more black sooty mold. We are entering
our third growing season with these insects and get more reports of them all the time.
So far we seem to have them from Little Rock and points south. While the scale insect
will not kill a tree instantly, it can impact the blooming of the tree and the overall
health. Don’t treat every crape myrtle in your yard, just those that are impacted
by the scale insects. Research is ongoing across the south to determine if there
are any varieties that are resistant, and looking at other methods of control. Here
is a link to our fact sheet http://www.uaex.uada.edu/publications/PDF/fsa-7086.pdf on this problem and a link to a story I wrote about it last year: http://www.uaex.uada.edu/yard-garden/in-the-garden/crapemyrtlescalebark2015.pdf
March 1, 2016
Last year you wrote about a new insect pest on crape myrtles. I didn’t pay a lot of
attention, because I didn’t think I had the problem, but now I think I do. I was pruning
my plants and there are some branches that have little white things on them. Is this
the pest and if so, what do I do about it? I love my crape myrtles and would not
want to lose them—and I don’t murder mine either, thanks to you. How did the insects
get to my yard?
Crape myrtle felt scale is the name of the pest, and we are seeing more and more new
cases every year. The insects could travel from tree to tree in a nursery or in
neighborhoods, or be transferred by pruning one tree and then another without cleaning
off the pruners. Putting damaged branches out on the curb and then loaded into an
open truck with other yard waste could allow them to escape and attack other trees.
So far we don’t consider the pest to be deadly to crape myrtles, but it does affect
the size and the amount of flowers, but I think it would take years growing unchecked
to kill a tree. We have seen excellent results with the systemic insecticides containing
Imidacloprid (Merit, Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub, etc.—all same chemical just different
brand names). Systemic insecticides would be best applied as the trees begin growing
this spring. Prune out any heavily infested branches or you can clean them off with
a soft brush and warm soapy water, and then use the soil drench with the insecticide.
February 20, 2016
I would like your advice on how and when to plant Crepe Myrtles. I live in Sherwood
and want to plant them in my front yard. There is plenty of sun, however I do not
know the soil content and so I also need advice on preparing the soil also. Could
you please help me?
Crape myrtles are wonderful plants for Arkansas summers. They thrive in heat and
full sun. Find a location with plenty of sunlight and a well-drained soil. You can
have your soil tested now to see what the pH is and overall nutritional levels.
If your soil is rocky, amending with some compost or organic matter is ideal, but
don’t just amend in the planting hole—try to amend at least three times as wide as
you plan to plant—this will encourage the roots to spread. There are many good choices
of crape myrtles, from dwarf almost groundcover forms to standard trees up to 30 feet
in height, and all sizes in between. Here is a link to our crape myrtle database
which gives you flower color, mature size and form, and bark color. http://uaex.uada.edu/yard-garden/resource-library/crape-myrtle/
I would begin to plant crape myrtles from mid-spring through mid-summer, so you can
get them established before cold weather hits in the winter.
February 6, 2016
I have seen a strange sight in Texarkana for about 3 years now. At shopping centers,
where landscaping services take care of the plants, they have already starting the
crepe murder (ugh!) for this spring, but also seem to be burning the bark. It looks
like they take a blowtorch to it. Strangely enough, most come back and bloom, but
it looks horrible. Do you know why they do this?
I do not think they are burning the bark. I think the trees are infested with the
crape myrtle scale. Heavy infestations leave the trunks covered in a black sooty
mold. If left untreated it can severely affect the blooming of the tree. So while
they are not burning the trunks, there is still no excuse for the pruning known as
February 1, 2016
We have a lot of plants planted in the corner of our yard and the utility company
needs to come in and do some new pipes. I will have to move a 10 foot southern magnolia,
a crape myrtle trees, along with numerous perennials. When should I transplant these?
I am not sure when they will be doing the work, so I may have some lead time to plan.
We are in prime transplanting season for your trees. With the perennials, you may
or may not know where they are until they begin emerging. If you plan to replant
them back in the corner after the work is done, you can heal them in a shady area
in the yard—mounding soil over the root system until you can replant. If you are permanently
replanting, dig and replant immediately. While they are dormant, there is less stress
to the plants.
October 3, 2015
I have had success with the soil drench in the spring for controlling the crape myrtle
bark scale. What about that type of treatment later in the year (summer and fall)?
Is it still effective? I am seeing it on some of my other crape myrtle trees now,
and I don’t want to wait until spring to take action. Is the dormant oil as effective
as the drench? Also, you mentioned in your article to not treat the trees preventively.
Is that an environmental issue? What if there are several trees and only one has damage?
