oklahoma

Crape Myrtle - Summer's Biggest Show!

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This week marked the longest day of the year, the first day of summer, and the start of Crape Myrtle season. 

Most blooming trees and shrubs last for only a few days or a couple of weeks.  But the crape myrtle holds the distinction of being our longest blooming shrub or tree.  Typically, the crape myrtle starts adding color to the landscape in mid-June and doesn’t stop until the first frost.  This year, due to the cooler than normal start to the summer, the crape myrtle hasn’t started to put on their summer show yet but will in the next couple of weeks.   

This past week, I was fortunate to spend a few days in Charleston, South Carolina, the first place the French planted crape myrtles in the United States.  One of our favorite activities of the week was a morning walk through Charleston’s crape myrtle lined streets. 

There are over 50 varieties of crape myrtles and new ones are introduced every year.  They are found throughout the southern US and perform well anywhere south of USDA zone 6. 

Crape myrtle Sizes    Standard Crape Myrtles  - When allowed to grow as a small tree will reach up to 25’ in our region and require little maintenance. Simply remove any dead wood from the tips of the branches in the spring and let the plant go for the season. They can be grown as a single trunk or a multitrunked tree.   Semi-dwarf Crape Myrtles  - Typically grow 8-12’ tall and make an excellent colorful screen when grown in a row.   Dwarf Crape Myrtles  - Grow only 2-4’ tall, are small and mounding, and ideal for a landscape bed where you want a splash of summer color.  Selecting the right sized plant is important. Crape myrtles are at their best when they can grow to their natural shape and size. Constant pruning on the wrong size plant to keep it in a space it was not meant to fit will reduce the summer blooms.

Crape myrtle Sizes

Standard Crape Myrtles - When allowed to grow as a small tree will reach up to 25’ in our region and require little maintenance. Simply remove any dead wood from the tips of the branches in the spring and let the plant go for the season. They can be grown as a single trunk or a multitrunked tree.

Semi-dwarf Crape Myrtles - Typically grow 8-12’ tall and make an excellent colorful screen when grown in a row.

Dwarf Crape Myrtles - Grow only 2-4’ tall, are small and mounding, and ideal for a landscape bed where you want a splash of summer color.

Selecting the right sized plant is important. Crape myrtles are at their best when they can grow to their natural shape and size. Constant pruning on the wrong size plant to keep it in a space it was not meant to fit will reduce the summer blooms.

Crape Myrtle Colors – The color pallet ranges from white, pink, purple and red.  Bloom color is not the only attribute of a crape myrtle.  Their foliage ranges from dark green, wine colored, velvet and dark purple. The combination of the bloom and foliage colors is one of the things that attracts me to the plant.

I am most fond of the large, full sized, tree formed crapemyrtles.  It is hard to narrow my list of favorite crapemyrtles, and my list often changes, but these are just a few of my current favorites:

Pink Velour  – Large 12-15’ small tree form with dark wine foliage and bright pink flowers. The foliage and flower combination are very striking.

Pink Velour – Large 12-15’ small tree form with dark wine foliage and bright pink flowers. The foliage and flower combination are very striking.

Dynamite  – Also a small tree that grows up to 15’. Dynamite was one of the first red tree form varieties. New foliage is nearly crimson in color and changes to a rich green as it matures. Flowers are brilliant red.

Dynamite – Also a small tree that grows up to 15’. Dynamite was one of the first red tree form varieties. New foliage is nearly crimson in color and changes to a rich green as it matures. Flowers are brilliant red.

Natchez  – One of the largest tree form crape myrtles reaching 25’. Foliage is rich green, and flowers are white. The cinnamon brown bark puts on a show of its own as it exfoliates.

Natchez – One of the largest tree form crape myrtles reaching 25’. Foliage is rich green, and flowers are white. The cinnamon brown bark puts on a show of its own as it exfoliates.

Ebony Flame  – A great accent plant that grows 10-12’ with dark red blooms on intense black foliage.

Ebony Flame – A great accent plant that grows 10-12’ with dark red blooms on intense black foliage.

