Monrovia Nurseries

Garden Detective: Crape myrtle hasn't bloomed

Published: Saturday, Jul. 13, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 7CALIFORNIA LIFE

My crape myrtle didn't bloom for three consecutive years. When it was purchased, it was in bloom, so I know it has the capability of blooming.

It is planted in a redwood container with good drainage and sits on my west-facing deck in Auburn. During the summer, it receives much heat and sunlight from about 1 p.m. to sunset. The leaves appear normally every spring and drop normally every autumn.

But I await blooms every summer while jealously watching my neighbors' crape myrtle trees and shrubs bloom with fury.

But still no flowers on my tree. What's going on?

– J. Ayres, Auburn

Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia) and its hybrids are among the most satisfactory plants for hot summer regions; they offer showy flowers, good-looking bark and, in many cases, fall color, according to UC master gardener Liz Haines. Often, the lack of blooms comes down to pruning.

Native to China, crape myrtles bloom on new wood and should be pruned in late winter (preferably January or February) before new growth begins. If pruned later than that, the flowering wood may have been cut off before it had a chance to bloom.

These trees and shrubs require full sun – at least eight hours a day – and should receive infrequent but thorough watering.

For container plants, keep a 2-inch layer of mulch or small bark on top of the soil to help conserve moisture. The soil should be moist but not soggy.

You didn't mention what, if any, fertilizer you use on your crape myrtle. Some flowering plants require a fertilizer higher in phosphorus to induce bloom.

To bring your tree into bloom, do a split application of 5-10-5 fertilizer with trace minerals, applied according to directions on the fertilizer container.

Feed the tree this fall and again in early spring. Avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen. That should help you see flowers next summer.


Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties.

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