Crepe Myrtle – Beautiful . . . .

Master Gardener Scoop – June 6, 2018

By Majo Bates,
Master Gardener

In my opinion the Crepe Myrtle is one of the most beautiful, outstanding plants in the world. As I grew up in the South, living in Southern Arkansas, Mississippi and Southern Louisiana, most streets and parks were lined with this beautiful blooming plant.

I moved to Southern Illinois 2 weeks before my 15th birthday. One of the first things I missed were some of the lush, beautiful plants we owned in our yards from my Southern heritage. I always had a Gardenia outside my bedroom window and Bougainvillea growing on a huge trellis around my window and in the window box. We always had lots of window boxes all year long, unless an unusual cold spell hit.

Pink Crepe Myrtle.

Not here!!!!! I also missed Crepe Myrtle as we usually had lots of Crepe Myrtle bushes and trees in our yard.

“Our” Grandma Beadle, Euta Kell Beadle, loved Crepe Myrtle. She planted several through the years but they all died. I wish she could see my three Crepe Myrtle. She would just be so impressed. I was afraid I had lost them this year but I just left them alone and they are finally coming back out. I’m so glad I mulched them well last fall. They are not hard to grow here in our zone 6 area. The best ones in our area to purchase are the Ben Franklin, “Franklinia altamaha” or Seven Sons, “Heptacodium miconloides” but they are usually quite expensive. The Seven Sons was found in China.

I was very impressed several years ago when I was fortunate to visit the New York Botanical Garden in Brooklyn while our son, Scott and his wife Amy lived in New Jersey. The Crepe Myrtle there were amazingly huge and beautiful; lots of them and all colors!!!!!

Please, plant your Crepe Myrtle in full sun. If you notice that your plant gets less than 6 hours of sun a day, you need to transplant it in the fall, after the roots have gone dormant. Crepe Myrtle needs to receive at least 8 hours of full sun.

Prepare where you plan to plant by digging a hole two times wider than the plant’s root ball. Break up the soil and remove any rocks and/or debris. Now, place your plant in the hole and fill it in with the soil you dug out. Water your new JOY well, to help pack down the soil and refresh its roots. I always add mulch at this time also.

Mark your calendar and water this new Crepe Myrtle well at least once a week unless you receive rain. I do this for the first two months of the new plant’s life in my yard. If we have a drought, I check the soil. Even though, Crepe Myrtle can grow well in dry conditions, they bloom and hold their flowers better with an occasional good watering.

I also fertilize my young plantings with a good general fertilizer at least every other month during the growing and flowering season and I also fertilize early in the spring when I see it starting to come forth. Master Gardeners are discouraged to announce fertilizer names and ratios so consult the greenhouse or nursery where you purchase them.

We can prevent aphids on our Crepe Myrtles by spraying them with a solution of mild soapy water. I use Dawn liquid . . . They are loved by Japanese Beetles too. I plant Rue around the area where Crepe Myrtle and my Roses are. They deter them some but sure not totally.

I also want to share that you can encourage new, stronger growth in your Crepe Myrtle by pruning the branches in the winter. I am hopeful that IF you do not own a Crepe Myrtle, this should be a plant that you should try because they are so beautiful.

Plant a garden IF you do not have one.

Enjoy veggies and flowers because TIME is flying.

I have a new sign out in front of our main garden that says

“Life Began in a Garden.”

If you have questions about horticulture contact a Master Gardener that you know in your area or call your county University of Illinois Extension Center.