One of the nation’s leading innovators of crape myrtles is Oklahoma’s own, Dr. Carl Whitcomb. Dr. Whitcomb holds 32 patents and has authored five books including Know It and Grow It, a book every landscape enthusiast should own. You can see all of Dr. Whitcomb’s crape myrtles by following this link: http://drcarlwhitcomb.com/Patented_Plants.html

Crape Myrtle Bark  – One of the most overlooked aspects of the plant is the bark. The bark is smooth and ranges in color from pink to gray. As the plant matures, the thin bark exfoliates to expose a different color underneath. Too often, tree form crape myrtles are severely pruned every spring and we never get to enjoy the beautiful bark of the mature plant.

Crape Myrtle Bark – One of the most overlooked aspects of the plant is the bark. The bark is smooth and ranges in color from pink to gray. As the plant matures, the thin bark exfoliates to expose a different color underneath. Too often, tree form crape myrtles are severely pruned every spring and we never get to enjoy the beautiful bark of the mature plant.

Crape Myrtle Fall Color  – Another overlooked characteristic of the plant is the fall color. Varieties range from yellow to red. Much of our fall color is found in larger trees. Crape myrtles add fall color to the landscape below the color of the large trees.

Crape Myrtle Fall Color – Another overlooked characteristic of the plant is the fall color. Varieties range from yellow to red. Much of our fall color is found in larger trees. Crape myrtles add fall color to the landscape below the color of the large trees.

I would challenge anyone to find another plant that offers so many features to the landscape.  From the long bloom, the variety of colors, the many shapes and sizes, and the addition of exfoliating bark and good fall color, you can’t deny the crape myrtle a place in your landscape.

Lorne Hall

Hall Stewart Lawn + Landscape

June Lawn & Landscape Tips

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Late May into early June is typically the turning point for your summer loving landscapes.  By the first of June, warm season turfs are looking great, shrubs and trees are full of foliage, and summer annual color plantings are bursting with brilliant color. With all the excess moisture in May, in Oklahoma this June should be great for our landscapes!

June is the month all your lawn and landscape activities finally settle into a predictable routine. Here are a few things to be thinking about:

Mowing –  For the best summer turf get into a routine of mowing often enough that you only remove a third of the leaf blade with each mowing.  For bermuda and zoyia, both warm season turf grasses, this may require mowing every 4 to 5 days.  If you can mow this often, don’t bag your clippings.  The top third of the grass leaf is 90% moisture and nutrients.  The best summer height for warm season turf is 1.5 – 2.5”.  Fescue, cool season turf grass, will continue to grow rapidly during early June but once we consistently have temperatures in the upper 90’s it will begin to slow down.  The best height for cool season turf in the summer is 2.5 – 3.5”.  Both warm season and cool season turfs, don’t respond well to being cut below their recommended height. Cutting the lawn too short discourages root development and having deep roots going into the summer heat is important for both warm and cool season turf.

Mowing – For the best summer turf get into a routine of mowing often enough that you only remove a third of the leaf blade with each mowing.  For bermuda and zoyia, both warm season turf grasses, this may require mowing every 4 to 5 days.  If you can mow this often, don’t bag your clippings.  The top third of the grass leaf is 90% moisture and nutrients.  The best summer height for warm season turf is 1.5 – 2.5”.  Fescue, cool season turf grass, will continue to grow rapidly during early June but once we consistently have temperatures in the upper 90’s it will begin to slow down.  The best height for cool season turf in the summer is 2.5 – 3.5”.  Both warm season and cool season turfs, don’t respond well to being cut below their recommended height. Cutting the lawn too short discourages root development and having deep roots going into the summer heat is important for both warm and cool season turf.

Fertilizer – Bermuda lawns should be fertilized this month with a higher nitrogen, slow release fertilizer.  The goal in June is to create a healthy bermuda lawn that will thrive in the summer heat.  Fescue lawns should only receive low nitrogen, organic, root stimulating fertilizer during June to prepare them for the summer.

