Crape Myrtle stages brilliant summer show

  • Thursday, July 25, 2013

Due to an ability to adapt in “poor soil” and easy maintenance – not to mention beautiful summer blooms – Crape Myrtles is a perennially popular landscape tree.
This season locals have noticed their Crape Myrtles have had a spectacular bloom.
Mark Arena, Area Extension Agent at Clemson Cooperative Extension, has his own thoughts on why the trees are putting on a better than usual show.
“Probably because of all the rain,” Arena said.
Doyle Best, Summerville’s Parks and Recreation Director, agrees with Arena’s assessment that everything looks better this year.
“Although the rain has caused some flooding, everything is more lush and green and all the rain plays a big part in why the crape myrtle look so good this year.”
Best says his favorite is the white blooming crape myrtle.
“Those are called the Natchez crape myrtle. It’s easy to identify them even when they are not in bloom by the cinnamon colored bark.
Another of his favorites is the lavender crape myrtle.
“The lavender Muskogee crape myrtle can also be identified by its light-colored bark,” Best said.
Some good examples of those are near the railroad tracks at Doty Avenue.
The hot pink crape myrtles are not just one variety but many, according to Best.
“There are so many different varieties of the pink it’s hard to identify them.”
Also more interesting this year is the Spanish moss draping from many of the crape myrtle trees that line many of the streets in Summerville. The moss appears more visible because of the brilliance of the blooms acting as counterpoint to the “greybeard.”
Some people worry about the Spanish Moss damaging the plant in some form.
“There is no scientific evidence that Spanish moss is harmful to the plant,” says Arena.
Another feature that the crape myrtle is known for is the smooth and sometimes colorful bark. Most of them are known to have brown or tan colors. According to Paul Moore of Southern Gardens, the best time to take initiative on planting would be during the fall, so the roots can develop well before spring.
Also, if you currently own crape myrtles, Moore recommends fertilizing in the spring.
“Try not to prune them too hard,” he said.
When it comes to pruning, Best agrees that less is more.
“Some very selective pruning is good. Some people chop them off at head height each year and that is not the way to prune. The limbs you take are the interior ones that cross each other. Those can be pruned out. You want it to keep its natural tree shape,” he said.
If you are interested in purchasing Crape Myrtles, you may do so at a local nursery or garden.

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