How to make Crape Myrtles bloom all summer long

I love Crape Myrtles so many bright long lasting blooms for color throughout the Southwest.

Tuscorora Crape Myrtle
Beautiful Tuscorora Crape Myrtle

Did you know you can extend the blooming time of Crape Myrtles.  Most gardening folks think they will bloom one time and that’s it.  But you can make them bloom 2-3 times throughout the summer months.

How do you prune them?

You just need to know what to look for and what needs to be pruned.

Below is a photo of pruned blooms side by side both expired and about to bloom pods. Expired blooms on the left and yet to bloom on the right.  Be sure to cut off the right one!

expired-blooms

All one needs to do is prune off the old blooms and the plant will re-generate a new stem along with a new set of blooms.  See bottom photo.

new-growth

Pruning Crape Myrtles

How many times can a Crape Myrtle be pruned in one season?  From my own experience it can be done up to 3 times in one summer season.  This means you could have blooms up until late October!

When is the best time to prune them?  When the majority of the blooms start to look like the photo below.  It also illustrates where to prune the stem off.

prune crape myrtle

Depending on the size of your crape myrtle you could have thousands of expired pods to trim off.  Sometimes you will have both expired and new blooms on the same stem.  If this is the case it’s up to you to cut or not to cut?  You might want to hire a good landscaper to do the job for you.

This is also a good time to fertilize your Crape Myrtles.  It’s best to water – fertilize then water again for an extra spurt of new growth.  While pruning check for insects and diseases.  Aphids love new growth on all plants.  Crape Myrtles are susectible to powdery mildew check for white powder type stuff on foliage.

How to make Crape Myrtles bloom all summer long – Got questions let us know by commenting below.

 

Plants that Bloom in Mid Summer

The Tuscorora Crape Myrtle. Is this gorgeous or what?  Bright, dark pink blooms that will last about 4-6 weeks.  Dead head the expired blooms during the summer season for an extra shot of blooms again.  Plants that Bloom in Mid Summer

Myrtle carp Tuscorora

 

Red Verbena – Bright red blooms that will last all summer long.  They will come back the following seasons.  Great for rock gardens and desert type landscape.  Put them in containers with other colorful annuals or perennials.

Red Verbenma

Dynamite Red Crape Myrtle – Bright red blooms that will make you say “Ohh My!” Dead head the expired red blooms to extend the colorful flowers.  They will grow to about 15-20 ft. tall and about 10-15 ft. wide.

Myrtle Dynamite carp

Vinca Perwinkle – Easy ground cover color.  Reds, purples, whites and lavender color petals.  Water thoroughly througout the summer months.  These are considered annuals in places where temps get below freezing.  They get about 3-6″ tall and can withstand the hot blazing heat.  Plant them in masses for a great affect…they do well in containers.

Vinca PerwinkleDallas Red Lantana – They will bloom all summer long.  Once established they are moderate watering.  However, you should water everyday during it’s first two years of growth.  Growth rate is about 3-4 ft. tall and wide, sometimes larger if placed in the right area.

Dallas Red Lantana

Coleus – Not just brown and purple but the lime green and varigaeted darker colors will give you some added foliage color in your garden or landscape design.

 

Coleus  ColorsCalifornia Poppies.  Yes these poppies will thrive in host sun but they do need lots of water during the hot weather.

More Plants that bloom in mid-summer

California Poppies

 

 

California Poppies New Mexico
California Poppies in New Mexico

The Red Bird of Paradise they will bloom all summer long. No dead heading, just plant, water and see the fantastic bright red and yellow flowers all summer.

red bird of paradise plant

Petunias – Especially the Wave petunias.  They can tolerate the hot mid summer sun.  Use them in containers so you can move them around.

backyard2

Bougainvillea – Hanging Bougainvillea are a great way to add color in your patio or front entrance.  Don’t be afraid to trim Bougainvillea’s during summer.  They will respond fast after being pruned.  Water and fertilize about every 2-3 weeks.

Hanging Bougainvillea

 

The mid summer heat can be brutal on many plants.  They will get stressed and not bloom or look like you want them to.  My advice is to water more, and fertilize every 2 weeks or so.

It is hard to over water if you have good drainage.  Don’t forget to check your plants often for insects as they love new plant growth.  Diseases is another thing to look for.  Powderly mildew, fungus, spotted rust can make your plants look like they need more water.

 

 

 

Plants to help clean and filter indoor pollution

Peace Lilly Plant

Is your home or office environment void of indoor plants?  Did you know there are hundreds of plants that help clean and filter out indoor pollution.  The EPA blog says plants can help reduce chemical toxins indoors.

