Crape Myrtle: Colorful Blooms for your Late Summer Garden!

After many years of hybridizing and the production of more cold hardy varieties, Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) can be successfully grown here in the Northeast. These showy trees are a personal favorite of mine due to their beautiful long lasting blooms that start at the end of the summer and last well into Fall, a bloom period of approximately 120 days!   Just as other flowering trees and shrubs are reaching the end of their bloom cycle the stately Crape Myrtle ‘Lagerstroemia indica’ starts its spectacular show. I often use these beautiful trees as an eye catching element in my designs as they serve nicely as an anchor plant in a foundation planting or as a focal point in an island bed or backyard garden.

(Photo: Lagerstromeia indica ‘Sioux’)

There are many varieties of this beautiful tree ranging in size from ‘Pocomoke’ and ’Chickasaw’, which are dwarf varieties, topping off at approximately 5 feet to ‘Natchez’ (White),‘Tuscarora’ (Coral Pink),‘Muskogee’ (Lavender) and ‘Catawba’ (Purple) ranging at a height between 12-20 feet. A personal favorite of mine is Crape Myrtle ’Sioux’, a medium variety that ranges in height to approximately 12-15 feet. The medium-pink flowers of the ‘Sioux’ Crape Myrtle begin late in July and last well into October and are an elegant display not to be missed. Three other varieties of Lagerstroemia worth mentioning are ‘Tonto’ and ‘Dynamite’, both known for their vibrant red flowers and medium height of 12-15 feet and ‘Zuni’ (Purple) at a smaller 8-9 feet in stature.

Lagerstromeia Crape Myrtle Muskogee

(Photo: Lagerstroemia indica ‘Muskogee’)

HARDINESS AND GROWING CONDITIONS: Lagerstroemia are a hardy to zones 7-9 and are “deer resistant”, meaning that deer will most likely avoid them in their diet. They grow best in full sunlight in a well-drained soil with a pH of 5.0-6.5. These trees require little to no pruning but can be pruned to maintain a more compact shape or to remove any dead branches that may result from a harsh winter.  If you are going to prune wait until late winter or early spring after the last frost. The plants are dormant in winter and any flowering occurs on new growth so pruning will encourage new flower producing branches. Remove any dead branches, suckers growing from the base or weak twiggy branches and allow strong leader branches to keep the framework of the tree.

Lagerstroemia indica ‘Natchez’

TRANSPLANTING:  If you are planning on transplanting your Crape Myrtle tree the best time to transplant in the northeast is in mid April or mid September through mid October.  Roots need time to become established before the summer heat or winter cold set in. Dig a hole slightly wider than the root ball and make sure the tree sits at the height of the surface or slightly above.  Apply a layer of mulch around the tree to protect the roots and keep well watered until established.  Crape Myrtle are somewhat sensitive to cold so there may be some branch die back in the first season until the plant becomes well established.

Lagerstroemia indica ‘Tuscarora’

Depending on the preference of the grower Crape Myrtle can be planted as either a multi-trunk or singular-trunk form and can be displayed as either a shrub or tree in the landscape.  An important note worth mentioning is that Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) are among the last plants to push out their new growth so if they appear to be dead at the end of winter going into spring just give them some time to come into their glory. Since they are later to push out their leaves they do benefit from an early spring feeding of a high phosphorus-lower nitrogen 5-10-5 formula to promote good foliage growth and an abundance of blooms in July-August. Crape Myrtles are not susceptible to insects or disease but as in any landscape planting they should be monitored and properly maintained to keep them in good health.

If you are looking for a long blooming, deer resistant, low maintenance tree to add color to your garden then Crape Myrtle may be the tree for you. I for one would highly recommend this beautiful plant as a welcome addition to any formal or informal landscape.
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Late Summer Garden Rejuvenation: Get More Blooms from Your Dayliles

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Late Summer Garden Rejuvenation

It has been a busy Sunday afternoon in August with the summer temperatures starting to cool and a cooler than usual September in the forecast.  I took the time today to give the garden a face lift and rejuvenate some of my fading perennials. By the time late July and August roll around various perennials are starting to show signs of fall mode with yellowing and dying foliage as they are starting to go dormant.  Perennials such as daylily go dormant at the end of summer into fall but there are methods to extend the bloom time right into mid to late September.  With certain species of long blooming daylily such as ‘Stella D Oro’ there is a trick I learned initially by accident.