The way the drenches work is through movement via the sap. In the fall and winter
there is not much movement upwards. They tend to be preparing for winter and storing
reserves in the root system, therefore the product is not as effective as it is in
the spring when we get strong upward flow. Preventative is in my opinion overkill,
since we don't know if all plants will be affected. There is still a lot of debate
about the effects of the neonicotinoids and the bees and beneficial insects, so using
it as needed versus blanketing the landscape is my preference. We have seen a rash
of attacks in the past two months, and we aren't sure if it was due to drier conditions
or what. The dormant oil is not as effective, but it gives you the beginning of control,
and should keep them in check until you treat in the spring.
September 26, 2015
I live in Nashville AR and wrote a couple of years back, and sent a photo, of an
infected tree. You recommend dormant oil, but that tree went on to die. We have 3
young crape myrtles (Natchez I think), planted two years ago that are infected. The
nursery sent a worker out to spray the tree and apply an insecticide to the soil.
It is too early to tell if the treatment will be therapeutic. From your article, I
need to aggressively prune late winter, wash, and use dormant oil. Or should I start
over with a different variety? I noted it was first detected in Dallas and spread
over the south. Our first tree and these 3 above all came from the same nursery in
Texas. Do the trees come into a nursery already infected or do they become contaminated
at the nursery? Or where does this pest come from? You mentioned several insecticides
applied to the soil. Which, in your opinion, is the best?
all good questions and unfortunately no definitive answers. We have seen that some
varieties tend to get it more than others, but we don’t have enough data over a long
enough period of time to know for sure. Where I did the photo shoot for the story
two trees were totally infested and the dwarf crape myrtle beside them, had no damage.
The insects could travel from tree to tree in a nursery situation, or be transferred
by pruning one tree and then another without cleaning off the pruners. Putting damaged
branches out on the curb and then loaded into an open truck could allow for spread
too. I do not think your crape myrtle would have died at least that quickly from
crape myrtle scale. I have seen trees literally covered with them and still living.
It does affect the size and amount of flowers, but I think it would take years growing
unchecked to out and out kill a tree. We have seen excellent results with the systemic
insecticides containing Imidacloprid (Merit, Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub, etc.—all
same chemical just different brand names). Only prune out heavily infested small branches,
clean the main trunk and then spray with a dormant oil this late fall to early winter.
Systemic insecticides would be best applied as the trees begin growth in the spring.
I would not give up on planting crape myrtles, just stay on top of things.
I know this question has been asked over and over, but I have to ask it again cause
my daughter and I are having a debate about this. When is the best time to prune Crape
I do believe this ranks as the number one question I get on gardening, and yet as
many times as I have answered it and written about the correct way to prune a crape
myrtle, we consider to see crape murder across the state. Late February is the normal
time to prune a crape myrtle –prior to new growth beginning. This past late February
we were under attack by snow and ice, so many did not get around to pruning until
late March—so timing will be determined by weather. If you have a standard crape
myrtle prune it with three to five main trunks or a single trunk. Let the branching
begin about 5-6 feet off the ground and prune out anything smaller than a pencil in
diameter, any crossing or rubbing branches, and then let them grow and become trees.
I have just found the crape myrtle scale on my crape myrtle tree. I hadn't noticed
it when the tree was covered in leaves, but now I see black and white up and down
the trunks. What should I be doing now?
If the tree is heavily infested, you can use a soft brush with warm, soapy water and
clean it now. Then you can saturate the trunks with a dormant oil to help kill any
remaining scale. In late winter/early spring apply Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub
insecticide or a product containing the systemic Imidacloprid.
I need to reread a piece you did a couple of weeks back on a disease, fungus, or blight
you did on crape myrtles. I am reasonably certain I have that problem. I need to know
how to deal with it please. I live in Nashville, Arkansas and got the tree from a
nursery in Texarkana. I noticed the problem last summer. Should I cut the tree to
the ground and retrain it?
The problem is not a disease but an insect—a new scale on crape myrtles. First found
this fall in west Little Rock we are now getting reports from other areas of the state
as well. From the pictures you sent in, you do have the felt scale. Your tree is small
enough that the outer bark hasn't started peeling yet, so you should get thorough
coverage with dormant oil. I don’t think cutting it back is the answer. Try using
the dormant oil and monitor this season. Before you spray, use a soft brush and soapy
warm water and clean off the stems. When dry, spray with dormant oil all over the
tree and the surrounding ground underneath, since some of the scales will surely have
fallen there. Systemic insecticides applied this growing season may also help. Here
is a link to our new fact sheet on the problem: http://www.uaex.uada.edu/publications/pdf/fsa-7086.pdf
In front of our house we have two 17'x17' plots of ground between sidewalks. We would
like to plant a tree in each plot that would not eventually lift the sidewalks with
their roots and would not get too tall. We have tried dogwoods, red buds, flowering
cherry, but the full sun and heat got to them. Someone suggested Bradford pear, but
my wife and I are allergic. Are there any other trees that we might plant that have
a better chance of survival?
