Crapemyrtle Woes

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
A few weeks ago, I asked for feedback on spring green-up in the landscape. Thank you to the readers who provided helpful feedback. While many of us (myself included) don’t know exactly which crapemyrtle cultivars we have in our landscapes, it sure looks like this had little to do with dieback anyway. General consensus is that this species was probably damaged in our first hard freeze back last November.

Crapemyrtles have long been considered “marginally hardy” to our part of the world and it’s understood that every once in a while we will have a hard winter that kills them back to the ground. This year was unusual in that the dieback has tended to be very spotty, even within a single plant. Regardless of exactly how, the point is many of us are now dealing with unsightly plants. Here are some options for you to consider.
  • Selectively prune the dead material out. While this may be the best option from an aesthetic point of view, it can be terribly time consuming.
  • Cut the plant back to the ground and regrow it completely. While this may be seen as drastic, it is fairly straightforward. If this is the option you choose, do this fairly soon. These plants bloom on the current summer’s growth and if you wait until late June or July to cut it back, the plant will not bloom for you this summer. You can speed the vertical growth along if you leave only a few shoots to regrow and keep the others pruned off.
  • Do nothing. If you choose to do nothing with the plant, it looks in most cases they will probably go ahead and fill out, it may just take a bit longer than normal to look ok.
While there is very little that could have been done to avoid the issue this year, in general, keep the following in mind on crapemyrtles:
  • Avoid late summer nitrogen fertilization. Excessive late season growth does not have time to properly harden off for winter.
  • Avoid fall/winter pruning. Pruning too soon will only make the plant more susceptible to winter die back.
  • Mulch is always helpful.
In extremely dry winters, a few waterings can be helpful. This is especially true for new plantings.

For more information of this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at keith.reed@okstate.edu, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.

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