Crape Myrtles: (Intermediate/Experienced)
Crape myrtles are one of the most iconic and eye-catching trees in Louisiana. It's hard to drive anywhere without seeing one, and why would you want to? They're one of the most beautiful trees when in full bloom, and nearly just as attractive in the middle of winter.
Crape myrtles come in such a large variety of sizes and colors it's good to have a plant and understand the variety you are buying. How big of an area do you have? Are you planting near a house or deck? What color do you like? These factors will determine what variety of crape myrtle is best for you.
Miniature trees reach heights of 2 to 3 feet; dwarfs 5 to 6 feet; semi-dwarf 10 to 12 feet; medium 15 feet; and tall 20 feet or higher. Crape myrtles need to be planted 8-10 feet away from a house so they will have plenty room to grow. When planting trees, be sure to choose a sunny location with well-drained soil.
How to cut crepe myrtles is a hot topic of debate. The best way to prune your crape myrtle is by selective pruning to thin out the top canopy. Prune in January or February when the plant is dormant. Trunks are too pretty to cut into ugly stubs. This ruins the natural form and encourages the growth of spindly, wisplike branches that are too weak to hold up the flowers.
Crape myrtles are relatively disease- and pest-free, but there are a few things that can affect them you need to watch out for. Powdery mildew and Cercospora (dark leaf spots) are two things that reduces flowering and weakens the plant. Both can be prevented or treated with regular applications of fungicide.
Crape myrtles are full sun lovers, so plant in an area with well-drained soil and 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily. Though they are drought tolerant once established, you may have to water young trees more often, especially in the summer heat.