Saturday, 19 March 2016

Jane's Gardeners' Diary - March 2016

Crepe Myrtle - Species lagerstroemia 

At the March meeting Jane gave a presentation on this popular garden shrub/tree which is not only grown for its frothy crepe-like, massed flowers but its beautiful smooth colourful trunk and branches AND the stunning leaf colour in Autumn. To cap it all off, this species grows well here on the Coffs Coast!

Crepe Myrtle - lagerstroemia 'nivea grassi'

Summary:  A small tree perfect for suburban gardens. Believed to have originated in China, it is a tree for all seasons. In summer it provides vibrant flowers, which have a texture like crepe fabric, and last for up to three months, and in autumn it provides great leaf colour in shades of yellow, orange and scarlet.

Bark: This tree also has incredible bark, which looks magical in winter when low light hits the bare branches. These trees also get better with age, as the trunk develops a wonderful gnarled appearance, and the bark exfoliates in summer to give a gorgeous mottled look with patches of pink, grey and brown. 

Environment and Care: Crepe Myrtles thrive in a warm, dry climate with long summers and tolerate cold winters while they're dormant. It's a fairly versatile tree, adapting to coastal situations and dry conditions. The only thing it dislikes is wet feet. Crepe Myrtles bloom on the current season's growth so pruning isn't strictly necessary. Byut not pruning will result in a mass display of small flowers, so encourage large flowering heads by cutting back the main branches in winter. 


Crepe myrtles can be grown as:

  • Standard
  • Miniature
  • Low-growing spreading plant
  • small shrub
  • small tree
  • large tree

Indian Summer Range - Langerstroemia indica x L. fauriei

The Indian Summer range has been specially bred to resist powdery mildew, a fungal disease that can be seen on some older crepe myrtle varieties.

Each cultivar is named after an American Indian tribe, and they range in size from around 3-6m (10-18') fully grown.

'Acoma' has white flowers and a weeping habit. Height to 3m (10').

'Tonto' has rich pink flowers. Height to 3m (10').

'Zuni' has mauve flowers. Height to 3m (10').

'Sioux' has carmine pink flowers. Height to 4m (12').

'Yuma' has pale pink flowers. Height to 4m (12').

'Tuscarora' has rose red flowers. Height to 6m (18').

'Natchez' has white flowers. Height to 6m (18').

Pruning (one opinion)

Crepe myrtles can be heavily pruned in winter to encourage the development of long, arching branches of flowers.

However, the downside of this annual pruning is that it creates an ugly, butchered looking plant.

Left unpruned, crepe myrtles develop a naturally appealing shape and will flower well regardless. If a shrub is preferred, plant one of the new, smaller varieties, rather than pruning every year to keep a tree down to shrub size.

Pruning (another opinion)

Step 1: Prune small sprouts at bottom of the tree first. These are called 'suckers'. Left untrimmed, these will give your crepe myrtle a bush appearance. Suckers can be pulled out when they first sprout or trimmed with a hand pruner. Leave the large, healthy thick trunks to keep growing taller and stronger.

Step 2: Cut side branches. Prune any branches coming out of the side of the trunk up to about halfway up the trunk. This is called limbing-up, and helps the tree retain an attractive shape. For younger trees that you are starting to shape, prune the small limbs from the ground up, leaving only the 3-5 strongest limbs.

Remove smaller branches that are growing horizontally or toward the inside of the tree.

Step 3: Prune out dead and crossing branches. You can use hand pruners for small, thin branches that you can reach, loppers for branches that are more than 12mm (1/2 inch) thick, or a [pole pruner for thicker or taller branches. Cut branches that are growing at an angle or that detract from the shape you are trying to achieve.

Step 4: Cut long or arching branches back to where they are no more than 12mm (1/2 inch) in diameter. Branches that are too thin will still bloom, but they will not be able to bear the weight of the blooms and will droop or break. If you/re cutting a branch back to the trunk, cut flush with the trunk instead of leaving a stub.

Use loppers for lower branches or pole pruners for the tall ones out of reach.

It is not necessary to cut off seed pods. It won't affect blooming.


Thank you Jane D. for a tremendous presentation.

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