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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Crape myrtles

  • Maybe Shawnee should be known as Crape Myrtle City.
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  • In almost every block of Shawnee a person can see a crape myrtle bush or tree blooming. Perhaps Shawnee should be the Crape Myrtle City as well as the Red Bud City. The characteristics that make crape myrtles so popular include the length of their bloom period, their beauty, and the minimal care they need.
     
    Crape myrtle bushes are available with blooms of red, dark pink, light pink, lavender, and white. In addition there are some varieties that have blooms of darker pink edged in a lighter pink. Now is the ideal time to purchase a container grown crape myrtle. You will know the color of the bloom if that is important to you. These shrubs bloom best if they get at least six hours of sun each day. Bushes that get too much shade have very few blooms.
     
    One concern that some people have with crape myrtles is that dwarf doesn’t mean about 3 ft. high. I think that the growers may be comparing it to a giraffe! I have seen plants labeled as dwarf which have grown up to 12 to 16 ft high. Be sure to read the plant label and if you plant it in a place where height is important be prepared to do some pruning after the plant is several years old.
     
    If you have a crape myrtle that you want to remove, you will need to be meticulous in digging out all the roots. I have had several experiences in trying to remove a crape myrtle from a raised bed or eliminate it from a flower bed only to have it come back the next year. Only a few roots left in the ground will provide new plants.
     
    This ability to survive is an advantage when we have extreme freezes in the winter. Sometimes the freezing weather will cause the upper portion of a plant to not leaf out, but crape myrtles almost always come back from the roots.
     
    How to prune crape myrtles has different adherents. Some like to cut all the branches back to a central trunk. This causes a concentration of limbs to branch out from the central trunk. When weather conditions are damp and humid, this treatment can lead to mildew. Fungicides are available to treat that problem.
     
    Most horticulturists recommend pruning the crape myrtle limbs back about 1/3 each year and thinning out the growth so that there are no branches crossing each other. The best time to prune crape myrtles is in the spring after danger of frost. Pruning earlier can cause new growth that will be subject to freeze damage. Some of the most stunning crape myrtles in town are located at sites where they are never pruned. You can choose what you will do.
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    It isn’t necessary to prune to obtain a second blooming after the first round of blooms, however cutting back the spent blooms before they set seed will hasten the start of the next bloom. Sometimes the size of the plant may make that practice not feasible.
     
    If you have been too busy concentrating on getting to your destination and not seeing the crape myrtles, I hope that this will encourage you to look around and enjoy them.
     

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