Dead Crape Myrtle Tree?

Crape myrtle trees are normally one the last plants to start leafing out in the spring and you may ask yourself… Did my crape myrtles die?

Crape myrtles have a dormant period every winter.  During the dormant stage crapes will lose all their leaves and look like dead.  Don’t worry, just like a bear sleeps for the winter, your crape myrtles are still sleeping .  Crapes do not  start leafing out until temperature are consistently the 80s. Some will start leafing out early and other may will be really stubborn and ‘sleep in’.  You’ll have to wait for another few weeks of consistent warm weather for them to leaf out again.

Using Scratch Test to determine a Dead Crape Myrtle

Another way to determine if a crape is dead or not is performing the ‘Scratch Test.  Scratch the base of the stem just above the soil line and your should see that it has a tint of green and alive.

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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