Weed Control –  If you subscribe to  Hall | Stewart’s Lawn Care Programs  and have not skipped any applications this year, you have received two spring pre-emergent applications.  This has given you a good barrier to prevent summer annual grassy weeds.  But, if not, you may have some grassy weeds, most commonly, crabgrass, showing up in your lawn.  June is a good month to control grassy weeds while they are still young plants.  Once they mature, stronger products will need to be used which can cause turf damage.  If nutsedge is making an appearance in your lawn, it is best  not  to pull it.  When you pull nutsedge and do not remove the nut below the surface, the plant becomes stressed and multiplies. 

Weed Control – If you subscribe to Hall | Stewart’s Lawn Care Programs and have not skipped any applications this year, you have received two spring pre-emergent applications.  This has given you a good barrier to prevent summer annual grassy weeds.  But, if not, you may have some grassy weeds, most commonly, crabgrass, showing up in your lawn.  June is a good month to control grassy weeds while they are still young plants.  Once they mature, stronger products will need to be used which can cause turf damage.  If nutsedge is making an appearance in your lawn, it is best not to pull it.  When you pull nutsedge and do not remove the nut below the surface, the plant becomes stressed and multiplies. 

Tree & Shrub Care –  Start watching for spider mites.  If you notice pale and specked foliage, shake the leaves over a white sheet of paper.  If you see tiny specks that start to move, you have spider mites and should schedule a treatment.  Also, be on the watch for bagworms on needle evergreens. With all insect and disease issues, we subscribe to an integrated pest management approach.  With our Tree & Shrub Program, we inspect for these issues with each visit.  Most problems are easier to control the earlier you notice them.  If you notice any issues with your plants, please let us know.

Tree & Shrub Care – Start watching for spider mites.  If you notice pale and specked foliage, shake the leaves over a white sheet of paper.  If you see tiny specks that start to move, you have spider mites and should schedule a treatment.  Also, be on the watch for bagworms on needle evergreens. With all insect and disease issues, we subscribe to an integrated pest management approach.  With our Tree & Shrub Program, we inspect for these issues with each visit.  Most problems are easier to control the earlier you notice them.  If you notice any issues with your plants, please let us know.

Watering –  This may be one of the most misunderstood aspects of landscape management.  May was very wet…too wet.  Currently, soil moisture is enough for mature lawns, shrubs, and trees. If you have new plantings, or annual color, you may need to water.  Develop the practice of watering based only on need.  Anytime we go a week without receiving a 1” of rainfall, start watering.  When you walk on the lawn, if grass doesn’t spring back up, start watering.  Remember, deep soakings are always better than short, frequent watering.  Shallow, frequent watering results in lawns with less roots and more dependent on water.   

Watering – This may be one of the most misunderstood aspects of landscape management.  May was very wet…too wet.  Currently, soil moisture is enough for mature lawns, shrubs, and trees. If you have new plantings, or annual color, you may need to water.  Develop the practice of watering based only on need.  Anytime we go a week without receiving a 1” of rainfall, start watering.  When you walk on the lawn, if grass doesn’t spring back up, start watering.  Remember, deep soakings are always better than short, frequent watering.  Shallow, frequent watering results in lawns with less roots and more dependent on water.   

Mulch  – Add mulch to your landscape plantings this month.  A 2” layer of mulch will retain moisture, cool the soil, and reduce weed germination.  We prefer premium shredded all bark cedar mulch because it doesn’t float as much and aesthetically looks great.  For acid loving plants such as hydrangeas and azaleas, pecan hulls or pine bark mulch is a great choice. 

Mulch – Add mulch to your landscape plantings this month.  A 2” layer of mulch will retain moisture, cool the soil, and reduce weed germination.  We prefer premium shredded all bark cedar mulch because it doesn’t float as much and aesthetically looks great.  For acid loving plants such as hydrangeas and azaleas, pecan hulls or pine bark mulch is a great choice. 

Brown Patch – Be on the look out for brown patch in your fescue lawn.  Anytime nighttime temperatures are 70 plus and the turf remains damp for over 6 hours at a time, brown patch will develop. Areas where there is little air movement and/or heavy shade are more prone because the turf stays wet longer.  Brown patch will make the lawn appear it needs more water, but watering will just make it worse.  So, before you water more, think about the site, the amount of shade, the air movement in the area, and the amount of moisture the area has received.  The best thing you can do if this problem occurs is to stop watering.

