Crepe Myrtle, Tree, Bush or Shrub

 During this summer filled with hot days, we observed the plants that continue to bloom, grow and thrive.  We see varieties and colors of crepe myrtle plants that never wilt during lack of rain; have huge blooms as usual each summer. 

Consider planting several of these plants into the garden to add easy care and low maintenance bright spots from late June until fall.

 Crepe myrtles are available as plants growing in many heights and colors. Much research has been done with this plant, and hybridizers have developed bloom colors in shades of pink, bicolor, white, dark fuchsia, bright red and other pleasing variations, but no blue or yellow crape myrtles exist.

Bark is textured, and colored. When purchasing a crape myrtle look at blooming specimens to select the color bloom and bark.

 Do homework to determine size, shape and growing habits of varieties. If you have space for a bush, and no need for a small tree, then avoid constantly whacking the plant back by selecting a variety growing 3 to 5 feet tall. 

Alternately, for a magnificent small tree, select a crape myrtle that grows 25–30 feet tall.  The varietyNatchezsets the standard for big blooms, cold and drought hardiness, exfoliating bark and bright fall leaves.

The “right plant in the right place,” is a rule of thumb for smart gardeners.  Why waste time cutting to keep a plant small when we can plant the proper size to start.

 Few bugs and diseases bother crape myrtles, and many are resistant to mildew.  Mostly hardy, but in a severe killing freeze the plant may die, however, it is only dead to the ground. 

Crape myrtle comes back from the roots as beautiful as ever.  Blooming on new wood formed the year of the bloom, it is fine to trim dead wood, spent blooms and suckers at the base as they occur. 

A serious no-no for trimming is cutting the tops down creating topless clubs. This primitive method of cutting trees does not make for a happy tree or onlooker.  Trees should always be limbed-UP. Simply use hand pruners or loppers to shape the tree or bush.

 Drive around observing established crape myrtles. Note colors, growing habits, and the beautiful small trees and bushes they make. Do Internet research, check with local plant nurseries and greenhouses to find the variety, color and bark you prefer.

 Crape Myrtles grow in most well-drained soils with at least six hours of sun daily. Fertilize in spring as they leaf out.  Take care to water container-grown plants while still in the container, before planting. 

Dig the hole twice as wide as, and no deeper than the root system of the plant.  Check the roots to be sure they are not pot bound, and if necessary, lightly score the roots to encourage outward growth. 

Leave large roots which have many feeder roots attached.  Place into the hole, add water and fill with native soil and compost.

Websites: Clemson University: www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic  ask for bulletin number 1023;  also see the National Arboretum.