Crepe myrtles are beloved for their bold flowers that can last for several months in the summer. So, realizing your Crepe myrtle isn’t putting out its yearly burst of color is a huge disappointment!
Most flowering issues can be traced back to environmental factors or improper care. But identifying the source of a specific Crepe myrtle’s flowering woes can require a bit more diagnostic know-how than the average gardener possesses.
Your Crepe Myrtle not blooming will undoubtedly set alarm bells ringing but before you go to the expense of calling in an Arborist, have a read of this article. It covers all the most common reasons this yard or garden favorite might not be flowering and how to fix it.
- Why Is My Crepe Myrtle Tree Not Blooming?
- How Do I Get My Crepe Myrtle To Bloom?
- When Should You Fertilize Crepe Myrtle?
- FAQ’s Crepe Myrtle Not Blooming
Why Is My Crepe Myrtle Tree Not Blooming?
A Crepe myrtle that fails to bloom has typically been pruned too late, damaged by wind or frost, planted in the wrong location, or attacked by insects.
If some areas of your Crepe myrtle tree continue to appear healthy, while others are suffering, then there’s a very high chance that one of these factors is the problem.
Before jumping to conclusions, I recommend giving your Crepe myrtle tree a good visual once-over. Look for signs of disease or poor health — not just on the buds and flowers but on the foliage, limbs, and trunk as well — that may be interfering with flower production.
The sooner such issues are addressed the better chance the Crepe myrtle has of making a full recovery.
Without a doubt, the most likely culprit for an otherwise healthy Crepe myrtle not blooming is that the tree was pruned too late.
Crepe myrtles flower on new growth only. This means the tree produces the current year’s flower buds after coming out of winter dormancy. If some or all of that new growth is pruned away in spring, the Crepe myrtle’s flower production will be decimated.
In most areas, pruning should take place in February or March. Keep an eye on your local forecast to ensure that you have time to prune your Crepe myrtle before rising spring temperatures bring the tree out of dormancy.
You may have timed your annual pruning perfectly, removing unwanted limbs well before your Crepe myrtle left winter dormancy. But Mother Nature can do significant damage of her own.
For example, an untimely spring freeze could kill off new growth and the associated flower buds. Or a bad storm could break off a large portion of your tree’s spring growth.
While weather damage can be disastrous for the current year’s flower output, it’s unlikely to have any long-term effects. The best thing to do is care for your Crepe myrtle per usual so that it is well-prepared for next year.
If a Crepe myrtle continuously fails to put out an impressive summer bloom, then an environmental factor like lack of sunlight could be to blame.
As a rule, we gardeners tend to underestimate the amount of sunlight our plants need (and overestimate the hours of sun our landscapes receive). Crepe myrtles are full sun trees and require an average of at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
Insufficient sunlight both decreases the number of flowers and causes those that do appear to be faded in color.
Few insects target Crepe myrtle flowers directly. The one notable exception is the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica), which feeds on Crepe myrtle flower petals as well as the foliage.
However, damage to other parts of the plant caused by aphids or other insects could impact flower production.
If your Crepe myrtle becomes infested in the spring or early summer, when buds typically emerge, it may opt to redirect energy to staying alive rather than producing flowers.
There’s no secret to getting a Crepe myrtle to flower. Rather, a Crepe myrtle that refuses to flower again and again is a clear sign something is wrong.
Meeting your Crepe myrtle tree’s environmental needs — e.g., water, sunlight, soil pH, and nutrition — will set the stage for consistent flowering each year. It’s also important to avoid mistakes like pruning too late in the spring to ensure new buds have a chance to open.
Will My Crepe Myrtle Bloom More Than Once?
If you’ve noticed some Crepe myrtle trees in your area seem to bloom twice a year, you’re not imagining things! The second flush of flowers can be produced with a bit of strategic pruning.
After your Crepe myrtle’s original flowers have fallen off and been replaced with green seed pods, you can remove the ends with a pair of shears. This must be done before the seed pods turn brown.
Make your cuts below each cluster of seed pods, just above the leaf node. I recommend taking off as little growth as possible. Shaping and general maintenance pruning should still be reserved for springtime.
With any luck, the Crepe myrtle will put out brand new flower buds where the cuts were made. So you can enjoy a second round of color with relatively little work!
All varieties of this species bloom exclusively on new wood that grows in the spring. Therefore knowing when to prune Crepe myrtle is so important if you want to get the most flowers from your trees.
Since Crepe myrtles produce their flower buds immediately before they bloom, there’s no need to worry about harsh winters or summer drought killing off the next year’s flowers (as is the case with lilacs and many other ornamental trees and shrubs).
Most Crepe myrtle varieties begin blooming in late spring or early summer. In general, the closer to the equator you are (and the milder your winters) the earlier your local Crepe myrtles will bloom.
Average bloom time can vary by 1 to 2 months, so don’t be alarmed if your neighbors’ Crepe myrtles begin flowering before your own.
Saplings may not bloom the first couple of years after planting. If they do flower, don’t be alarmed if the number of blooms is very low.
Mature Crepe myrtles can experience transplant shock as well. While your tree might not flower the very first year, it should recover in time for the following year.
If your Crepe myrtle’s buds are slow to open yet the rest of the tree seems healthy, there’s a good chance you just need to be patient. Many environmental factors can cause a delay in Crepe myrtle flowering versus previous years, including unseasonable temperatures and drought.
With that said, unopened flower buds that are turning brown or drying up are not a good sign. The most likely culprits are nutritional imbalance, insects, or (in older crepe myrtle varieties) powdery mildew.
Excess nitrogen can sometimes manifest as Crepe myrtle flower buds that fail to open. I recommend testing the soil around your crepe myrtle tree (take several samples in and around the drip line area) before ruling this out.
While insect damage or powdery mildew can certainly cause buds to die off, this is rarely the only symptom. Check your Crepe myrtle foliage for signs of disease and treat as necessary.
Regardless of the reason for your Crepe myrtle flowers, not opening, don’t panic. Failure to flower one year can be heartbreaking but doesn’t necessarily spell doom for the tree’s future.
Mature Crepe myrtle trees should be fertilized once per year in the spring. This ensures that the plant has all of the nutrients it needs to put out growth (including those much-anticipated flowers) throughout late spring and into summer.
Freshly planted Crepe myrtles may be fertilized throughout the growing season to build a strong foundation for future years. However, extra fertilization has little effect on flower production.
When it comes to soil nutrition, these trees are extremely low-maintenance. The best fertilizers for Crepe Myrtles is one with a balanced N-P-K ratio. But many gardeners raise beautiful specimens with little or no fertilizer at all.
For even distribution, I always recommend using a slow-release, granular fertilizer on Crepe myrtle trees. You can easily distribute the fertilizer over the entire root system by hand or using a broadcast spreader.
I also suggest performing a general soil test around your Crepe myrtle before committing to a specific fertilizer. This will allow you to tailor your fertilizing strategy to the soil’s specific needs.
Again, as far as fertilization is concerned, keep an eye on the amount of nitrogen in the soil. Excess nitrogen causes an overproduction of leaves and underproduction of flowers in trees, including Crepe myrtles.