Answer: Crape myrtle will grow under adverse soil conditions. It grows and flowers much better in well-prepared soil, though, so good soil preparation is well worth the effort involved. Preparation includes digging a large hole -- at least two times wider than the root ball. Set the plant in the hole no deeper than it originally grew in the container or field. Then backfill with the same soil removed from the hole after breaking apart clods and removing rocks or other debris. Research has shown that organic matter amendments are not necessary when planting in individual holes. Amendments in the hole encourage roots to stay within the hole and not grow outward into the surrounding native soil. Amendments are most beneficial, therefore, when they are incorporated uniformly throughout the soil surrounding the planting hole.
After planting, water thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots, and mulch to conserve moisture, reduce weeds and insulate the roots against extreme cold and heat. Three to five inches of pine straw, pine bark, shredded hardwood mulch or shredded leaves placed over the planting hole is ideal. Mulching a larger area beyond the planting hole is even better.
Water crape myrtle plants thoroughly at planting time and then water deeply once a week to keep the tree healthy.
Established crape myrtle plants will tolerate drought. Flowering is enhanced, however, if plants are watered during dry periods that occur during the flowering season.
For strong growth and abundant flowering, plant crape myrtle in full sun. Heavy shade will reduce growth and flowering and will increase disease problems such as sooty mold on the foliage and powdery mildew on the flower buds and young growth. Large shade trees will also compete with the crape myrtle for moisture, causing poor growth and flowering. Lack of sunlight and moisture are the common causes of poor growth and flowering.
Crape myrtle flowers on new growth of the season, so you can prune plants any time during the late winter or early spring before growth begins without loss of flower buds.
Enjoy your new crape myrtle!
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