The Q&A Archives: Info on Crape Myrtle

Question: Just bought a Natchez crape myrtle, Answers on fertilizing, water, how big will it get, is it a tree or bush. Thanks

Answer: Natchez crepe myrtles grow 20'-30' high in the South. The foliage becomes a reddish-orange in fall. The bark peels off attractively, rather like that of birches, adding winter interest. Natchez crepe myrtles bear white blooms. As with most crape myrtle trees, the flowers are the main selling point. They not only grow in striking clusters, but put on a display that lasts longer than that for most plants (mid-summer to fall). The blooms yield to fruits that are brownish and persist through winter.

Plant Care for Crape Myrtle Trees: Don't over-fertilize crape myrtle trees, including Natchez crepe myrtles. Excessive fertilizing can reduce blooming, as the plant uses the energy to increase foliar growth. In addition to reducing your viewing pleasure, the result is often winter injury, as well.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Crape Myrtle Trees: Crape myrtle trees, including Natchez crepe myrtles, prefer full sun and a well-drained soil. Exposure to full sun can help prevent some of the less mildew-resistant varieties of crape myrtle trees from succumbing to the disease. Soil pH should be 5.0 - 6.5.

Very importantly, Natchez crepe myrtles are highly resistant to mildew. With some other varieties of crape myrtle trees, mildew can be a problem. However, pruning out branches that cross over other branches (thinning) promotes air flow and reduces susceptibility to mildew.

Crape myrtle trees usually produce multiple main stems. Many people, seeking to restrict the growth of the plants, prune crape myrtle trees back severely in winter, in order to limit the plants to one main stem. But such pruning diminishes their appearance and should be avoided in favor of selecting dwarf varieties. For non-dwarf varieties, limit your pruning to the "thinning" that I have described above.

Remove spent flower heads throughout summer (a process known as "deadheading") to "trick" crape myrtle trees into continuing to bloom even more profusely. Also remove any suckers that appear.

Best wishes with your new crape myrtle!

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