The Q&A Archives: Crape Mrytle

Question: How to plant and care for Crape Mrytle plants in Tenn clay soil? How to modify soil to required conditions?

Answer: Crape myrtles like well-drained soil in full sun with good air circulation. They don't need a rich soil; in fact, they bloom most profusely in soil rather low in nutrients. They don't, however, grow well in excessively dry soil, which can be accommodated by regular watering. Crape myrtles will adapt to a wide range of soil conditions. If you amend the soil with organic matter to help with drainage, be sure to amend a large area. If you improve only the soil in the planting hole, the roots of the tree will remain in the "good soil" instead of exploring out as they should.

Choose the location and dig the hole twice the size of the root mass so you can loosen the soil all around. Then place the tree in the hole and backfill with soil so it's at the same level it was growing before. Be sure to spread the roots out as you plant it, and tamp the soil down as you refil the hole. Finally, build a basin on the soil surface so you can add water directly over the roots. Then water well, and remember to supply about an inch of water per week until the tree becomes established in its new home. This can take up to a year. (You'll know the roots are growing well when you see new top growth.)

Enjoy your crape myrtle!

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