Aeration – Mechanical aeration is a “best” practice for any lawn.  Aeration reduces soil compaction, promotes root development, and thickens the turf.  May and June are the best months to aerate bermuda.  This one practice will make a big difference in the quality of your turf.  The stronger the turf, the less weed problems you will experience.

Insects  – Regularly scheduled treatments for fleas & ticks, mosquitos, and perimeter insect control around your house should continue during the summer.  The goal is to make outdoor living for your family, friends, and pets the best possible.

Insects – Regularly scheduled treatments for fleas & ticks, mosquitos, and perimeter insect control around your house should continue during the summer.  The goal is to make outdoor living for your family, friends, and pets the best possible.

Tree Trim – Early summer is a good time to do minor tree trimming.  If you have tree branches that are hanging a little lower now that they are full of foliage, go ahead and remove them this month. 

 Get outside and enjoy your landscape this month! 

We look forward to every opportunity to visit your lawn and landscape! If you have any questions, please send us an email or call (405)367-3873.

Lorne Hall

Hall | Stewart Lawn + Landscape

What says, "it's spring!" to you?

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My definition of anticipation – waiting for the spring landscape to burst with color!

This week was the week I have been waiting for since the first cool freeze last fall.  Warmer days, fewer nights in the 30’s, and longer days have yielded fescue lawns turning greener every day, trees with swelling buds, and shrubs adding color to the landscape. 

I love spring!   

This time of year it is common for me to see a plant bursting with color and declare it to be my favorite plant.  Only to declare a new favorite the next day. 

Since I don’t have the time to write about all my favorites and you don’t have the time to read about them, I have narrowed the list to three spring favorite perennials, three shrubs, and three trees.

PERENNIALS

Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera) . The first to welcome spring each year. Creeping phlox produces a spring-like carpet in pastel hues of white, lavender, red and pink. Creeping phlox is a moderate grower that can spread up to 2’ but only reaches 4-6” in height. It requires full sun, but will tolerate a couple hours of shade each day. Borders, walls, and around boulders are where it looks best. In my garden, you will find it cascading over a rock retaining wall. It tolerates most soils as long as it is well drained. The plant requires little maintenance. Mites are about the only insect problem it will have.


Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
. The first to welcome spring each year. Creeping phlox produces a spring-like carpet in pastel hues of white, lavender, red and pink. Creeping phlox is a moderate grower that can spread up to 2’ but only reaches 4-6” in height. It requires full sun, but will tolerate a couple hours of shade each day. Borders, walls, and around boulders are where it looks best. In my garden, you will find it cascading over a rock retaining wall. It tolerates most soils as long as it is well drained. The plant requires little maintenance. Mites are about the only insect problem it will have.

Dianthus (Dianthus).  It works well as a border, in small groupings, around boulders or as a single plant reaching 10-15” tall with a spread of 12-24”. They bloom in late spring in rose, pink, white, red. They like full sun but will take some dappled shade or afternoon shade. Just like creeping phlox, they are a cool season lover. They will grow in most soils, but prefer alkaline soils — waterlogged soil will cause crown and root rot. Heavy mulching near the crown of the plant can be detrimental. Late March and into May is the peak bloom time. Light feeding in the spring with a complete fertilizer of phosphorus, potassium and low nitrogen is recommended. Other an occasional aphid or powdery mildew issue, they do not have many problems. There are more than 300 varieties of dianthus to choose from. My all-time favorite is ‘Firewitch’. It has a silver-green foliage and with a vibrant pink bloom.

