The crape myrtle tree (Lagerstroemia indica) is a deciduous tree from the loosestrife family. Though the tree is native to Asia, the plant is now naturalized extensively throughout the United States. In colder regions, myrtle performs like a herbaceous perennial. With its flowering period of 60 to 120 days, the myrtle is among the trees with extended bloom time.
Myrtle tree comes in a range of mature sizes, assuming heights of between 18 inches to more than 40 feet. The size of the alternate, smooth foliage differs by variety. The tree blooms with brightly colored, crinkled flower clusters in shades of pink, red, purple, lavender or white growing at branch tips during summer. Tree bark comes in a variety of shades including beige, light or dark brown, orange, cinnamon or gray. In certain cultivars, the bark on mature trees starts to exfoliate to reveal different shades of new bark below.
Plant the myrtle tree in moist, well-drained soil with a preferred pH of 5.0 to 6.5 for optimal and rapid growth. Once established, the tree will also tolerate dry ground. Select a site that receives full sun. The tree is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 7 through 9. Vigorous in growth, the tree generally thrives with minimal care. Crape myrtle grows well in containers with special attention to regular watering. The tree has a low fertilizer requirement. Best time to transplant the tree is during dormancy.
Avoid pruning the tree severely as this will ruin the natural form. When pruning, only remove branches that have started to rub against each other. Also remove any shoots that are growing into the center of the canopy. The recommended time to prune is during winter and before new growth in spring. Prune the lighter, earlier growth of flowers as this often encourages prolific blooming. This is only recommended for younger trees and not required on more mature plants. Remove any basal sprouts.
A myrtle tree planted in poorly drained, wet soil is not vigorous in growth. The plants are highly prone to aphids, sap-sucking pests that secrete honeydew and lead to the growth of black sooty mold on infested areas. Use soapy water to remove pests. The Florida wax scale is another likely pest of the myrtle tree. Possible pathogenic disorders of the myrtle tree include tip blight, leaf spot, root rot, black spot and powdery mildew.
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