One of the unique talents of the crape myrtle, besides being able to bloom profusely in our hottest times, is its prolonged blooming season - through October, in fact, if we just help them out a bit.
Some of us have a love-hate relationship with crape myrtles. They can handle any weather we throw at them, but they are messy around pools. No transplanting or neglect seems to kill them, but they grow too many sports/sprouts that can make them look unkempt.
Anyway, you have to love their ability to bloom for more than just three months in the summer, if you’ll do just two simple things: Prune off all the blooms heads that have run their course, and feed them.
But time is of the essence … you can’t wait until September to do this. And while the protocols may seem simple, there are a couple of caveats.
First, to get the best possible chance at new flowers, you need to trim stems that are greenish in color. The more woody or brown a stem is just under the bloom cluster, the less likely it will set a new bloom head. So, be selective when pruning.
Second, prune back to where you see new side-shoots emerging from a branch. If you don't see any, prune very long branches back about one-fourth or one-third. Prune shorter branches a little less than that, and you will get new branching as well as new buds. A flush of new flowers should follow.
Then you feed them! And here's a helpful hint: Use “super bloom” fertilizers if you can’t find a food specifically for crape myrtles. Water-soluble bloom-boosters such as Carl Pool's BR-61, Super Bloom, or even Miracle-Gro are good - anything with a super-high middle number in the formula ratio. For example, Carl Pool’s BR-61 is a 9-58-8. But many area independent nurseries and garden centers, feed stores and Ace Hardware stores carry genuine crape myrtle foods, and you’ll find that most of them have high middle numbers.
And by the way, all these protocols work with vitex trees, too!
PHOTOS: Getty Images