Definitely not a Bradford pear—they can get 40 feet tall and 40 feet wide—way too
large for this location. You have several options. The new trend in trees is to produce
fastigiated forms—those that grow with a narrow growth habit. Fastigiated sweetgum,
fastigiated hornbeam, English oak, and Autumn Spire red maple are just some choices
that would work. These would get tall, provide shade, but would fit the situation
with a narrow canopy. Smaller trees to choose would include redbud (they usually take
full sun well), crape myrtle, and fringe tree.
My husband and I are going to trim the crepe myrtles on Military Dr in NLR for the
Amboy Neighborhood Association. When is the best time to trim crepe myrtles? Also,
can the bushy ones be thinned down to three or four stalks and trimmed up like trees?
The best time to prune crape myrtles is before new growth begins in the spring—typically
late February. It is preferable to trim a standard variety as a tree, instead of a
bush, but it can take a few years to change.
I live here in Little Rock & have just recently planted 2 crepe myrtles on Sept 22.
I watered them the first day after we planted them & put some blood mill in the soil,
but neglected to water them after that. It rained Sunday & so the soil is still moist.
The problem is that the leaves have mostly fallen off & the ones left are pretty dried
up looking. What can I do to salvage them?
I think it is very unusual for the leaves to have dropped this quickly after planting.
Since Sept. 22 we have had a bit more rain, and milder temperatures than we did for
the bulk of the season. Transplant shock can occur, but I think you have a pretty
dramatic display. Newly planted trees and shrubs are much more dependent on water
than those that are well established, but I would still contact the business where
you purchased them and ask for advice. Your only other recourse is to wait and see
what happens next spring. Be aware that crape myrtles are one of the last plants to
begin growing, so don’t despair too quickly.
When is the best time to take a cutting from a crape myrtle tree to start a new plant?
Crape myrtles can be rooted from cuttings taken from late May through mid July. The
key is to take semi-hardwood cuttings—the new growth that has started to harden off
a bit. The cuttings should be around 3-5 inches in length and contain no flowers or
I have 3 gorgeous crepe myrtle trees 25-30 feet high and planted in a line 15+ feet
apart. They don't look stressed but haven't bloomed this year. They have never been
pruned but the canopies have started to grow together. Are they mature and therefore
not blooming on new growth? Should I have them trimmed (by an expert of course) or
could it be a chemical problem? They are in full sun.
You aren't alone, even the crape myrtles seem to be affected by this hot, dry weather.
Many are not blooming, and those that are have much smaller than normal flowers. For
those that have finished blooming, deadheading—removing the spent flowers can encourage
them to bloom again, but since yours haven’t started yet, try giving them really deep
soaking water. While crape myrtles are extremely drought tolerant, and won’t kick
the bucket, or even appear wilted, they will slow down and stop performing when it
gets really dry. Look around at neighbor’s landscapes—often the greener and more lush
the garden, the more flowers you will see. If you can’t or don’t want to water, the
crape myrtles can hang on, and if we get a break in the weather, there is still ample
time for them to flower.
I need some info concerning a crepe myrtle plant. It came with the house 8 years ago
and was then a well established plant that has bloomed beautiful every summer. A couple
of days ago I noticed that the blossoms were not as dark pink as in previous years
and upon further inspection I noticed that the leaves of the whole plant were sticky.
I had never seen this on this plant in previous years and am now worried about what
to use to treat it with. I did spray the whole plant with Sevin bug spray but don't
know how to proceed.
It looks to me like you have a heavy infestation of aphids. As these sucking insects
feed, they give off a very sticky substance called honeydew—that is what is causing
the sticky, shiny substance on the leaves. Left long enough, the sticky honeydew will
turn black as black sooty mold begins to form. Sevin is not a good insecticide for
sucking insects. You can use a contact insecticide such as insecticidal soap or Malathion
or Orthene which is a systemic. Even a strong spray of water can dislodge them. Aphids
multiply rapidly in ideal conditions and can quickly explode in populations
Is now a good time to move 6 foot tall crape myrtles? We live in Little Rock.
I would hold off until the end of February if you can. That is when you can prune
them and move them all at the same time. If you absolutely have to move them now,
that is ok, but they would be less winter hardy without an intact root system. Make
sure they are well mulched and watered if it is dry.
I have several Crape Myrtles from three to six feet tall. They all froze last winter.
I cut them down to the ground, as instructed by our local nursery owner, and they
came back beautifully in the spring and produced beautiful flowers that lasted a long
time in the late summer, with several different periods of bloom. When is the best
time of year to cut them back again and at what height to achieve the same production
and growth as last year?
