Dead Crape Myrtle Tree?

Crape myrtle trees are normally one the last plants in the spring to start leafing out and you may ask yourself… Do I have a dead crape myrtle tree?

Crape myrtles go dormant during every winter.  During the dormant stage crapes will lose all their leaves and look like a dead tree.  Don’t worry, just like a bear sleeps for the winter, your crape myrtles may still still be sleeping .  Crapes won’t normally start leafing out until temperature reach the 80’s for a few weeks in a row. Some will start leafing out early if you have a some late warm winter weather. Some crapes will be really stubborn and ‘sleep in’ as long as possible.  You’ll have to wait for another few weeks of consistent warm weather for them to leaf out again.

Another way to determine if a crape is dead or not is performing the ‘Scratch Test.

Using Scratch Test to determine a Dead Crape Myrtle

The picture above was taken around mid April in Texas.  Compare the dead looking trees on the left to the scratched bark on the right..

Scratch the lower base of the stem and if it’s green it is still alive. If it’s not, it may still be alive, but you’ll have to wait awhile before you know for sure.  A really cold winter may have of killed the top growth, but the roots may still be alive. If this is the case, you’ll have to just wait and see if new shoots develop. Continue to water when dry as if it were still alive. Don’t over water though… over watering will drown the roots and kill it.  During the dormant stage, crapes don’t really need that much water.  Some may not develop new shoots till June. After June I’d probably give up on it.

Crape myrtle trees are super tough and very hard to kill. I would take weeks of more likely months of neglect to kill a crape myrtle.

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