When will my Crepe Myrtle wake up?

Sunday96(D.C. Metro)April 19, 2005

Hi everyone. I've just started gardening in the past couple of years, and the forums have been a lot of help. I've done something stupid this year--something that can be added to my long list of newbie mistakes. I carefully planned and planted a lovely shade garden for around the base of my Crepe Myrtle: Coleus (grown from seed indoors), Begonias, and various types of Impatiens. But, I planted them all before the tree came out of dormancy, and they are literally FRYING in the sun. Does anyone know when I can expect to see new growth on a Crepe Myrtle in suburban MD? From the research I've done, it seems like it might be an Arapaho. I'd appreciate any help. Thanks!

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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)

I have two complaints about crepe myrtles...1) they seem to attract a lot of Japanese Beetles and 2) they are one of the last plants to develop leaves. But those are such minor gripes about such lovely trees. When? I don't know. It does seem odd to have these 80 degree days with very few trees giving shade.

- Brent

    Bookmark   April 19, 2005 at 2:07PM
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breezyb(z6/7VA)

I can't stand crepe myrtles. Only have one - a white. The rest of them flower in shades of Pepto Bismol - yuck.

That said - Crepe Myrtle flowers out late. But really - the plants you've set out are probably dying from frostbite rather than heat. The DC area has had 3 hard frosts in the last week. I think you were just too eager & early with your underplantings.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2005 at 5:28PM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

Excuse me? I haven't seen frost in my garden since sometime in March. The last time we officially dropped below freezing in Washington, DC (actually at Reagan National Airport, which is across the river), and probably anywhere inside the Washington Beltway for that matter, was several weeks ago.

But I agree that it's still a bit early to be planting out tender perennials ("annuals") like impatiens and begonias.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2005 at 9:24PM
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kimka(Zone 6B)

Crepe myrtles are the very last tree to leaf out. But I agree that your burn is more likely from low temperatures than too high. Coleus and impatiens can be burned by temperatures in the mid-30s, which we had just outside the Beltway at least twice in the last two weeks. A hard frost below 32 degrees would have killed both of these plants.

Either too low or too high temperatures, the answer is giving them enough water. We have been very dry in DC the last few weeks. Well hydrated soiol will help preserve your annuals from both cold and heat (although hopefully we've seen the last of night time temperatures in the 30s). Once the crepe myrtle provides shade, it will help preserve the moisture in the soil.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2005 at 9:54AM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

Sorry I didn't actually answer the question that was asked. Yes, your shade-loving plants may well be getting sunburned, especially if you started them indoors and didn't harden them off sufficiently before planting them in the ground.

As others have noted crepe myrtles are notoriously late to leaf out (my own crepe myrtle has not yet begun to stir, and I live in the District!). This isn't necessarily a bad thing. This fall you could plant spring-flowering bulbs that will appreciate the springtime sun, like crocuses, tulips and daffodils, and next spring wait a bit longer before planting shade-loving plants like impatiens and begonias, which can be planted out after the crepe myrtle starts to leaf out--early May is a better time to plant tender perennials and annuals in our area anyway--and these will fill in as the foliage ripens on the bulbs.

Of course I've never, EVER made any mistakes of my own while learning to garden... ;o)

    Bookmark   April 20, 2005 at 12:23PM
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Sunday96(D.C. Metro)

Thanks for weighing in on the problem, everyone. I'll just keep waiting, give the plants lots of water, hope they survive, and cool my jets next year!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2005 at 1:55PM
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Kathy46(Z6 Pa)

My Crepes just began to show leaf buds yesterday. So yours should be along any time now.

Kathy

    Bookmark   April 21, 2005 at 3:13PM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Johnnieb, if you're in or even near Wash, DC, you're in a big urban heat-island (this has nothing to do w/"global warming"). The latest USDA hardiness map I have shows an area of downtown DC & adjacent VA just into zone 8, which is fairly amazing. Ditto for downtown Baltimore, MD. The effect decreases but still is signicant outside the cities' boundaries well out into the highway-mall-sprawl.

