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Friday, July 21, 2017

Problems with Crepe Myrtle in North Florida

Q. I have a problem with my Muscogee crepe myrtle here in north Florida. I planted it last year and it had nice, healthy purple flowers. Then I pruned it, added some iron chelate and epsom salts to the soil and these little warts sprouted all over the tree. I cut them all off and they are growing back. Will this tree do anything this year or should I replace it?

A. The iron was a good idea, not sure about the Epsom salts, but be careful when you prune crape myrtle. Some of these warts, as you call them, probably resulted from your pruning. Pruning the wrong way can cut off all of the future flowers for a while.
            I posted some tips on handling crape myrtle but it was in the desert. Maybe some of these tips can help.

 Spread 4 to 6 inches of woodchip mulch beneath the tree where it's irrigated.That will help build the sand and return nutrients.
            Iron should be applied to the soil in early spring. Later than this might not help much. The best iron chelate contains EDDHA as the chelating agent. Apply it in January. Apply a Rose type fertilizer at the same time.
Crape myrtle in sandy soil. It can be good for it provided you add nutrients to the soil, organics, iron and fertilize once or twice a year.
            One application of fertilizer per year is normally all that you need when growing it on most soils. On your sandy soils, I would split the fertilizer application in two; apply half in the spring and the other half late summer or early fall.
Crepe myrtle sets up its flower buds in the late summer and fall for next years blooms. Don't cut them off.
            These growths along the trunk and limbs look like the tree is trying to send out lots of new suckers to perhaps compensate for the pruning you did. Allow them to grow only where you want new growth. Otherwise, remove them as soon as you see them.
Crape myrtle can look like this growing in sandy soil if it gets the right nutrients and organics.
            Flowers grow from the ends of the branches. So if you removed all of the ends of the branches, it will not flower that year. It has a good chance of flowering next year and years after provided you did not make the same mistake pruning.
            The best time to prune this tree is immediately after all the flowering has finished. When pruning, do not shear off all of the ends of the branches. No, no, no. This removes all of the flowers for next year. Remove entire branches. This type of pruning is called “thinning”.
            If branches are healthy, do not prune them back at all unless they are too long.

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