The Q&A Archives: crape myrtle

Question: I am living in a rental that has a lavender crape myrtle planted in the front yard, in full sun. It is about fifteen feet tall.
The trunk is about four inches in diameter. Most of its leaves stay a coppery color and the overall look of the tree is sparce. There are very few flowers. There doen't seem to be any insect pests. It gets watered when the automatic sprinklers that come on each morning during smmmer months and less in fall, winter and spring.

Answer: It certainly sounds as though the crape myrtle is struggling. Based upon your description of the leaves, it doesn't sound as though it is getting adequate water. If the sprinklers come on every day, they probably stay on for a short time which means only the top inch or two of soil is getting moisture. You can dig down near the base of the tree to see how deeply the water is penetrating. You may very well find that the soil is dry only a few inches beneath the surface. I'd make a watering basin or well beneath the tree by mounding up a few inches of soil in a circle all around the tree (about 12" beyond the trunk in all directions). Once a week flood this basin, allow the water to drain, then flood it a second time. Watering in this way will concentrate the moisture over the root system and allow it to trickle down and wet the entire root mass. Do this now and water regularly during the fall and winter months. By next spring you should see an improvement in the amount and in the color of the foliage. Crape myrtles bloom on new growth so prune it back in early spring and you should see lots of lavender flowers. Best wishes with your tree!

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