If you have standard crape myrtles then try pruning them into a tree again. Choose
three to five of the straightest and strongest sprouts and prune everything else out
in late February to mid March. Then take off anything smaller than a pencil in diameter.
Eventually they will grow back into trees, provided they don't get frozen again.
I need to know what to do about off-shoots from crape myrtles that will not kill the
mother tree. I have a tree that is probably 30-40 years old and from its wandering
root system, shoots appear every year and this year some are blooming. For years I
have just cut them off, but wonder if there is a product that I can use to control
them without harm to the main tree.
Continue doing what you are doing. There is nothing you could spray with that would
kill the sprouts but not hurt the mother plant. Most of these suckers are attached
to the mother plant. Some varieties are more prone to suckering than others, so just
cut each season.
Crape myrtle story.
Few plants are as connected with the south as crape myrtles. These plants thrive in
heat and humidity and have the potential to bloom all summer long with relatively
little care. Lagerstroemia indica or as most know it, the common crape myrtle, was
introduced from China and Korea in 1747. Widespread cultivation of the plants started
in Charleston, South Carolina in 1786. Today, through hybridization and plant breeding
the family of crape myrtles includes a diverse mix of plants, from ground cover forms
which are no taller than 8-10 inches up to standard varieties which can grow thirty
feet tall or more. Flower colors range from red, pink, purple or white. They are a
staple in Arkansas landscapes. The common crape myrtle was already entrenched in southern
landscapes when the Japanese crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia faurei, was brought to the
United States in the 1950’s. This cold-hardy crape myrtle had beautiful red bark and
was resistant to powdery mildew—a common disease of the crape myrtle. The only downside
to the new introduction, was it only came in one color—white. Dr. Don Egolf was a
plant breeder extraordinaire at the National Arboretum in Washington, D. C. and he
began an extensive breeding program on crape myrtles, crossing the L. faurei with
L. indica. The goal of the breeding program was to combine the beautiful bark color,
cold hardiness, and disease resistance of the Japanese crape myrtle with the variety
of flower colors of the common crape myrtle. Egolf made thousands of crosses between
the two species and came up with many new forms of crape myrtles. Thanks to these
efforts, the National Arboretum has released over 29 varieties into the nursery trade.
The University of Arkansas also has released several varieties of crape myrtles including
‘Centennial’, ‘Hope’, and ‘Victor’. The most popular variety from Egolf’s trials was
‘Natchez’. This standard crape myrtle can grow 30 feet tall or more and has outstanding
cinnamon colored bark with white flowers. The first true miniature was discovered
in 1989 called ‘Chickasaw’. This pink flowering plant grows no taller than 20 inches
and spreads 26 inches wide. Today, new varieties and forms of crape myrtles hit the
market annually. Trying to keep up with what is available can be difficult. The National
Arboretum has compiled a chart as a quick guide to differences between their 29 released
crape myrtles: including descriptions of flower color, bark color, fall color, plant
size, and growth habit. You can view it at: http://www.usna.usda.gov/PhotoGallery/CrapemyrtleGallery/CrapeTable.html.
You can also click on http://www.usna.usda.gov/graphics/usna/Newintro/USNA_CrapeMyrtlePoster.pdf
to see a poster of the National Arboretum crape myrtle introductions. Our University
of Arkansas Extension web site also has a good reference guide to varieties of all
sizes, shapes and colors that can help you choose the right plant for your landscape.
You can see it at: http://www.aragriculture.org/horticulture/ornamentals/crapemyrtle/pdf/detail_all.pdf
While crape myrtles are easy plants to grow, they do have their problems. Number one
is the gardener in charge of pruning them. “Crape murder” is a common refrain and
visible signs of this dot our landscapes—usually more commonly seen when the plants
are devoid of leaves. Repeatedly cutting standard, large growing forms back to large
knobby growths in the winter is a common practice gardeners use to keep the plants
the size they want them. If the plant is getting too tall each year, and you have
to prune them to keep them out of the eaves of your house, then you planted the wrong
variety. With proper selection, you can choose plants that at maturity fit the size
you need. Trying to tame a tree into a shrub is a constant battle. When choosing plants
you really should read the tag and determine.
We would like to plant two dwarf crape-myrtles in our back yard and would like to
know if any have the pretty red bark for winter time.
Unfortunately, the dwarf crape myrtles do not develop pretty bark like the standard
I have a crape myrtle tree that has many shoots or suckers growing around the trunk.