Materials such as treated wood, glues, paints, varnishes and a multitude of other household materials give out a heavy dose of toxins inside your office or home space.

The soil in these plants can also help clean up the air.  According to a NASA article one plant can actually reduce the toxins in the air.  Read article here. Below is a quote from the article.

NASA researchers suggest efficient air cleaning is accomplished with at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space. Other research has shown that micro-organisms in the potting mix (soil) of a potted plant remove benzene from the air, and that some plant species also contribute to removing benzene.

How do plants clean up the air?

Plants will absorb the carbon dioxide and in turn release clean oxygen and humidity into the room.  The leaf composition allows them to photosynthesize well into household light.

Which plants are the best to use?

Almost all plants will help but below is a list of plants that can do the job. These are just a few but these are good ones to start with.

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

Weeping fig or (Ficus benjamina)

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia maculata) – Wonder why they call it Dumb?  Anyone know?

Dumb Cane Plant

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)

 

peacelillySnake Plant also called Mother in laws plant (Sanseveria trifasciata) – Sharp pointed spike can easily poke your skin…hmmm now I now why it’s called the Mother in Law Tongue Plant!

mother-in-law2

Schefflera (Schefflera actinophyla)

Money plant (Epipremnum aureum) – I’m still looking to see if it will grow money?

Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)

Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)

The Rubber Plant

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Pothos Plant

In addition to helping clean the indoor air these plants add symmetry, color and softens the indoor decor of any office or home space.

The Pothos, Chinese evergreen and Rubber plants are easily maintained and should be used for those who are just starting out.

You can view images and instructions on how to care for these plants by following these links.

Indoor Plants page 1

Indoor Plants page 2

 

 

How to start a container garden

Planning Your Container Garden

 The first thing you need to decide when planning a container garden is whether you’d prefer to grow your plants indoors or outdoors.  A lot of people think container gardening is only for indoor growing and patios, but containers can actually be useful for any garden situation.

Containers are great for growing almost any type of plant, because they offer great versatility.  If you plant your garden in containers and you need to move it later, it’s easy to do it.  Not so if you have a traditional garden!

If you’re expecting very bad weather, you can temporarily move containers to a safer location, like indoors or into a garage or basement.  But there isn’t much you can do for a traditional garden.

If you find your plants aren’t doing well because the space you chose is too sunny or too shady, there isn’t much you can do with a traditional garden, but you can easily move potted plants to a better location.

If you choose to have your container garden outdoors, you need to be sure to choose a good location for it.  You’ll want to choose a place that has the proper amount of sun for the plants you wish to grow, but it also needs to be a place that’s very accessible.  It’s easy to lose motivation to work on your garden if it’s several hundred yards away from the house!

Be sure to locate your plants as far away from streets as you can.  Pollution from cars, as well as the dust they kick up, can damage your plants and contaminate them.  You don’t want to be eating all of that pollution, so locate plants as far away from those roads as possible.

If you have your plants indoors, you’ll need to be sure to select a very good spot.  Most plants need to be fairly warm, so you’ll need to choose the warmest spot in your house if you use air conditioning.

Many plants won’t do well in very chilly homes, so you might need to choose a room for your plants and keep the vent closed in that room so it stays warmer there. If you can, choose a sunny room with a lot of natural sunlight.

Plants thrive best with natural light.  If you don’t have a room with a lot of sunlight, you’ll have to use special plant lights for your plants.  You can’t use just any fluorescent lights, because plants won’t thrive.

You need to use lights that are specially designed for growing plants.  They contain a broad spectrum of light, which is closer to natural light than standard bulbs. You may also have to adjust the humidity in the room with your plants.

Some plants thrive better in higher humidity, and others do well in lower humidity.  You may need to invest in special equipment to adjust the humidity if you’re raising very delicate or picky plants.  You probably won’t have to do this unless you’re growing exotic varieties.

Next, you’ll need to choose which plants you want to grow.  Be careful!  Too many people choose to plant far too many varieties, and end up frustrated.  Don’t grow anything you can easily pick up cheaply at the grocery store!

Stick to growing fruits and vegetables that you really enjoy and have a hard time locating locally, or those you find too expensive or too low quality.  Tomatoes are a favorite for home gardeners, because their quality in stores if often very poor.

Finally, decide whether or not you want to grow your plants organically.  If you’re growing indoors, this will probably be very simple to do.  But if you’re growing your plants outside, you may find the frustration of dealing with pests is just too much for you.  Don’t feel guilty if you find organic gardening too difficult.  You can always try it after you have more experience.

