Crape myrtle trees are a popular choice for landscaping in many parts of the United States. With their showy blooms in summer and attractive bark, it’s no wonder these small trees are so widely grown. But when is the optimal time to get new crape myrtle trees in the ground? This article will examine the factors to consider when deciding the best planting time for crape myrtles.
Spring or Fall – The Two Best Times for Planting
Most horticulture experts recommend planting crape myrtles in either the spring or fall. Here are the key reasons why these seasons are prime planting times:
Avoidance of summer heat stress – Planting in spring allows new trees to establish roots before the arrival of summer heat. This reduces transplant shock.
Takes advantage of spring rains – The damp soil conditions in spring are excellent for new root growth. This spurs faster establishment.
Lengthens first growing season – Spring planting gives the tree many months of growth in its first year in the ground.
Allows soil prep in advance – Fall planting happens after the chaos of summer gardening has subsided. This makes it easier to prepare planting sites.
Avoids winter cold damage – Planting in early fall enables roots to anchor the plant before winter dormancy arrives.
Reduces transplant shock – Cooler fall temperatures reduce stress on newly planted trees.
Utilizes fall rains – In many regions, autumn offers a second rainy season that facilitates root establishment.
Factors That Influence the Best Planting Time
While spring and fall are recommended planting times in most areas, local climate conditions can shift the optimal periods. Consider the following factors for your region:
Weather and Rainfall Patterns
Track seasonal precipitation in your location. Plant during moist periods when possible.
Avoid planting during regional rainy seasons if overly wet soil is problematic.
Work around periods of extreme cold or heat that add stress.
Growing Zone and Last Frost Dates
Plant after the average last spring frost to prevent cold damage.
In warm zones (8-10), fall or even winter planting may be possible.
Plant when soil is workable but not waterlogged.
Let soil dry out after excessive rain before planting.
In arid climates, target spring or fall for best soil moisture.
Supplemental water may be needed in periods of low rainfall.
Plant before or after the main gardening season to facilitate care.
By taking all of these factors into account, you can determine the ideal planting window for your particular area.
Preparing for Planting in Spring or Fall
Once you’ve determined the best season to plant, follow these tips to get ready:
Select Healthy Trees from the Nursery
Inspect for damage, disease, or drying out. Reject unhealthy plants.
Check that the root ball is moist but not saturated or root-bound.
Opt for smaller container sizes which transplant more readily.
Prepare the Planting Site in Advance
Remove any unwanted vegetation and debris.
Amend soil if needed to ensure good drainage.
Pre-dig any required holes or trenches.
Water the Trees Prior to Planting
Water the root balls 1-2 days before planting.
Allow to drain so soil is moist but not soggy at planting.
Have Supplies on Hand
Get compost, fertilizer, mulch, and tools ready in advance.
Clear irrigation lines and controllers.
Obtain stakes, ties, and tree guards if needed.
With the right planning and preparations, you can ensure your crape myrtle trees get off to the healthiest start possible when planted in spring or fall.
Planting Crape Myrtle Instructions In Spring
Follow this simple step-by-step process for successful spring planting:
Choose a Sunny, Well-Drained Site
Crape myrtles need lots of sun. Ensure the spot gets at least 6 hours of direct sun daily. Good drainage is also crucial. Amend soil with compost if needed.
Dig a Wide Planting Hole
The hole should be 2-3 times wider than the root ball but no deeper. The widened space loosens soil for easier root growth.
Carefully Remove the Tree from the Container
Support the trunk and gently remove from the pot. Check for circling roots and straighten or trim if needed.
Place in Hole and Backfill with Soil
Set into hole so the top of root ball is level with the ground. Fill in with surrounding soil, tamping down lightly.
Water Thoroughly to Settle the Soil
Water slowly and deeply after planting to remove air pockets and saturate the soil.
Apply Mulch Around the Trunk
Spread 2-4 inches of shredded bark, leaves, or other organic mulch over the soil surface surrounding the tree.
Stake the Trunk if Needed
Staking may be required for support on windy sites. Use wide flexible ties to avoid damage.
Prune Dead or Damaged Branches
Remove branches impaired by transplant stress using proper pruning technique.
Following these guidelines step-by-step will give your new crape myrtle the best start when spring planting.
Fall Planting Crape Myrtle Tree Guidelines
For areas where fall planting is optimal, follow these simple tips:
- Plant 6-8 weeks before first frost for root growth before dormancy.
- Prepare soil and dig holes in advance before the ground freezes.
- Thoroughly water at planting and 1-2 more times before ground freeze.
- Hold off on heavy pruning until the following spring. Remove only damaged branches.
- Wrap or protect trunks in very cold climates to prevent freeze damage.
- Apply a thick mulch layer to insulate soil and protect roots from cold.
- Remove stakes and ties in spring after the last frost has passed.
By using reasonable care when planting in the fall, you can achieve excellent establishment.
Ongoing Crape Myrtle Care After Planting
Once your crape myrtle trees are planted, be sure to care for them properly:
Water weekly for the first season, then gradually reduce frequency.
Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer each spring.
Prune lightly in late winter to shape and improve flowering.
Watch for pests like aphids and treat promptly if found.
Protect from strong winds with staking until trees establish.
Mulch annually with 2-3 inches of organic matter.
With the right planting time and proper follow-up care, your crape myrtles will thrive for years of beauty.
Enjoy the Benefits of Perfectly Timed Planting
By taking the time to plant your crape myrtles in the optimal season for your climate, you’ll maximize their growth and enjoyment. Follow the tips in this article to determine the ideal planting window. With careful preparation, execution, and follow-up care, you’ll have crape myrtles that flourish in your landscape.