BTW, my CMs show nothing yet either.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2005 at 12:12PM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

beng, I guess I just assumed "D.C. Metro" meant somewhere in the vicinity of that urban area called Washington, D.C. :o)

Yes, I'm aware of the heat island, but I don't live downtown (I'm in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, near Rock Creek Park and the National Zoo--I can hear the gibbons hooting in the morning), and my own yard is on a north-facing hill that is just about the coldest microclimate you could find within the District. Nighttime lows in my back yard in the winter are usually 4-6 degrees colder than the "official" temperature at Reagan National Airport (the difference is less pronounced this time of year). Even so I haven't seen any temperatures below 40 degrees since sometime in March.

That said... coleus, impatiens and begonias really shouldn't be planted out in our area until sometime in early May, but I still think the problem was the sun (as the OP suggested) rather than the cold.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2005 at 1:22PM
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dorry2

My Sioux, Tonto and Raspberry SUndae CMs showed the tiny leave buds opening tody. YAY, tiny leaves and signs of life.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2005 at 8:36PM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

I have 22 varieties. I had 27, but gave away the limpid pastels and pinks.
I forbid anything pink to grow on my Crape Myrtles. I hate Peptobismo, too.

That said, last year, my Purple Velvet didn't leaf until MAY 15TH!

I noticed yesteray, however, that my World's Fair, Sacramento, Chism Fire, Red Rocket, Dallas Red and Carolina Red are showing signs of life.

Dynamite, Red Rocket, Baton Rouge, Petite Red Imp, Velma's Royal Delight, Centennial, Centennial Spirit, Okamulgee, and Tonto (I'm forgetting something..) have yet to pop.

Be patient, but don't rely on them for Spring shade.

Christine
Who is considered DC Metro, although she's smack-dab between DC and Annapolis on Route 50, who saw a frost 10 days ago.

So there you have it.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 8:31AM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

beng,

Can you please post a link to that hardiness map? I can't imagine Baltimore, even smack dab downtown, being a zone 8!! I gotta see this one for myself!

I don't have anything on my crepe myrtle yet either. I'm in Westminster, an outer, outer suburb of Baltimore.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 8:32PM
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kimka(Zone 6B)

Please look at this link before accepting any new hardiness zones.

KimKa (who is responsible for putting out the USDA Hardiness Zone Map)

Here is a link that might be useful: USDA hardiness zones

    Bookmark   April 26, 2005 at 8:10AM
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diveguy1

Just checked my catawba ... plenty of green buds just starting to emerge ... happened within the last 2-3 days!

Bob
Bethesda

    Bookmark   April 26, 2005 at 8:35AM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

Bob. You make mama proud.
I knew that Catawba would do well it its new home! This will be its 2nd season with you, isn't it? Did I ever tell you the Velma's Royal Delight was the purple I wanted? It's almost grape in color. If you ever come across any, you'll love how they compliment the Catawba's lilac-y purple.

I'm waiting from Lynn to hear how the Raspberry Sundae fared. It was just too pink for me.

Christine

    Bookmark   April 26, 2005 at 12:03PM
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dollladie(5 Indiana)

I'm not in the Midatlantic, but happened on this post. I bought a crape myrtle at the end of last summer from Wal-Mart. It said it's hardy to zone 5, which is where I live. I planted it in early October, and we had a brutal winter. Naturally, it looks deader than a doorknob. I started to dig it up last week, but noticed life in the roots; so I promptly put it back, fed and watered it - since then we've had rain every day. Should I have hope in this tree, or is it just not practical in my zone???

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 3:03PM
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Kathy46(Z6 Pa)

If you have it in a sheltered area I would not give up hope.
It really is one of the last things to show signs of life in my garden.