daylily rejuvenation

Daylily Rejuvenation-Growth Going Dormant

I had some late summer garden maintenance done a few years ago and the crew had cut the yellowing daylilies back to about four inches from the ground.  At first I was taken by surprise but within a couple of weeks I had brand new vibrant green foliage and blooms that lasted well into fall. From that time on I continued to follow this ritual of cutting back my lilies starting at the end of July and into mid-August so that I could enjoy constant blooms.  The procedure is quite simple and I stage the rejuvenation at different times for the various locations of lilies in my garden.  Starting at the end of July and into late August I carefully remove expired yellowed foliage on my perennial daylilies down to new growth which is approximately four to five inches above the ground.   I actually perform this by hand but you can also use pruning shears and if there are any blooms on the plant you can leave them to enjoy. This ritual of removing dead foliage stimulates the plant to produce healthy new leaves and blooms and also prevents the onset of fungal disease that can occur at this time of year with decaying foliage.

Late Summer Garden Rejuvenation of Daylilies

Late Summer Garden Rejuvenation of Daylilies-Just Cut Back

I also remove the expired scapes (bloom bearing stalks) from the plants as soon as they turn brown throughout the entire season which stimulates new blooms.  The photograph on the left shows how the stalks should appear when you remove them. It is easy to know when this should be done since the stalks with seed heads will very easily pull out without any effort.  The photograph on the right shows newly cut foliage right after rejuvenation. Once your daylilies are cut back be sure they continue to receive watering.   In no time you will have plants that appear as they do in early spring bursting with beautiful new growth and flowers. Once the plants have had their final bloom into the fall allow the foliage to die completely back and then remove any decaying debris from around the plant and apply a thin layer of mulch.

rejuvenated 1 month ago

Rejuvenated Daylily After One Month

This method also works with other varieties of daylily with a shorter bloom time such as ‘Pardon Me’ and ‘Sammy Russell’ but should be performed in July after these plants are done blooming. Other perennials such a Salvia also benefit from a mid-late summer pruning which is explained in this article.  If you are looking to extend the enjoyment of your summer garden rejuvenation is a simple and quick process well worth the time for it will prolong your enjoyment of blooms well into fall.

As Always…Happy Gardening!

 Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2014, All Rights Reserved

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Planting & Maintaining a Seed Lawn

lawn maintenanceOften my customers will inquire as to when is the best time to start a seed lawn. The ideal time is now-between mid-August and mid-September here on Long Island and anywhere the season is changing from summer to fall.  It is also a good time for core-aeration and overseeding to help enhance the health and vitality of your turf.

CORE AERATION:  a process in which a machine is used to poke holes in the lawn to provide aeration.  In compacted lawns core aeration improves soil drainage and oxygen flow by loosening the soil.   It is best to core-aerate when you are overseeding an existing lawn.

OVER-SEEDING:  Over-seeding fills in the gaps in the lawn that need fixing.  The best way to overseed is to dethatch and aerate the lawn, add new topsoil where needed, then reseed and use a top-dress of pennmulch seed accelerator to help the seed along.   Keep the lawn watered (moist) until the new seed germinates.

STEPS TO SEEDING A LAWN:  First clear the area of existing lawn and debris.  Then bring in a good quality organic topsoil and grade the area being seeded.  Apply a starter fertilizer and lime according to the spreading rate on the bag.  Use a hand tamper or water roller to firm the soil then rake the top layer to loosen the planting layer. Use the appropriate type of seed for your location and conditions of sunlight.  There are many brands on the market and yes…price does matter!  The cheaper brands are not better.  In the case of seed look for a good professional blend of preferably a tall fescue and rye mix.  Also keep in mind that there are varieties of seed for full sun to shade and that seed will not geminate if it is too shady (full shade).  Ask your professional for advice.  Once your area is prepared use a spreader to apply your seed at the recommended rate on the packaging and lightly rake or roll the seed into the soil.  Apply pennmulch topping to keep in moisture and help the seed to germinate.  Water a couple times a day at 10-15 minutes intervals to keep the seed just slightly moist…do not overwater!  The seed will take about a week or so to start germinating.  Mow for the first time when your lawn has grown to a normal mowing height of approximately six to eight inches.

Author: Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2013, All Rights Reserved

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