Dianthus (Dianthus). It works well as a border, in small groupings, around boulders or as a single plant reaching 10-15” tall with a spread of 12-24”. They bloom in late spring in rose, pink, white, red. They like full sun but will take some dappled shade or afternoon shade. Just like creeping phlox, they are a cool season lover. They will grow in most soils, but prefer alkaline soils — waterlogged soil will cause crown and root rot. Heavy mulching near the crown of the plant can be detrimental. Late March and into May is the peak bloom time. Light feeding in the spring with a complete fertilizer of phosphorus, potassium and low nitrogen is recommended. Other an occasional aphid or powdery mildew issue, they do not have many problems. There are more than 300 varieties of dianthus to choose from. My all-time favorite is ‘Firewitch’. It has a silver-green foliage and with a vibrant pink bloom.

SHRUBS

Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’).  Best grown as a specimen shrub where it can show off its naturally stunning shape. Forsythia’s brilliant yellow flowers are the first to welcome spring. It performs best planted in full sun and will grow in partial shade, only with less spring blooms. It is considered a fast grower. Forsythia adapts well to most soils but prefers well drained. It rarely has an insect or disease problem. Pruning should only occur after spring blooms fade. If you prune later in the year you will reduce blooms the following spring. The best way to prune this shrub is to remove older wood all the way to the base of the shrub. Traditional forsythia will grow to 6-8’ with an 8’ spread and are well suited for large lawns. If you have a smaller yard, look for one of the newer varieties, such as Gold Tide (Forsythia ‘Courtasol’), a dwarf variety that only reaches 2’ high and spreads to 4’.

Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’). Best grown as a specimen shrub where it can show off its naturally stunning shape. Forsythia’s brilliant yellow flowers are the first to welcome spring. It performs best planted in full sun and will grow in partial shade, only with less spring blooms. It is considered a fast grower. Forsythia adapts well to most soils but prefers well drained. It rarely has an insect or disease problem. Pruning should only occur after spring blooms fade. If you prune later in the year you will reduce blooms the following spring. The best way to prune this shrub is to remove older wood all the way to the base of the shrub. Traditional forsythia will grow to 6-8’ with an 8’ spread and are well suited for large lawns. If you have a smaller yard, look for one of the newer varieties, such as Gold Tide (Forsythia ‘Courtasol’), a dwarf variety that only reaches 2’ high and spreads to 4’.

Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spiraea x vanhouttei).  A medium sized shrub with arching branches covered with an abundance of white cascading flowers in mid spring. It is a very hardy, heirloom shrub, with no specific pest issues that thrives in well drained soils. It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. To preserve the natural arching shape, avoid sheering — but if pruning is needed, it is best done in the spring after blooms fade. It looks stunning planted in full sun to partial shade in front of darker structures or large hollies. Spiraea nipponica ‘Snow mound’ is another great variety.

Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spiraea x vanhouttei). A medium sized shrub with arching branches covered with an abundance of white cascading flowers in mid spring. It is a very hardy, heirloom shrub, with no specific pest issues that thrives in well drained soils. It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. To preserve the natural arching shape, avoid sheering — but if pruning is needed, it is best done in the spring after blooms fade. It looks stunning planted in full sun to partial shade in front of darker structures or large hollies. Spiraea nipponica ‘Snow mound’ is another great variety.

TREES

Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texenis ‘Oklahoma’).  My all-time favorite “Welcome to spring” plant.  (You can expect me to dedicate an entire email to this tree every spring!)  Reddish-purple blooms appear on branches before leaves appear. The ‘Oklahoma’ variety was discovered in the Arbuckle Mountains and know for its glossy, heart shaped, green leaves in the summer. It grows to 15’-20’. Prefers full sun but does well as an understory tree in dabbled shade.

Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texenis ‘Oklahoma’). My all-time favorite “Welcome to spring” plant. (You can expect me to dedicate an entire email to this tree every spring!) Reddish-purple blooms appear on branches before leaves appear. The ‘Oklahoma’ variety was discovered in the Arbuckle Mountains and know for its glossy, heart shaped, green leaves in the summer. It grows to 15’-20’. Prefers full sun but does well as an understory tree in dabbled shade.