Kathy

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 3:14PM
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cynthia_gw

I can imagine the city of Baltimore as zone 8! I live in Catonsville which is 10 minutes form that city. When I listen to the temps on the radio, it is always always always at least 10 degrees warmer in Baltimore. It's the tropics there with all that pavement and the buildings storing heat.

What was the topic? My dwarf crape myrtles from seed 3 years ago are leafed out now. Not fully but halfway there.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 7:26PM
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slvbeard(z7 MD)

Tonto started budding out a few days ago...

I hope I get flowers this year. It's kind of sitting in a half sun/half shade spot, and only got a few flowers last year.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 11:56PM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

Everybody Crape Myrtle now has buds, if not tiny leaves.
Oh - except Chism Fire and some Dynamite sprouts, but they were late last year.

YEAH!
Christine

    Bookmark   April 30, 2005 at 6:05PM
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laine713

Hi Christine, one of my CMs has put out some leaves too, on my other one, I see all of these tiny buds.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2005 at 7:44PM
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babywatson(7)

Mine just started sprouting fairly recently. A master gardener one time told me that crepe myrtles are late to sprout in the spring.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2005 at 12:27PM
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dorry2

I have a Sioux, Tonto, Raspberry Sundae and a Muskogee and the Sioux is the last to show buds, while the other trees have small leaves that are growing rapidly. Are the Siouxs generally later to bloom and bud out/leaf out than the Tonto - they are on the same patio, facing east.

Tonto looks the healthiest with all branches covered in leaves, while theSioux, which was so beautiful last year, has tiny buds and some tiny leaves on the branches and some branches have nothing - guess those branches are dead and should be cut back??

Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 4:21PM
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lilleyl2005(napa)

I was researching crepe myrtles when I stumbled onto this site.

Our 'Muskogee' crepe myrtle (~ 3yo) are now covered with leaves. The tree is still very spindly looking and have never bloomed. When will it bloom?

How far will the roots spread on the crepe myrtle? I'm a bit worried because the tree is next to the driveway, the water and sewer main. (My parents had a magnolia next to their driveway, and the tree has tore up the sidewalk next to the driveway and the sidewalk, and its roots have gotten into the sewer main. I have no idea how old the magnolias are, but I would guess no more than 60 years old.) Should I avoid later aggravations, and start ripping up the crepe myrtle and replace it (and the rosemary underplanting)?

Thanks.

Lil

    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 1:26AM
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Kathy46(Z6 Pa)

Lily,
I don't think crepe's have a massive root system. They are more like a shrub than a tree.

Kathy

    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 1:54PM
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Filbert(7 VA)

Probably a bit late by now but next March you can try spreading a black soil amendment to the ground around the base of your crepe myrtle. I've found putting coffee grinds around my crepe myrtle, plus the fact that they are south facing slopes, helps to ensure that the ground temp warms up quickly in the spring and encourages them to leaf out earlier than they would otherwise.

Filbert

    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 3:21PM
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lilleyl2005(napa)

Thanks--I'm so relieved that I don't have to worry about the root system because I would like to see how the tree looks like in bloom.

Lil

    Bookmark   June 4, 2005 at 11:50PM
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beng(z6 western MD)

2 of 3 tiny 'Catawbas' I thought were dead just sprouted from the base (root collar). A 'Natchez' sprouted several weeks earlier.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 8:04AM
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nycefarm_gw

I have been dying to add Crape Myrtle to my landscape, and was browsing for ideas when I came across Crapemyrtles.com. Has anyone ever bought plants from them? I couldn't find them on gardenwatchdog.com, just wondering if it is a good company.
Do you think the sizes and colors are true? I had never heard of a 6" CM?
What do ya'll think?
Val

Here is a link that might be useful: CrapeMyrtles.com

    Bookmark   June 9, 2005 at 10:53AM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

I bought from them.
I have very mixed emotions about it.
The owner is 100% unresponsive.
I spoke with a lady named Emily, who did help me replace 12 plants that didn't come back.
I ordered the bulk package in November, which was probably too late. When they didn't come back, I emailed a billion times with no result. (I hate to talk on the phone.) When I finally called and got someone (October, the following year, she got me organized with replacements. A few of them have come back. Probably 6 have not.

