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Do Crepe Myrtles Go Dormant? (Lose Leaves)

Do Crepe Myrtles Go Dormant

For the sake of example, let’s say you live in Kentucky. It’s the end of March and there’s a crepe myrtle you’ve been taking care of for the last year. You don’t notice any green leaves on it even though many other trees and bushes are growing buds.

So, do crepe myrtles go dormant and lose leaves or is the tree dead? Chances are, it’s just dormant. These are deciduous shrubs/trees. This means they shed their leaves beginning in autumn and are complete bare by winter. They don’t reawaken until the temperatures maintain 80°F or higher.

Ergo, crepe myrtles residing in Kentucky should start showing leaves around May. For other places, it will depend on the climate of your area and what month the cooler temperatures set in.

Is My Crepe Myrtle Dead or Dormant?

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In most cases, your crepe myrtle will just be dormant. However, if you think it’s going dead, you have to look for these signs. The biggest clue will be when the tree loses its leaves early in the season, like July or August.

Check for New Buds

But of course, this will vary with the climate and season. If you’re waiting for leaves to come in during the spring, check the branches for nodes and buds. When those are present, the plant is not dead.

However, to get a deeper look, remove a leaf bud and split it halfway. If there’s green outside but brown inside, this is evidence of frost damage. In the event it’s brown straight through, this area of the crepe myrtle has been dead for quite some time. This could also indicate a chronic issue that has been affecting the tree.

Further Inspection Methods

So, you’ll have to peel back some bark toward the trunk. If the wood is green, it’s just the branch that’s dead and not the whole tree. When deadwood is present, you must either cut the branch back to where it’s green or uproot the tree.

If you cut, make sure you do this before a side branch or bud. Do not leave whole dead trees in the ground. You want to prevent attracting pests, slugs and introducing disease into the soil.

To check the current price and availability of Crepe Myrtle trees, click here to view the listing on Amazon.

What Month Do Crepe Myrtles Lose Their Leaves?

When the temperatures begin fluctuating below 80°F, the crepe myrtle will begin losing its leaves. This will vary depending on the region. If you’re in Wisconsin, this can happen as soon as the end of September. But, if you’re in Tennessee, then you can expect leaves to begin falling in late October or early November.

Do Crepe Myrtles Lose Their Leaves in the Winter?

Crepe myrtles should lose all their leaves by late January or early February in somewhat warmer southern climates. This will be true in places like northern New Mexico and Arizona as well as Florida, Alabama and South Carolina. But, if you live in a characteristically cold area like Michigan, Minnesota or central Colorado, then the tree should be bare by December.

However, if you’re in southern California around Baja, your tree may not experience the freeze required. Therefore, you may not see your tree lose its leaves when it’s technically winter. Alternatively, it may lose its leaves on a series off-cold days and stay dormant for longer than it should.

How Do I Bring My Crepe Myrtle Back to Life?

If you want to revive your crepe myrtle or speed up its growth, then you can add some coffee grounds or fertilizer to the base of the tree. However, it depends on the USDA hardiness zone you’re keeping the tree in. Ideally, it should be in a zone of 8 or higher.

Growing Outside Ideal USDA Zones

While it’s possible to grow them in 6 or 7, the deep freeze that occurs in these areas can injure and retard leaf growth. However, if the crepe myrtle doesn’t experience distinct cooling and subsequent warming temperatures, this can also inhibit leaf production.

The cold weather turning warm tells the plant when to come out of dormancy. If it doesn’t have this, it may never show leaves but will still be alive. Therefore, location will be important depending on the zone.

Location Matters

If you live in an area where a crepe myrtle can grow on sidewalks and roads, then the environmental stress it can experience can make new growth difficult. For instance, things like drought, soil compaction, heat, animal urine and pollution can prevent the tree from bringing forth new leaves.

Therefore, crepe myrtles in such locations need some extra care. Providing water and nutrients will be the best way to help them combat these stresses.

Root Suckers ; Soil

Another thing to help bring crepe myrtles back to life is by removing root suckers at the base of the tree along with weeds. This will prevent competition for moisture and nutrients, thereby going solely to the tree. Also, make sure the soil is suitable with a pH range of 6.0 to 6.5.

Final Thoughts

If you think your crepe myrtle is dead, it’s not. More than likely, it’s just sleeping for the season. Since they’re one of the latest to begin waking from dormancy in spring, it may seem like they’re dead. If you need to check, look for buds and crack one in half. If it’s green, the tree is fine.

For further confirmation, remove some of the bark closer to the trunk down the branch. When there’s green, the tree is alive but you have to remove the deadwood up to the point where green is present. But, if it’s whitish yellow and hollow, the tree is dead and you have to uproot it.

However, if your tree is alive but looks “sad,” then you can do some things to revive it. Providing plenty of water, sunlight and fertilizer will be best. Also, check the location of the tree and its soil to ensure it isn’t sustaining stress like pollution or soil compaction.

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