You don’t have to watch Netflix to observe this heinous crime. On trees.
Crape murder is quite a dramatic statement, isn’t it? It does capture the attention of gardeners and homeowners across the South. And it’s time again. Late January and early February signal aspiring Paul Bunyan’s across the South to gather their weapons.
Before you go chopping away on your crape myrtle trees…
I can’t mention Paul Bunyan and walk away…this link explores whether he was a real man. Whether Paul Bunyan was real or not, he did have a way with chopping down trees, and that’s what we are all here for today. The pruning of our treasured Crape Myrtle trees across the South.
Crape murder is the practice of pruning your crape myrtle back on the main trunks, often to the same location each year, and often to a height of 4 to 5 feet. The misconception is the tree will produce more new growth the following spring and summer. Many believe this result in more bloom, but it really just means more shoots. Weak shoots that will be weak and will place stress on the tree.
Why do crape myrtle trees need so much pruning?
Many times, crape myrtle trees need severe pruning because they are planted in improper locations. Reminding us of the importance of a good landscaping plan! But if your trees are in need of pruning, don’t commit crape murder, but follow these guidelines:
- Don’t prune far down onto the main trunks
- Don’t cut out large sections
- Remove branches that cross one another
- Remove seed pods from last year
- Allow your crape myrtle to look like a tree
- Your crape myrtle should look like an umbrella from a distance
- If your Crape Myrtle is too tall, you can prune it back down to a more appropriate height, but not every year!
While Lawn and Pest Solutions does not offer a pruning service, we want to help you maintain a beautiful lawn. We have licensed technicians ready to assist you with all of your lawn and pest control needs. We serve Mississippi and Tennessee and are always available to take your calls, texts or messages. You can contact us here for a quote. If the mention of Paul Bunyan has you sentimental, check out these statue locations.
What is Crape Myrtle Bark Scale?
Sorry, but I had to do it, I had to Google “what is Crape Myrtle Bark Xcale”. It’s a long , um…word? Musical term? Disease? Bug? Pest? Flower? Part of a tree? From it’s name (pre-Google of course) it sounds like it could be any of those things. Post Googling, wow. It took a few minutes of looking at images to understand what I was seeing before digging deeper.
Come on 2020, enough of this.
Crape Myrtle Bark Scale is a type of insect/pest that attaches itself to the trunk of a Crape Myrtle tree. The Bark Scale starts to suck the sap (and life) from your tree. As it lives there, it puts a thick, moldy layer on the tree trunk. If you have aphids on your trees, this black moldy covering starts pouring black soot down upon everything underneath. Sidewalks, driveways, shrubs and flowers underneath the tree, garbage cans, pools, toys, whatever is under the infected tree will get a black, moldy, sooty stain. Not only that, the mold prevents sunlight from reaching the tree. Sunlight being blocked from a tree is not a good thing, we can agree.
Did I mention this is an insect?
The Crape Myrtle Bark Scale is not the loveliest of all creations, it is flat and resembles a scale of some sort. It is light gray in color and feels like felt. It may take a few looks to realize that this is an insect, not a weird growth on your tree. When trained technicians check your Crape Myrtle to see if you have this problem, they can cut or press one of the insects to test.
The Crape Myrtle Bark Scale insect, when cut, poked, or pressed…bleeds pink (or red, but pink?) Thank you, Google. Perhaps I was better off thinking this was a musical term. Moving along, this relatively new pest has been spreading its’ way across the South, starting in Texas in 2004. Crape Myrtle Bark Scale has reached North Mississippi and is now being treated by licensed lawn and pest technicians like Lawn and Pest Solutions in New Albany, MS.
Systemic is a word we use a lot, what does it mean?
In medicine, systemic means affecting the whole body, it is in contrast with topical or local. Our Lawn and Pest Solutions attack on CMBS is a systemic treatment started by injecting treatment at the roots of your Crape Myrtles. This will slowly and methodically begin treating the entire tree and ridding it of the pest.
But what about NOW?
The second step of treatment attacks the Crape Myrtle Bark Scale directly, it has more immediate results, removing the felt like covering on your trunks. At the end of the season, an oil is applied to the whole tree to prevent the return of the Bark Scale. Our pros recommend that after this three step program, we return to freshen up your systemic treatment and prevent this from happening again. Even if you don’t have Bark Scale now you might consider this preventative treatment.
Lawn and Pest Solutions has a great system of treatment for your Crape Myrtles. Before this Crape Myrtle Bark Scale has a chance to infect your trees, call us. Our licensed technicians can come by and see if you have already “been exposed” or not, and guide you in the right direction for treatment and/or prevention. Crape Myrtles are some of the most beautiful flowering trees we have in the the South, they enhance our properties, parks, cities and lawns. Contact us today to check on your investment!
Good news, the murder rate of crape myrtles is declining
Kudos to the person who first coined the term “crape murder”…it worked. Today, I drove around my beautiful small town in North Mississippi looking for photo opportunities of crape murder. As small towns and gossip go, I knew better than to post a picture of my neighbor’s lawn (yikes, they really committed a heinous crime). So, I changed my search for a public property, one where the crape myrtles have been hacked off by chainsaws and look like scary stumps with big knots at the top. To my surprise, people have been listening! Our crape myrtles along the main street area are in lovely condition for this time of year. The canopies of crape myrtles in our parks have been lovingly and appropriately trimmed. Even those in neighborhoods throughout town look like they are going to blossom out and be strong for the season. Though there were plenty of knotted, gnarled and shrunken “victims”, it looks like people are getting the message!
Am I a murderer?
Many crape murders are committted by cutting back on the main trunks, on the same location every year and often to a height of around 4-5’. Yes, some of these practices will lead to many new shoots and lots of blossoms, but these new shoots will be very weak. The weak shoots can’t support the heavy blooms and they will droop and weep from the strain. Each year, as the pruning occurs in the same spots, knots will develop on the trunks. These knots are not only unattractive, but they also contribute to weakness in our trees. This is crape murder.
I don’t want to be a murderer!
First of all, timing is everything! WHEN you prune your crepe myrtle is of utmost importance! In North Mississippi, the ideal time to prune is late January through February. You can still make corrective pruning as late as March or April, though. If you missed your chance already this year, just mark your calendar for next year, and make notes….
Repeat after me, “it’s a tree, not a bush”
Don’t prune far down onto the main trunks; allow your crape myrtle to look like a tree. Ideally, your crape myrtle should look like an umbrella from a distance.
Don’t cut out large sections, just remove branches that cross one another. If there are seed pods from last year, remove those, too! If your tree is too tall, you can prune it back down to a more appropriate height, but don’t do this every year.
Ok, I want to plant a crape myrtle…
If you are considering planting crape myrtles, consult with a professional, or at the very least, do a little research first. Here are a few big ideas:
Where you plant your crape myrtle will either contribute to the successful life or the untimely death of your beautiful ornamental tree.
Crape myrtles need lots of sun but not a lot of water to live in our area.
Pruning and long-term care is just as important to the lifespan of a crape myrtle.
For more reading on crape murder,proper care and planting*, read this great article in Southern Living.
While Lawn and Pest Solutions does not offer a pruning service, we want to help you maintain a beautiful lawn. We have customers all over North Mississippi and our licensed technicians are ready to assist you. You can contact us here for a quote.