Crapemyrtles: A Landscape Showstopper
Crapemyrtles are a beauty to behold in any landscape. They are popular landscape plants in Florida because of their ease of propagation, lengthy blooming period, ability to grow under a range of soil conditions, and are relatively inexpensive.
The flowering season for crapemyrtle begins in June or July and continues until fall. Crapemyrtles are available in many flower colors. Each long cluster of flowers (panicle) is composed of hundreds of one to two-inch, red, pink, white, lavender, or purple flowers. Some crapemyrtle varieties have exfoliating bark in the summer which is an added visual interest in the landscape. Crapemyrtles range in height from dwarf (grows less than four feet in five years) to tree size (more than 20 feet high in 20 years). The publication, ‘Crapemyrtles in Florida’ details each variety to make the selection process easy for you. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/MG/MG26600.pdf
A soil pH 5.0 to 6.5 is ideal, but crapemyrtles will still perform outside of this range. Crapemyrtles thrive in full sun and are very drought tolerant once established. The establishment period is usually about two months after planting. Plants grown in shaded areas are usually weak and tend to succumb to diseases such as powdery mildew.
Crapemyrtle nutrient requirements are minimal. High fertility levels produce excessive vegetative growth and fewer flower panicles. Crapemyrtles planted in lawn that is being fertilized do not require additional fertilization. Early spring is the recommended time to fertilize crapemyrtles with a complete fertilizer (nitrogen, N – phosphorus, P – potassium, P) such as 6-6-6 or 8-8-8 at a rate of one to two pounds per 100 square feet of planting bed for established plants.
Crapemyrtle flowers on the new growth of the season. Avoid pruning in early fall before the first frost, because pruning forces new growth and keeps the plant from going dormant. Severe freezes can kill the plant if it is not fully dormant. Prune plants any time during the late winter or early spring before growth begins without loss of flower buds. Pruning results in an abundance of new shoots that form flowers. It also reduces the amount of vegetative growth and funnels the energy of the plant into new growth and flowers. Pruning, however, is not essential for flowering.
Pests of Crapemyrtle
Aphids and white flies are two common insect pests that can be found on crapemyrtles. However, they can easily be controlled with use of an insecticide. Powdery mildew disease can be avoided by planting in sunny areas or using resistant varieties such as Acoma, Hopi and Natchez.
Invasive Pest Alert
Florida gardeners should be on the look out for Crapemyrtle bark scale (CMBS). This invasive insect has been found on crapemyrtles in Georgia and Alabama, west to New Mexico and up the east coast as far north as Washington DC. Thus, it is safe to assume that it will only be a matter of time before CMBS spreads to Florida. CMBS is easy to detect as it is the only bark scale on crapemyrtles. This Featured Creatures publication provides detailed description of CMBS with photos and management options. https://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/creatures/ORN/SCALES/crapemyrtle_bark_scale.html Early detection is necessary to prevent the spread of this pest that could potentially devastate the landscape showstopper we all look forward to blooming each summer. Contact the Extension office if you suspect an infestation CMBS on your crapemyrtles.