Can I dig one up and replant it and expect it to grow? Do I need to do anything to
Many of the suckers on your crape myrtles will be devoid of roots as they are attached
to the mother plant. You can root these shoots, but you could not take them off the
plants now and leave them outdoors. They would not survive the winter. You could try
rooting them inside in a container with potting soil. Crape myrtles root rather easily
from cuttings taken June – August. I find it easiest when rooting cuttings without
a greenhouse, to take multiple cuttings—4- 6 inches in length and dip them in a rooting
hormone, then put them in sterile moist potting soil. Put pot plus cuttings inside
a clear plastic bag, seal that up and put it in a bright location, without direct
sunlight. This will create a miniature greenhouse, with constant moisture and humidity
and should aid in germination. The woodier the cutting the longer it will take to
After several years of trimming my crape myrtles back, there is a large knot where
the new growth comes out each year. Should I continue to trim as in the past or should
I cut the tree below the knot or does it really make any difference? They are mature
and the knots are about 5 feet high.
If you have those gnarly knots or knees, then you are not trimming your crape myrtles,
you are butchering them. Cutting them back to those ugly knots or every year encourages
loads of new sprouts which grow rapidly then fall over under the weight of the flowers.
The key if you have standard crape myrtles is to allow them to grow into graceful
trees. You have two options since you have the knots. You can either cut them out
or gradually let them outgrow it, cutting off everything less than a pencil in diameter
and thinning out the number of branches emerging from the knots to no more than three
branches. For those starting with young crape myrtles, the best way to achieve a beautiful
tree is to leave three to five main trunks, making sure that there is ample room between
each trunk to achieve mature size and width. Let the trunks grow to a height of five
to six feet before pruning and then start shaping them into a tree. Depending on the
variety, your crape myrtle can be a ground cover Lagerstroemia ‘Razzle Dazzle’, a
dwarf getting no more than 3-4 feet or a standard growing 20-30 feet tall. Know what
you want before you buy them, and then allow them to grow into what they were supposed
to be. An excellent database on crape myrtles—heights, colors, etc is on our extension
website at: http://www.aragriculture.org/horticulture/ornamentals/crapemyrtle/pdf/detail_all.pdf
Is it too late to prune crape myrtles? My neighbor pruned hers in November, and I
just have not had time to get it done. The trees are ten feet or more in height, and
I see them 3-4 feet all over town. Help!
You have probably all heard of the “rape of the crapes” or “crape murder”, and that
is what I think is occurring whenever the plants are sheared back to three or four
feet. If you are growing a standard crape myrtle, it has the potential to be a small
tree, growing up to 20 feet or more. Let it grow up! They have outstanding peeling
bark, and interesting branching patterns. If you don’t have room for it to reach its
mature size, consider moving it to a location where it does. Blooming may not be as
large per stem with taller plants, but you will have more blossoms and they won’t
cause the branches to droop over, and you get the benefit of mature bark. To answer
your question, it is not too late to prune crape myrtles, but please don’t butcher
them. You do want to prune to make sure you have good branching structure, and that
you keep a fairly open plant, but yearly shearing is not good!
I have heard your response on how to properly prune a crape myrtle, but I have one
unanswered question. We purchased a house with several crape myrtles that have already
been cut back to that loathsome four foot height. All small branches have been removed
and each crape myrtle has about five main trunks. If I want to let them grow as you
recommend, should I cut all the branches back to ground level in one fell swoop or
will that kill the plant? I don't want the pollarded look at the four foot height,
and I don't want to aggressively prune the crape myrtle every year. I suspect the
plants are ten to fifteen years old.
It is February, so it is the proper month to prune a crape myrtle. Unfortunately,
if you have a tree that has been butchered in the past, it is not a quick fix. You
do have some options. One would be to do as you ask, and start over by cutting the
plant to the ground. This will take time to restructure the tree. If you do this,
choose three to five sprouts that appear, and prune out everything else. Gradually
shape it into a tree. The other option is to cut out the knobs and then choose one
sprout that appears from that point this growing season and grow it into a tree, or
prune to the strongest branch that is growing above the knob and let it become a true
branch, cutting out all the other twigs from that knob.
I found some silvery stuff on the end of the leaves of my crepe myrtle. The others
are blooming right now, but this plant is not. What should I do? Prune off the bad
leaves and branches or spray it with something or use some kind of systemic stuff?
It sounds like you have powdery mildew on your crape myrtle, a common fungal disease.
Some varieties are more susceptible to it than others. If you have a heavy infestation
on the tips, try pruning it back, but not by much or you may delay blooming even longer.
Use a broad spectrum fungicide such as Daconil, Funginex or Immunox. Spray once, wait
two weeks and spray again. Then see what happens. It is often difficult to get a handle
on the disease once it kicks in for the season. Make sure when pruning your crape
myrtle next year that you try to keep the center as open as possible to allow for
better air circulation and sunlight input.
We set out crape myrtle trees this summer. When is the best time to trim the lower
branches so that it will bush out more at the top? They have done very well.
