Autumn is a time of Thanksgiving. It is a time to share your harvest and to be thankful for the season’s rewards. It is also time to appreciate all that is around us. What better gift to share with neighbors, friends and family than a colorful fall display in your own yard. Adding a crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia) to your yard is a perfect way to begin.
Crape myrtles enhance any landscape. Many people select them for their sensational fall color. Some choose them for their beautiful flowers in spring and summer. Others select them for their striking sculptural bark providing winter interest. I chose them for all three.
Crape myrtles grow in either a multi stem shrub, as I prefer, or a small tree typically reaching 15-25 feet tall. They are not fussy and love the hot sun. What they do not like is soggy soil. However, they are easily adaptable in most other kinds of soil.
Ideally crape myrtles should be planted when the weather is cool and when they are inactive. Fall is a perfect time to select them in their fall glory. Amending the soil is unnecessary. They should be planted with the same depth as in the nursery pot. The width of the hole should be twice the size as the rootball. Water on a regular basis for two months so the roots can get established. This is important, especially in a drought year like we appear to be having. Once established they can then become drought tolerant.
I encourage limited pruning and little removal of growing branches. Too much pruning can lead to the development of suckers resulting in additional pruning and care. It can also result in unattractive winter form. There are no knobs on my crape myrtles. These tend to develop from repetitive pruning in the same area year after year.
These trees can be susceptible to powdery mildew and aphids. These insects feed on the succulent new growth creating a residue called honey dew that attracts sooty black mold spores. Use insecticidal soap or Neem spray to treat. Remember to spray the underside of the leaves.
Just a word about the bark’s shedding process. It is a normal process of the tree when it has reached maturity. Usually this occurs several years after planting. After the bark has shed, a smooth trunk of varying shades of tan is exposed that is so beautiful that it reminds me of an artist’s sculptural creation. Since the crape myrtle is deciduous, this sensational bark is then fully displayed.
Incidentally you may have noticed that crape myrtle may be spelled two ways. Wikipedia insists that the correct spelling is “Crape-myrtle.” The American Horticultural Society uses “Crape myrtle.” Southern Living books and magazines prefer “Crepe myrtle.” Just some interesting trivia for those of you in the need to know.
For an easy start to planting fall color into your landscape, now is the time to go to your favorite nursery and select the best suited for you. You will be able to enjoy it, not only next autumn, but all year long.
All are welcome to join us at our garden club meetings on the last Tuesday of every month at 1 p.m. There will be no meeting in December due to the holidays. Come join us though for our Scholarship Christmas Boutique and Greens Sale Dec. 4-7 this year at the Union Hall in Red Bluff, 12889 Baker Road. We will be open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and then 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday. There will be fresh wreaths, centerpieces and all kinds of goodies. Be sure and put us on your calendar.
The Red Bluff Garden Club, Inc. is a member of Cascade District, California Garden Clubs, Inc. and Pacific Region, National Garden Clubs, Inc.
The Red Bluff Garden Club is affiliated with the Cascade District Garden Club; California Garden Clubs, Inc; Pacific Region Garden Clubs and Natural Garden Clubs Inc.