In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
July, 2008
Regional Report

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Crape myrtles benefit from summer pruning to keep them neat and floriferous.

The Trouble with Myrtle

Some say crape myrtle is overplanted, that growing it is a boring rut. I say it's a groove more people should get into. For every beautiful crape myrtle you see, it seems there are two that need pruning. Some of the necessary cuts should be made in winter, but summer pruning has its place. Whips, or watersprouts, burst from the base of the trees to ruin its profile and sap its nutrients. Cut them off as soon as you see them. When flowers are spent and seedpods develop, reblooming is a challenge for even robust plants. Clip them off and thin out crowded and twiggy growth in the canopy, including branches that never leafed out this year.

Pest Issues Besides the unattractive attributes a crape myrtle can develop, insects and diseases can be troublesome. Sooty mold gets your attention when the leaves turn black, but this condition is the result of insect infestation, usually aphids or whiteflies Clean the mold off with soapy water and control the insects for long-term relief. Damp springs bring on powdery mildew, a fungus that curls the leaves and turns them gray. Clip off the damage and consider a fungicide spray for the new growth next spring.

All for Beauty
Different types of crape myrtles best suit different situations. Choosing the right myrtle for your site reduces the maintenance you will need to do. Varieties like the stately, white-flowered 'Natchez', which grows 30 feet tall, do not belong close to structures since the pruning needed to control growth will disfigure them. Fifteen-foot crape myrtles, eight-foot weeping types, and three-foot low-growers are available. If your retailer doesn't know the ultimate height and neither do you, shop elsewhere. For limited spaces, crape myrtles meant for hanging baskets are a bright alternative.


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