Pruning lower limbs is not going to have much impact on branching at the top of the
plants. Removing lower limbs gives you more of a tree like appearance, but to encourage
better branching at the top, prune to buds on upper branches to encourage fullness.
Pruning of crape myrtles should be done in late February to early March.
I have what I think are several dwarf crepe myrtles in the flower beds around my home.
They grow in a bushy mounded shape and I would like to prune them back some. (They
are bare right now.) When is the best time to prune them? What is the correct way
to prune them? I know how to prune my large tree-like crepe myrtles, but I have never
pruned the dwarf variety.
Dwarf crape myrtles never produce beautiful bark like their tree-like counterparts,
so correct pruning is not as much of an issue here. I still prefer to wait until late
February to prune them for added winter protection, but you can prune them back by
half or more every year. The key here is to encourage new growth, keep them in the
height range you want and let them bloom on the new growth. With some of the newer
varieties of dwarf crape myrtles they are grown as ground covers and spread wider
than they do tall.
We have a crepe myrtle that has not been trimmed for 20 years. It has branched out
at least 20 feet wide with many stems (or trunks) some of which are four inches in
diameter and the base is probably 30 inches in diameter. It must stand 12-15 feet
tall. How do we trim it back? When do we cut back? Where do we start? Another crepe
myrtle nearby is much smaller but is beginning to spread the same way. How should
it be trimmed?
Crape myrtles come in a variety of mature sizes from ground covers to mature trees
getting 25-35 feet tall. My preference is if you have the standard tree forms that
you allow them to be trees. I like three to five main trunks and everything else pruned
out. Then shape them with a good branching structure. Twenty feet wide is more a large
bush. Thinning them out and reshaping may take time, but at least they aren't cut
back to those ugly knobs every year. The best time to prune is late February to mid
March after the bulk of winter weather has passed.
We recently moved into a house with six well established crape myrtles in the front
yard. The problem is that they have been whacked on pretty bad and have huge ugly
knots. They have flowered well but still have knots that just look disgusting during
the winter months. Should I get out the big saw and cut these trees back below the
knots or are they supposed to be cut above the knots or what? I've watched your pruning
video but nothing is mentioned about trees that a person "inherits" which have been
butchered. I'm a newbie with these beautiful trees and would like to clean up the
mess that has been made and give them a chance to start over. Can you possibly give
me some very detailed instructions for how to make them look good again?
You have a couple of options. One is to cut off the horrid knots, and then when multiple
sprouts begin growing this spring, choose two to three of the sprouts and prune all
the others off. Then next spring, prune off anything smaller than a pencil in diameter
and gradually grow some taller stronger branches. The other option is to leave the
knots but choose three of the strongest branches that are growing from them, and prune
off everything else. Eventually you can restructure them into beautiful trees which
are as pretty in the winter as in the summer and fall, but it will take several years.
We have a crepe myrtle that has sprouts which requires constant trimming of about
6 inches thick around the base of the tree. We are tired of trimming. What can we
do to kill the sprouts without damaging the tree? The tree is in an open grass yard
on the north side of our house - not a flower bed.
Just keep trimming. Any chemical that would kill the sprout would damage your tree.
Some trees are just more susceptible to sprouts than others. But do keep them removed
or you will end up with an overgrown bush.
I have a few young crepe myrtles planted along the south side of the house. They are
about 2 years old, now. I believe they contracted "powdery mildew". I checked the
extension website and used a systemic treatment on them per the website. The powdery
mildew seemed to slow down, but it did not go away. What should I do now? Will it
come back next spring? My sister said she thought I should cut off all the mildewy
looking limbs and leaves now.
This late in the year, I wouldn't do any more spraying or pruning. The key is good
sanitation. As the leaves fall, rake and destroy them, but you don’t need to prune
out the branches. Some varieties of crape myrtles get powdery mildew every year, and
others rarely have it. If you have a variety that is highly susceptible, consider
a preventative fungicide application next spring, before you see the disease. Also,
prune the plant to make sure that the branches are spreading out with good air circulation
and sunlight penetration. Folks who severely cut their crape myrtles back every year
end up with an excessive amount of foliage which cuts back on air circulation and
can make the disease worse.
Three years ago I moved 4 large Natchez crape myrtles that were planted too close
to the house. We used large equipment, paid attention to the root system and the move
was successful for all 4 trees. Last year they all developed a significant aphid problem
and we finally controlled them with spraying an insecticide. The trees lost a significant
number of leaves to the aphids and developed a black fungus. This spring we repeated
the insecticide application and we were aphid free until about 2 weeks ago when they
reappeared. Malathion spray took care of them for the moment. The trees get frequent
watering and bloomed beautifully this year. Any ideas on why this occurring and how
stressful is this on the trees?