Getting your plants ready for winter

 Here in the Southwestern part of the U.S. the summer and fall seasons are long.  As we know fall in this part of the country produces some of the best eye pleasing color for all to enjoy.  Getting your plants ready for winter should be done every year.

The fall colors in the Southwest are awesome.

Texas Red Oaks, Chinese Pistache, and Raywood Ash trees produce eye popping red colors.  I also love the fall weather as it is cool and the wind is almost non-existent.

Colorful tree
Beautiful Chinese Pistache Color

I am often asked “what and how do I get my landscape ready for the winter season”.  Here are a few tips to help you do just that.

First you got to keep abreast of the weather in your area.  Now days it’s really easy with the advent of smart phones and t’s a snap to tune in for weather reports.  TV, Radio and of course the Internet will give you the latest information about freezing temperatures or inclement weather.

Getting your plants ready for winter

It is best to fertilize almost everything before the onset of winter.  This will keep your plants strong and hardy before the spring seasons.  Fertilizing in mid winter is not recommended.

Frost tender plants such as Lantana’s, and the Red Bird of Paradise should be trimmed down to the ground.  It’s best to cover these plants with mulch to keep the root thriving throughout the winter season.

The desert bird and yellow paradsie plant are best left alone during winter.

red-bird-paradise

What about Roses?

Roses for the most part should be left alone.  Only trim if you have a good reason to trim.   Here is a great post on how to take care of roses.  Rose Care.

Palm trees during winter.  Do not trim off the yellow palm tree fronds as this helps protect them from the freezing temperatures.  Kind of like leaving a coat on for winter.

Do trim off the fronds during the spring, and summer seasons.  Palm Tree care post is here.  More Palm Tree Care. 

california-fan-palm

You will need to cut down on your watering once mid-November comes around.  Do water about twice per month until spring.  Once you see small shoots coming out of from the bottom of trimmed of roots it’s time to go back to regular watering.  Basically every other day during spring summer and fall.

barbara-karst-bougainvillea

The Bougainvillea plant should be taken inside unless you planted them in the ground.  In that case it’s best to trim back and cover it with a thermal or insulation plant blanket.  Yes, these are sold at local nurseries.  If you live in climates that do not get below freezing they are best left alone outdoors.

You should cut down your watering for trees and plants that are well established.  This usually occurs about the third or fourth year.

Do Native Plants need water during winter?

Water Native plants less frequently I would suggest about once per month.  Do not water Ocotillos, Cactus, or Agave during winter at all.  The Pinon tree should only be watered about once per month.  Texas sage (lecuophyllums) should be watered about once per month during winter.  The true sages need about once per month also.

The argument about not watering native or drought tolerant plants at all is valid. But only for those who do not care about growth and looks.  These plants tend to look better, grow faster and produce more blossoms or flowers during their peak seasons.

Citrus plants should be brought inside unless you live in an area where there are no freezing temperatures but again, keep your eye on the weather.

What about Lawns?

Warm season lawn grasses such as Bermuda will go dormant once the cold weather hits your vicinity.  This means turn the water sprinkler off during winter and do not fertilize it.  You are wasting your time, money and effort if you do!  However, if you have Bermuda overseeded with rye grass then I would continue watering throughout the winter months.

Cool season grasses such as Fescue, and Kentucky blue grass should still be watered about once per week.  If you want your Fescue lawn to look good during winter…fertilize it.  A good 16-8-8 analysis will work great.

It’s important to note that if you live in a warmer climate where temperatures rarely go below freezing there are different set of rules.  Southern California and Arizona rarely have temperatures below 32 degrees farenheit.

So, it’s best to call your local nursery and ask for advice.  I would not call the big box stores as the majority of nursery employees are not as well informed in the gardening field.  Need to find your local gardening zone map?  Just follow this link.  Southwest Garden Zone Map.

Fall is a good time to observer your plants.  Look for diseases, insects and be sure to call or visit your local nursery folks and ask for advice.

Many folks consider spraying for insects in fall as a waste of time and money.  They may think “The winter freezes will kill them anyway”.  This is true!

However, It’s best to do this any way and here is my reasoning.  Most insects will produce larvae and eggs in fall.  These eggs will fall to the ground lay dormant througout the winter seasons. Once the warm weather comes back around they will hatch and you will have more insects to contend with.

Got questions and or comment about our “Getting your plants ready for winter” article?  Just type it below.  We answer all comments or questions!