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It was murder!

That’s a bold opening line for a Monday that was probably met with a mixture of curiosity, the iconic sound associated with “Law & Order – SVU” rattling in our heads, and the confused “wait; what?” head turn. No need to alert law enforcement – murder is a term sometimes used in the world of landscaping when a zealousness for over pruning absolutely kills the plant material. The most commonly murdered tree is the Lagerstroemia indica – Crepe myrtle.

Imported in to the southern United States nearly two hundred years prior, the Crepe myrtle is indigenous to parts of south east Asia including China where it was referred to as “‘Pai Jih Hung’ meaning hundred days red for its beautiful color and long bloom season. The Chinese also called it the ‘monkey tree’ because monkeys could not climb the smooth, slippery trunks” (McDonald Garden Center, 2020). Introduced to gardens in Charleston, South Carolina in 1786, the tree was dubbed with its iconic American name of the Crepe Myrtle (Southern Living, 2020). It is believed that the name was chosen as the petals are believed to resemble in texture and appearance the crepe paper often associated with birthday streamers.

Deciduous trees/shrubs, that grow between 10 to 20 feet tall with a spread between 15 to 25 feet, the Crepe myrtle is often referred to as the “Lilac of the South” (Knox, 1992; 2000; 2003; 2016). Boasting a multitude of cultivars from dwarf (28), semi-dwarf (21), intermediate (26), and true tree (22), there is a Crepe myrtle for every property. The cultivars are distinguished not only by colors, flowering and flowering periods, but also by pest resistance and heights with dwarf growing less than 4 feet and a true tree reaching heights up to 20 feet or more.

Susceptible to primarily powdery mildew and the aphid Tinocallis kahawaluokalani, the Crepe myrtle is still considered a relatively hardy tree that will produce beautiful flowers as early as the spring up until the fall depending on the cultivar. It prefers full sun and can acclimate to almost any soil composition with the exception of wet soil. It is important to note that it also has a low tolerance for salt which limits growth in some areas of Florida.

The Crepe myrtle requires very little pruning other than that recommend by the University of Florida’s Institute of Agriculture and Food Sciences, however, it tends to be one of the most over pruned when seeking shape. Prior to committing murder of a Crepe myrtle contact LMP, and one of our ISA Certified Arborists will assist your property with proper pruning techniques. Call us today for a greener tomorrow (877) LMP-PRO1.

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