Aphids tend to build up when it is hot and dry and often attack healthy plants quicker
than those that are not as healthy. We had the ideal conditions for them late in the
season. I would not be too concerned with aphids this late in the year. A strong spray
of water can knock them down, but the leaves will soon be falling anyway. If you have
a plant that tends to get insect attacks annually, you could use Bayer Advanced Tree
and Shrub insecticide in the spring when the leaves begin to emerge. It should give
you a season of control. Don't treat all plants in your yard--just those that seem
to be attacked each season. Luckily for us, aphids are easy to kill once they occur,
but they do multiply at an alarming rate. They attack a wide range of plants, and
if allowed to continue feeding unchecked, they can do some damage. The black you mentioned
is black sooty mold which grows on the sticky honeydew the aphids give off after feeding.
Control the aphids, and you will control the black sooty mold
I need some help and information regarding our crape myrtle. Before we moved into
our new home in September the builder planted a crape myrtle tree and it was blooming
beautifully. The crape myrtle started to leaf out this spring and then we got hit
with another hard freeze; the trees new growth was killed off. It finally started
growing again in the spring from the bottom up, but it had a lot of dead branches
on top. My husband cut the dead branches off, but since then the tree has not bloomed.
Did he prune the tree incorrectly to discourage the blooms? We live in Bentonville.
You aren't alone in the damage to crape myrtles. They were damaged somewhat statewide,
but annihilated in Northwest Arkansas. They were well ahead of their normal schedule
due to the mild March, so the late freezes did even more damage. For now, you simply
must be patient and gradually retrain them into trees. Many crape myrtles bloomed
more sparsely than normal if at all this summer. What I like to see in a crape myrtle
are three to five main trunks and branching beginning about five to six feet off the
ground. Prune as needed next February.
I read all your wonderful info I could find on crepe myrtles, however, I didn't see
this answer. It is now March and I have arrived home to find my crepe myrtles leafing
out. I wanted to prune them back, but do I dare do it now with new growth on them?
I need to as they are taking over our home.
While it is true that we like to get the crape myrtles pruned prior to new growth
beginning, this year things got moving a little quicker than normal. You can still
prune without impacting the first blooms by much, but do it soon. The later you prune
a summer blooming plant like crape myrtle, the later your first set of blooms may
be since they bloom on their new growth. Make sure you know why you are pruning and
don't butcher them into ugly knobs. I have seen the worse forms of crape "murder"
this year than ever. Let these wonderful trees produce large trunks and let them become
trees if you have room for them to grow.
My eight foot tall crepe myrtles leaves are covered with black soot. What is causing
this and should I do anything this late in the season to help it?
You must have a good crop of aphids. Aphids can attack crape myrtles, especially in
dry seasons. Aphids suck sap and give off a sticky substance known as honeydew. When
the honeydew coats the leaves a black sooty mold will follow. The only control is
to control the aphids. This late in the season, I wouldn't be overly concerned. Take
a garden hose and spray down the trees and see if you can knock down your aphid population.
Rake and dispose of the leaves when they fall.
We moved here from Colorado and had a landscaper do some work in our yard last summer.
I like the Crepe Myrtles and wanted some in my flower bed next to house. He said they
would do fine there since they can be pruned back to whatever shape desired. Since
then I have had neighbors say they do much better away from house so they can grow
larger. The ones put in are not the small-type-bushes, they are the larger bushes.
Should I move them away from house and give them more space in yard? Does it damage
Crepe Myrtles to prune them back each year keeping them at a smaller size? Also, would
it damage them to move them as they were planted July, 2005? Just not sure if these
Crepe Myrtles will get too big in 3 to 5 years. There are 7 of them next to house.
Any help you can give me will be much appreciated. I also learned to check out landscapers
a lot better in future.
It is quite obvious from the butchered crape myrtles all over the south that crape
myrtles can be severely pruned each year with no loss of life, but I am with your
neighbors in that they will be more attractive plants if they are given space to grow
and allowed to do so. Standard crape myrtles have outstanding bark if they are allowed
to become trees and their floral display is nothing to sneeze at. There are dwarf
varieties that can and often should take severe pruning each year, and they might
be good replacements. Crape myrtles can be moved, and yours are still young. I would
have preferred to move them in February, but it can still be done now, if you are
prepared to water and allow them to wilt and look sad for a week or two. Crape myrtles
aren't the only "trees" that some landscapers plant as foundation plantings. I cringe
when I see river birch and Bradford pears planted next to a house--they are large
trees at maturity!
We have several crepe myrtles on the south side of our house. For the past two years,
they bloom early and then they never bloom again. They have buds but they don't bloom
after the first blooming. There are lots of buds and the limbs get heavy and lean
to the ground. They get approximately eight to ten hours of sunlight in full summer.
They have been planted for six or seven years and at first, they bloomed all summer.