Ironically, I'm not dissatisfied with my experience because she was so quick to do what she needed to do. The fact that some didn't return I figure was the luck of the draw so late in the year. I have not contacted them to see if they'll replace those that didn't come back a 2nd time, since I doubt they will. I also don't care that much, since I can try rooting cuttings when they're a tiny bit larger.

And no, their color reports are as subjective as any one else's. If you haven't seen one yourself, I've learned I won't buy it -- unless they claim it's white. My idea of red seems to mean dark pink (Victor and Tonto) to many other people. My idea of purple or magenta seems to mean lilac (Catawba) to others as well. Tuscaroara seems to be the one true agreement in that it's a beautiful watermelon color.

Remember, just because you haven't heard of a 6'' CM doesn't mean someone hasn't developed one. I just today bought a 'White Chocolate, which has burgundy foliage and (hopefully) white blossoms. I would have told you CMs didn't come with that color leaf. Now I'm just looking for a 'Burgundy Cotton' to compliment it!

Christine

    Bookmark   June 10, 2005 at 6:10PM
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nycefarm_gw

Thanks Christine - I'm sure the blue will never live up to my expectations, but I still gotta try!
Val

    Bookmark   June 13, 2005 at 3:52PM
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nycefarm_gw

I was browsing another site and came across garden watchdog - CrapeMyrtles.com had many negative remarks. Most had to do with smaller than promised stock, dead plants, poor shipping/packing, delayed orders, wrong orders, no customer service or response to complaints. Many had written to the BBB.
I almost had the form filled out and ready to mail...
Oh well.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 2:27PM
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walley(7)

I live in Delawae and my crepe myrtle has been leafed out for about a month and a half. I don't remember which type it is. But last year it was about 10 feet tall and had a lot of dead in it. I chopped it back by half and it has sprung forth with all kinds of new growth and follage. Maybe yours has a lot of dead in it. If you don't see any leaves it might be dead, but if parts of it start getting leaves then just prune out the dead and cut it back. It should be fine. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 4:48PM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

Walley,
I hope you just cut out the deadwood, and didn't really "chop it back by half."
This weakens the bush/tree and causes the smaller, "spider" branches that die in the winter. It can also damage the natural shape of the tree.

Homestead Gardens did that to 6 of my trees when I first bought this place. Spring of 2003. I didn't know any better at the time. Those trees, which were big and healthy (through total neglect) and came with the house, are still struggling to recover. Don't let lots of foliage fool you. Look at the quality of it.

Christine

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 9:03AM
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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)

My BIL lives in a community in North Carolina where Crepe Murder must be required by the HOA. I asked about his and he said "if you don't cut them back then they look like that" as he was pointing to a wonderful looking Crepe Myrtle across the street with its natural growth habit. To each his own I guess.

I was visiting my MIL in South Carolina during Crepe Myrtle bloom season one year. Man that climate can grow some BEAUTIFUL Crepe Myrtles. They were not chopped back and were blooming their stinking heads off.

- Brent

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 11:12AM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

Brent, all the CMs I've added to my garden in the past 3 summers are fabulous.
The original few, which are 2 bright pink, 2 'Natchez' and a purple (Zuni? I forget), were all chopped back and although they're re-achieving their height, are top heavy and the branching on the lower part of the limbs is sketchy. I limb mine up to plant underneath them, but perhaps for the next 6' they look like they've got branch mange.

There are few things as vibrant and enthusiastic as a healthy CM in the fall when things are waning. Driving up and down 16th Street in DC has me gasping at all the Tuscaroras there are. Just amazing.

I'm looking for a new red variety. 'Siren Red' I saw out at Suja's. The problem is getting my butt back over to VA. [sigh]

Christine

    Bookmark   June 22, 2005 at 8:46AM
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