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Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2019

Crape Myrtle Issues and Solutions


Crape myrtles showing off their potential

Properly exposed crape myrtle flare

Crape myrtle trees are not native to Texas or anywhere else in the US  - but they are great ornamental tree choices. Behaving themselves for the most part they provide long lasting summer color and usually quite pleasant fall color. There are some problems that can be easily solved with natural organic techniques.


Nothing good comes from "topping"  

Crape myrtle too deep in the ground and damaged by weed trimmer

The most common issue is the pruning. It should be put to bed by now but many in the landscape maintenance business and some homeowners still think it’s good to severely “top” crape myrtles in winter. Shouldn’t be done. Nothing good comes from it. Heavy pruning, especially slashing the tops off, leads to weaker growth and flowering as well as stress, thus more insect pests and diseases. If too large for the spot planted, cut down the tree down and plant an appropriately size plant.

Powdery mildew is the next most common issue. It is a fungal disease resulting from susceptible varieties and stress related to environmental pressures. Being careful to purchase disease-resistant varieties and cultivars certainly helps when you have that option. And mildew can be cured temporarily with organic disease sprays such as cornmeal juice, baking soda or potassium bicarbonate in water or commercial products such as PureGro Disease Control. Black sooty mold caused by aphid waste can also be temporarily controlled with the same products. Aphids and other insect pests can be killed with any of the essential oil organic sprays.


White scale on stressed crape myrtle

Stressed crape myrtle with covered flare

A more permanent solution to disease and pest problems (including the dreaded white scale) results from applying the Sick Tree Treatment. It is not a product - but rather a procedure that starts with the proper and dramatic removal of plants, mulch and soil from the bases of trees. A trees too deep in the ground is without question the most common environmental cause of plant stress, pests and parasites. A flare being covered by anything is unnatural and unhealthy. Root flares/trunk flares are part of the trunks and if exposed to air are able to properly breathe. When covered by ground covers and vines or any kind of soil or mulch – including gravel or stones, the bark cannot breathe properly, stress sets in and the pest problems result.


Properly exposed root flare

Small crape myrtle pruned properly (almost not at all)

Landscapers and homeowners don’t always take advantage of the great benefits of flare exposure because their trees have been alive and blooming for many years. They seem to think that having to spray and treat for the pests are normal and can’t be avoided. They can. Dramatically expose the flares of your trees and they will grow and produce up to their potentials - and the pests will be few if any.


Crape myrtle with properly exposed flare





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