Grumpy reveals what ails this iconic tree

By Steve Bender
June 29, 2020
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We gardeners tend to be hard on ourselves. When a plant doesn’t perform as we expect, we almost always take the blame. What did I do wrong? Did I prune it too much? Did I prune it too little? Did I let it dry out? Did I drown it? Did I feed it too much? Did I forget to feed it? What the heck was I thinking?

Right now in the Southeast, crepe myrtles have my readers in a tizzy. It’s nearly July and they still haven’t bloomed! Would Epsom salts help? How about vinegar and blue Dawn? Should I mulch them with red-dyed mulch or would rubber be better?

Relax. Have an adult beverage. When people over a large area experience the same problem, it’s highly unlikely they’re all making the same mistake. What’s one thing that does affect everything in multi-state areas? The weather.

And that’s what’s happening now. Crepe myrtles need summer heat and sunshine to bloom well. That’s why people don’t grow them in England. But so far 2020’s summer in Alabama and elsewhere has felt like the summer in Portland. Fifty inches of rain in the first six months, more than twice our normal rainfall. Cool temps, cloudy skies. To a crepe myrtle, it doesn’t feel like summer yet. Thus, it just grows leaves.

Do not despair, my friends. Weird weather is happening all over. Siberia recently experienced a 100- degree day – 25 degrees above normal. So you might say Siberia and the South have temporarily swapped weather. It won’t go on much longer. Pretty soon, Siberians will be wearing sweaters and you’ll be dripping wet after a walk to the mailbox. And voila! Your crepe myrtles will bloom.

What is a lesson you can take from this? When in doubt, blame the weather.