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‘May Night’ Salvia (Salvia x sylvestris).  Sage type flower spikes of deep bluish-purple that will add color in April, May and early June. The best flower show will be in full sun, but it will tolerate a little dappled shade each day. The plant grows 12-18” tall with flower spikes reach 24”. The plant looks great in the middle of the garden planted behind creeping phlox or dianthus, and in front of Shasta daisy or Black-eyed Susan. The leaves often become tattered later in the summer and dormant over the winter. Remove faded blooms to maximize bloom period and pruning the plants after blooming may result in a few fall blooms. In the early spring, before new growth emerges, remove the dormant foliage. Salvia tolerates clay soils but will struggle with root rot if the soil stays saturated.

‘May Night’ Salvia (Salvia x sylvestris). Sage type flower spikes of deep bluish-purple that will add color in April, May and early June. The best flower show will be in full sun, but it will tolerate a little dappled shade each day. The plant grows 12-18” tall with flower spikes reach 24”. The plant looks great in the middle of the garden planted behind creeping phlox or dianthus, and in front of Shasta daisy or Black-eyed Susan. The leaves often become tattered later in the summer and dormant over the winter. Remove faded blooms to maximize bloom period and pruning the plants after blooming may result in a few fall blooms. In the early spring, before new growth emerges, remove the dormant foliage. Salvia tolerates clay soils but will struggle with root rot if the soil stays saturated.

 
Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles japonica “Texas Scarlet’).  Another early bloomer known for adding splashes of red to the landscape. It also performs best in full sun and tolerates partial shade but with fewer blossoms. Considered a moderate grower and mid-sized shrub, most varieties reach 4-5’. It does best if planted where it can grow to its natural size and shape. If pruning is required, only prune in the spring after blooms have faded. Flowering Quince is loved by butterflies and hummingbirds. The plant is very draught tolerant once it is established and it will tolerate most soils, but like most plants would enjoy well drained areas. Another variety, Chaenomeles speciossa Double Take Series has blooms that resemble camellias.

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles japonica “Texas Scarlet’). Another early bloomer known for adding splashes of red to the landscape. It also performs best in full sun and tolerates partial shade but with fewer blossoms. Considered a moderate grower and mid-sized shrub, most varieties reach 4-5’. It does best if planted where it can grow to its natural size and shape. If pruning is required, only prune in the spring after blooms have faded. Flowering Quince is loved by butterflies and hummingbirds. The plant is very draught tolerant once it is established and it will tolerate most soils, but like most plants would enjoy well drained areas. Another variety, Chaenomeles speciossa Double Take Series has blooms that resemble camellias.

 
Crabapple (Malus ‘Prairifire).  There are many varieties of crabapples, but ‘Prairifire’ is one of the best. It was the Oklahoma Proven Tree of the Year in 2007. It is disease resistant and not phased by most of the problems with crabapples. Flowers of rose-pink cover the tree as soon as leaves emerge. Young leaves go from purple-red to dark green as they mature. Branches have red fruit in the winter. Mature, 20-25’, trees have a rounded top. Plant in full sun as a specimen tree or in a grouping. Water extra during periods of extreme heat or draught.

Crabapple (Malus ‘Prairifire). There are many varieties of crabapples, but ‘Prairifire’ is one of the best. It was the Oklahoma Proven Tree of the Year in 2007. It is disease resistant and not phased by most of the problems with crabapples. Flowers of rose-pink cover the tree as soon as leaves emerge. Young leaves go from purple-red to dark green as they mature. Branches have red fruit in the winter. Mature, 20-25’, trees have a rounded top. Plant in full sun as a specimen tree or in a grouping. Water extra during periods of extreme heat or draught.

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana).  A specimen type tree that reaches 15-20’. Large blooms put on a spectacular show on multi-trunk spreading branches. Blooms range from white to pink to purple. Best if planted in full sun. Plant away from radiant west or south heat where warm spring days may cause buds to develop too early only to be killed by a late freeze. They require regular deep watering in the summer months when leaves become tattered looking. It is best if their roots are protected with a layer of mulch to conserve water in the summer.

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana). A specimen type tree that reaches 15-20’. Large blooms put on a spectacular show on multi-trunk spreading branches. Blooms range from white to pink to purple. Best if planted in full sun. Plant away from radiant west or south heat where warm spring days may cause buds to develop too early only to be killed by a late freeze. They require regular deep watering in the summer months when leaves become tattered looking. It is best if their roots are protected with a layer of mulch to conserve water in the summer.

