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Caring for Crape Myrtle

 

The crape myrtle is versatile and at its best in the summer landscape

The crape myrtle is most appreciated when its blooms burst forth in summer or even as late as August when many other plants have succumbed to heat. It's a hardy choice for many locations, but thrives in full sun.

Experts estimate there are about 600 crape myrtle species and state that it originated in China. There are many sizes to choose from and an array of colored blooms that include lavender, red, pink, and white.

The crape myrtle does not need a lot of attention, but can be nurtured with deep, occasional watering, layers of mulch, and plenty of circulating air. Pruning is a divided subject and shearing brings out pure anger in most enthusiasts. Although many horticulturists slice the crape myrtle horizontally and some almost to the ground, this arguably tends to weaken the plan and creates an unnatural silhouette.

At most, the tips could be pruned back, but only those that are no larger than a pencil in diameter. Seed pods can also be removed, but bird lovers may want to leave them intact for their feathered friends that visit in the winter.

Because the crape myrtle will bloom off a current year's growth, any pruning to be done should be performed just before the spring growth season. Owners should be vigilant in removing suckers at the base of the plant.

Crape myrtles are available in such a range of sizes, it's is easy to incorporate them into many parts of the landscape, from border sizes to tree heights. They can become bushy, trailing, or simply reach for the sky.

Some species will fall prey to a hard freeze, but in most cases, they will support new growth from the roots for spring.

When purchasing a crape myrtle, be sure to purchase the right size for the space you have in mind:
- Weeping. Grows no higher than 4 feet. Drooping branches unlike other crape myrtle species.
- Dwarf. Will reach a height of about 5 feet in a 10-year period.
- Semi-Dwarf. Reaches between 5 and 12 feet in height in 10-year period.
- Intermediate. Reaches between 12 and 20 feet in height in 10-year period.
- Tree/Standard. Mature at 20 feet, but can grow to 40 feet in 10-year period.

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