The last two years, they appear to bloom once. Can you give me any idea what is wrong
or what we can do to get maximum blooms? I use fertilizer three times a year on my
landscaping so they should get plenty of fertilizer.
This year after the first series of flowers, deadhead the old blooms--cut them off.
This will prevent them from setting seed, which is what I am suspecting you are seeing
after the first blooms instead of buds that won't open. If you can deadhead each time
the plant finishes flowering, it will direct more energy into blooms and less into
seed set. Let me know if this doesn't work. Crape myrtles are not heavy feeders, so
one application of fertilizer per year should suffice.
I love your column and read it on a fairly regular basis but don’t believe I've ever
seen a question in regard to a black mildew looking substance that is all over our
crepe myrtles. We have a yard service but they don't seem to be of much help. Do you
have any idea what I might be talking about or would you need to look at some leaf
samples? It's all over the trunk and limbs as well and has even spread to some of
our landscape lighting.
The problem you are experiencing is called black sooty mold. It is a by-product of
insect damage. Either the crape myrtle or a nearby large tree had a problem with aphids
this season. As the aphids suck sap out of the plant they excrete a sticky substance
called honeydew. It was quite prevalent this fall--if you ever parked under a tree
your windshield was covered in it. Whatever the honeydew accumulates on eventually
gets the black sooty mold if it is not washed off. You can even get a black covering
on patio furniture, or other non -plant materials such as your patio lights. The only
way to prevent sooty mold is to prevent aphids from building up. Many insecticides,
even a strong spray of water can control them, but they are quick breeders and are
often worse in hot, dry periods. For now, you can simply wash the black sooty mold
off the lights, and hose off the trunk of the crape myrtle.
My crepe myrtles need your help! Every year I fight powdery mildew on my crepe myrtles.
Beginning early in the spring, I spray Immunox on a 10 day cycle. This year, in spite
of rigorous effort, I have failed. My next door neighbor has a large un-kept crepe
myrtle that spreads powdery mildew throughout the neighborhood so I dare not stop
the Immunox. This summer another pest attacked my seven trees. Aphids and white flies
infested the trees. At first notice, I contacted a local nursery and was told to spray
Malathion on a one week cycle. I did. However, the aphids and flies thrived on the
chemical and within two weeks, every leaf on every tree was covered top and bottom
with aphids and flies. The leaves even became sticky with some sort of bi-product
of the aphids. I returned to the nursery and was told to increase the Malathion cycle
to every three days while continuing the Immunox on its regular 10 day cycle. I did.
The results were the same, more mildew, more aphids, more flies. If that wasn't enough,
the crepe myrtles then contracted some sort of black mildew which covered not only
the leaves but also the bark on smaller limbs. So here we are approaching the end
of the season. Some of my crepe myrtles have not bloomed even though they are well
established trees instead, they are defoliating. My biggest concerns now are to ensure
their survival and learn what must be done through the winter and into next spring
to return the trees to health so we can enjoy full bloom next year.
Wow! I am not sure seven plants are worth so much effort! You are definitely giving
it the college try. Powdery mildew can be a difficult disease to control, but usually
it is more of a problem if you allow it to get established, versus preventative spraying.
Immunox is a good product. You may want to alternate with another fungicide to prevent
the plants from building up a resistance next year. Pruning the plant to make it more
open and airy can give you better air circulation and sunlight penetration. As to
your insect issues: aphids are usually not difficult to kill but can multiply rapidly
if you give them a chance. Whiteflies can be more of an issue. Both insects feed by
sucking sap out of the plant and then they give off a sticky residue called honeydew.
If the honeydew is present, you then get black sooty mold, which only grows on honeydew.
Since this was your first attack of insects, you may want to wait and see if they
reoccur--not do prevention next year. If it becomes an annual problem, there are several
options. One is the Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub insecticide. You would apply it
to the soil in March. It is systemic and can give you a season of control. With white
flies, a second application is sometimes necessary in July. Di-syston is another systemic
product which can work. While Malathion is a good product, the problem is that it
is a contact kill product, meaning you have to come into contact with each insect
for it to work. If you have large plants that have dense foliage, you probably are
not getting thorough coverage. Those you miss, keep on going. Systemics work by entering
into the plant itself. Orthene is a good one to use during the growing season if a
problem arises. A combination of fungicide and insecticide is Orthenex, with Orthene
and Funginex. As for this year, I would take a garden hose and hose down the tree
thoroughly, trying to knock down the aphids and hopefully some of the honeydew. I
personally wouldn't spray any more with pesticides this late in the year, especially
as hot and dry as it is. Keep the tree watered and rake up any leaves after they fall.
Try a different approach to pruning next February trying to keep the plant more open,
and hopefully you will have a better season next year.
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