What are your favorite spring plants?

Send us an email or give us a call (405)367-3873, we would love to know what says “spring” to you!

Lorne Hall

Don’t let your Crape Myrtles fall victim to Crape Murder

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Crape myrtles are a must have plant for nearly every landscape.  They are one of the longest blooming plants in our region, have attractive branching and bark, and provide great fall color. 

Crape Myrtles require some pruning every spring, but way too often Crape Myrtles are trimmed incorrectly, too severely, in late winter to early spring. 

Why do so many cut crapes back to 4-5’ every year?

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Three Reasons for Bad Crape Myrtle Pruning

  1. It is simply what everyone does to their Crape Myrtles in the spring. Have you ever wondered if it is the best practice?  It pains me to see so many beautiful Crapes cut back to ugly stubs every spring.  This practice ruins the natural form of the plant.  Southern Living termed the practice as “Crape Murder” decades ago, but yet it continues as the common practice.

  2. The wrong variety was selected for the location and pruning is needed to control the size. Varieties include large tree types that grow 20’ or larger, medium varieties 12-18’, 6-12’ small varieties, and dwarf varieties.  When you select the right size for your planting area and are not forced to prune heavily to contain the plant, you will find you will have a healthier plant resulting in less disease and more blooms. 

  3. They believe the myth that crape myrtles bloom more if they are severely pruned every year.  Flowers are produced on new growth every year even if they are not pruned. Actually, without heavy pruning you will have more branch area resulting in more summer blooms.

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Crape Murder destroys the natural beauty of the plant. Mature crape myrtles have wonderful smooth and molten bark with graceful shapes. You will never experience this quality if you murder them every spring.

This Crape Myrtle fell victim to Crape Murder.

Best Pruning Tips

  1. Know what your goal is before you start.  You can always prune more, but once you have pruned, you can never prune less. 

  2. Remove last summer’s seed pods from the ends of the branches with hand pruners.

  3. Remove all the smaller branches growing toward the center of the plant.  This will allow more air and light to reach the center of the plant which will increase blooms and reduce disease.

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Great pruning… this Crape Myrtle didn’t fall victim to Crape Murder.

4. Make cuts back at the main branch and don’t leave stubs.

5. Remove any unwanted branches from the base of large shrub or tree from varieties.  Typically 5-7 trunks, free of any branches for the first quarter or third of the plant results in an attractive landscape plant.

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First leaf buds on a pruned Crape Myrtle in late March.

 

Crape Myrtle Insect and Disease Issues

Scale – The last two years many Crape Myrtles in central Oklahoma developed bark scale.  This problem is relatively new to our area, but has been a nuisance in Texas for a few years.  The insect is invasive and results in a black mold along the branches and trunk.  Although the scale is rarely fatal to the plant, they are responsible for stunted growth, reduced flowering and loss in aesthetics.  Best control is achieved with a dormant oil in the spring followed by contact insecticide applications in late spring and early summer when pest populations increase.

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Powdery Mildew – Best identified as a power-like dusting that develops in late spring and early summer on new leaves.  It will result in reduced blooming and misshaped leaves when untreated.  Warm days, cool nights, low wind circulation, and excessive moisture on the leaves are the culprits.  Best practice is to plant Crape Myrtles in areas where they will receive plenty of light and air movement.  If you notice powdery mildew, fungicide applications will be required to control the spread of the disease.

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Aphids – Traditionally, they have been the major pest for Crape Myrtles. A few aphids are not a problem and do not require treatment. But, if populations increase they can cause damage. Application of a dormant oil in the late winter or spring is the best preventive step to control aphids and is recommended. If aphid populations become a problem during the season, repeated applications of an insecticide will be required to gain control.

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Please let us know if we can help you with any Crape Myrtle issues — from plant selection, proper pruning, and care.

To insure you have a summer full of wonderful crape myrtle color, call (405)367-3873 to schedule a dormant oil application this week!

Lorne Hall