My reasoning is based on their diverse qualities. They can bloom in a variety of colors, are real tough during drought after establishment and do not have many disease or insect issues that cause them many problems.
You can put crape myrtles in the shrub/tree category because they can come in a variety of growth groups.
They can come in items they will stay about three feet or less in height all the way to some that will get more than 20 feet in height if left along.
Crape myrtles can look good on an individual property, but also has its place if you wanted to use crape myrtles as a major landscaping part of a big subdivision or construction project.
Today, I will be sharing information based on a UGA publication by Dr. Gary Wade, UGA Extension Horticulturist and Dr. Jean Williams Woodward, UGA Extension Pathologist.
Before you plant a crape myrtle, you need to investigate the area and pick a suitable site. I would say the number one reason people plant crape myrtles is due to the amount of blooms these items can produce.
Poor planting site selection can reduce this quality. Plant crape myrtles in full sun if possible. Dense shade can reduce growth of the plant and flowering. Shade can also aid in some disease issues such as sooty mold which can get on the foliage and also powdery mildew which can get on young plant growth and even flower buds. Planting them in full sun will also keep them away from the larger items such as trees that will compete for moisture with the crape myrtle.
Crape myrtles are tough landscape specimens, but like most all items would prefer to be planted in well-prepared ground.
Preparing the soil will take effort on your part, but when you have a real healthy crape myrtle, it will be worth the work. The planting hole needs to be two times wider than the root ball. Set the plant in the hole no deeper than it came in the container. Before you backfill the hole with the dug dirt, remove rocks and debris plus bust up any soil clods.
According to Wade and Woodward, research has shown that adding organic matter is not necessary when planting in individual holes. Wade and Woodward go on to say that amendments to the planting hole will encourage roots to stay in the planting hole instead of growing outward. Organic matter amendments are better utilized if spread over and worked into the entire area around the planting holes.
After you plant, water to settle the soil and then mulch. Mulching does several things. Mulching obviously will help conserve moisture, but it will also insulate roots from weather extremes and will combat weeds.
Again, water the crape myrtle when you plant and then about once a week for the first two months when you do not get rainfall. Crape myrtles are very drought tolerate, but if you will give crape myrtles water during dry times in the flowering period, it will assist your flowering production.
Most horticulturists when giving presentations will give plenty of time to discuss pruning of crape myrtles.
True, pruning of crape myrtles will result in a large amount of new shoots that will form flowers and will also push a fair amount of the plant energy into the new growth and flowers, but pruning is not essential for flower production.
You can see great flower production on old crape myrtles that have not been pruned in years. Those old unpruned crape myrtles will have smaller flower clusters, but there will be more of them. Also, if you do prune, do so at the right time of year.
You need to prune crape myrtles during the late winter or early spring. Stay away from early fall pruning.
If you prune in early fall before the first frost, you can actually kill the plant. Pruning in early fall will stimulate new growth that may keep the plant from going dormant. A freeze can then kill the crape myrtle.
You would have to do your homework, but there are some of the earlier blooming cultivars that pruning off the dead flower may give you a second bloom in late summer.
For more information, contact Gordon County Extension at 706-629-8685 or email email@example.com.