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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Crape Myrtle Requires Additional Care in Desert

Q. I want to plant a crape myrtle tree. Will it survive in the northwest area of the Las Vegas Valley? When is the best time to plant and how should it be done? How do you care for this tree so it still looks good in this climate and soils?

A. Crape myrtle does fine here if the whole is dug wide enough and the soil is amended with a good quality compost at the time of planting. This tree is not a difficult tree to grow here but it’s not the easiest either.

Crape myrtle can handle full sun but it should not be placed in a total desert landscape surrounded by cacti and rock mulch. It will perform best in a wetter part of the landscape, surrounded by other plants and with the soil covered in wood mulch.

The three biggest issues to address are modifying the soil enough at the time of planting, mulching the soil surface with wood mulch and using a fertilizer that prevents the yellowing of the leaves occurs because of iron chlorosis.

I would not trust landscapers to plant this tree properly on their own. This tree will not do well if it’s planted in a cheap hole.

The hole does not have to be dug deep; just deep enough to accommodate the tree. But the hole needs to be dug wide. Make sure the planting hole is dug at least three times the diameter of its container or box.

The soil used for planting around the tree’s roots should have plenty of good compost mixed with it. An equal volume of good compost to native soil would be the right amount.

Fertilize once in the spring, around mid-February, with a fertilizer formulated for flowering woody plants, trees and shrubs. A rose or tomato fertilizer could be used as a substitute.

When you fertilize this tree in February give it 2 to 3 ounces of EDDHA iron chelate as a supplement to the fertilizer. Apply it to the soil and water it in.

If you want to give it a little extra attention and have it look even better than apply a foliar fertilizer a few weeks after the leaves come out. Use a product like a Miracle Gro or Peters that is designed to encourage flowering.

Make sure this tree is watered as frequently as your other woody landscape plants and with the same volume of water as plants of a similar size. They are nearly pest free.

Other questions about crape myrtle on this blog:




  1. Always enjoy reading your comments even though I have very little room for landscaping in the very small plot of ground around my home. I saw the comments you made about Crape Myrtle Trees not too long ago and would like to add my two cents worth.

    When I was stationed in Shreveport, LA, I had a very large crape myrtle tree in my front yard. It had pretty red flowers, and the tree was in bloom from spring until late fall. Since I came to Las Vegas, I had the thought that such a tree would be great for my yard, but since the tree I remembered was so big, I passed it by, until this year. I was browsing the web and came upon several photos of crape myrtle trees, so I went to the site - crapemyrtle.com(you can also Google 'crape myrtle' for other sources) - and found that things had changed for the better since those days of old. The company, in Gainsville, Florida offered not just full-sized trees, but also dwarf and miniature trees. The site had lots of color pictures of these trees, and included photos of trees that were grown either as single trunk. or multiple trunk. One of the styles that caught my eye was a white flowered, multiple trunk, dwarf tree that had been grown in an 'umbrella' style.... I thought it would be just right for my front yard which had an African Sumac that had gotten so large it made my landscape look ridiculous.

    I called several nurseries to see if they could order a dwarf tree for me, but they either ignored my question, or informed me that such trees were not suitable for Las Vegas. I asked my landcaper about them and he said that crape myrtles not only could be grown here, but that would do quite well. I then went to the site - crapemyrtle.com. It was very educational and had photos of the various trees they offered for sale.The site indicated that dwarf and/or miniature trees would be shipped 'dormant' with detailed instructions on how to plant and then take care of the them. They 'suggested a multiple tree order would have the same shippimg cost as one tree, but I only had room for that one tree. I ordered the one I liked and it arrived this past fall. The planting instructions clearly indicated that the tree be planted 'deep' in 'potting soil' (Miracle Grow) and thoroughly mulched (several inches thick) and that the mulch could embrace the tree trunk without harm. It said to water in the tree, but discouraged further watering in the winter months, but to begin watering in the spring once a week, and adding a water soluble fertilzer (Again Miracle Grow being the best). As the weather heated up, twice a week watering was OK, but to beware of over watering.

    I wrote them and described our climate, and their reply was that, while it still warm, it was OK to water the tree no more than once a week, but when annual plants begin showing cold wilt, to stop watering until spring.

    My landscaper planted the tree as instructed, and within three weeks, leaves appeared at the top of the tree, but after the more flowering. He also said that as flowers diminished, to cut them off, and if that was done the tree would bloom from spring until fall.

    Sorry to be so wordy. I suggest you visit their site. I found it most enlightening, and I intend to try a few of their miniatures in containers later on.

    1. Thanks for the email and I appreciate it. I encourage success stories like yours, with websites that have been helpful, to be submitted to my blog so others can benefit. I will post your comment on my blog under the most recent crape myrtle submission so others can also benefit.

  2. Hmm that’s so pleasing; carry on the excellent work I’ll again visit your blogs to learn more. http://www.crepemyrtle.org/

  3. Please remember that when you read information from climates that are not in the desert, there are certain things we have to do in the desert to make them work here. Crêpe myrtle does not belong in the desert but with some tweaking of the environment they will produce a fabulous show here.