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Crape myrtle family

June 7, 2019
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The queen crape myrtle and the common crape myrtle are in the same family, Lythraceae. These beauties have other family members to know at a later time.

The queen first, of course. Native to India and Australia, it's a showy 30 to 60 feet tall. Leaves are oblong to ovate, leathery and almost 12 inches in length.

Flowers up to 3 inches in diameter grow in large terminal panicles and bloom fully in July for rest of the summer. Colors can be pink or mauve. Their blooming weight will even bend the stalks holding them.

They do have small fruit capsules mostly hidden. This is definitely a southern Florida tree. Will need protection during a cold spell.

All crape myrtles thrive in sunshine, however an hour or two of light shade would be safe. They are all mostly salt tolerant.

Trees are easy to grow and transplant from nursery containers -- a good watering in following their planting. They like good drainage and are not fussy about most soils. The only need fertilizer once a year.

They are prone to powdery mildew, sooty mold. This problem is caused, as usual, by creatures sucking on the leaves. Get ride of the aphids, as usual, and things will be fine.

The common crape myrtle grows only 20 or 30 feet tall, same ease of transplanting, and is a native of China. Same kind of pest problems mostly.

The common crape myrtle can also be grown as a beautiful bush.

This crape myrtle usually forms a clump of several trunks with smooth tan or cinnamon-colored bark. Its leaves are simple, smooth elliptic to oblong and up to 2 inches in length. Colors are large panicles of white, purple, pink and red, about 1 inch or more across and bloom starting in May, through July.

Cape Coral Parkway has beautiful, white crape myrtle trees in the center median, blooming right now.

There will be a long stretch of queen crape myrtle blooming along the west side of Chiquita, in a few weeks, south of the Parkway. This is an old established row of trees. There are other city areas that the queens will be showing off by July.

The bush plant grows as well as the trees in many different shades, and is most often bought while in bloom and easily transplants from the nursery containers. Watch for sooty mold and spray with a hose as soon as it starts and it will not be a problem.

Remember to read plant tags to ensure you are taking home the choice you want.

There is a proper way to prune the common trees. All common crapes need to be trimmed properly to keep the airy look of the single trunks.

Prune if necessary after blooming, flowering will be on new growth.

Fruits may be pruned off at any time, but not necessary.

Please remember, no fertilizing lawns now until hurricane season is over. Water lawns according to your proper schedule. It will start to rain soon.

Wear sunscreen, every day. Watch out for over friendly alligators.

Hydrate, hydrate yourself and friends, maybe even a stranger or two.

Happy safe gardening till we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is Past President of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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