Protecting Crape Myrtle During Winter

Crape myrtles are chiefly known for their colorful, long-lasting flowers and multiple trunks

With their long blooming time and an assortment of colors, crepe myrtles are very popular. Unfortunately, many Crape Myrtle varieties are at the top of their hardiness zones in our Bucks County location. Severe winters can damage them, so take some precautions to protect them.


The use of probiotic fertilizer like Dr. Earth (applied in the fall) will naturally build up a plant’s winter hardiness and strengthen the roots. It is also essential to be sure your tree is given adequate water throughout the fall, which will encourage root growth. Dr. Earth Life All Purpose Fertilizer is a true pelletized and homogenous organic all-purpose fertilizer that produces remarkable results because nutrients are released quickly yet continue to feed for several months. The ultra-premium scientific formula provides optimum levels of primary essential plant nutrients and multi-minerals. TruBiotic ensures organic nutrients are thoroughly broken down and then released in the soil for plant roots to absorb them as needed. Dr. Earth Life All Purpose Fertilizer feeds for several months. Dr. Earth Life All Purpose Fertilizer is an easy-to-use fertilizer since it is sprinkled on top of the soil without working in it.


A minimum of a 3-inch layer of mulch should be applied over the root zone to insulate roots from the cold. A 6-inch layer is more beneficial.


It is advisable to wrap young (1 year or less) and small Crepe Myrtle trees. Wrap burlap around the branches and then add an insulating filler such as leaves or straw to provide additional protection. Use bush jackets for dwarf plants. Bush jackets are reusable insulating covers that cover the plant.

Each spring, remove all extra mulch and wraps.

Is my Crape Myrtle dead?

This is a question we often get in late spring and early summer as Crape Myrtles are one of the last trees in our area to leaf out. It is not unusual for Crape Myrtles in Pennsylvania to have no leaves after Mother’s day when most other flowering trees in our area have already bloomed and leafed out. If you are worried that your Crape Myrtle did not survive the winter, try scratching the bark of a few branches. If the branch is green just under the bark, there is nothing to worry about ― your tree is alive and is perfectly normal. If the branches are brown under the bark, brittle, and easily snap, then that branch is indeed dead. But don’t panic yet, sometimes if it was an icy winter, the plant will lose some limbs or even die back entirely to the ground and then grow back from the roots as the weather gets warmer. 

In cold northeast winters, the top growth dies back even though the roots are alive. New shoots eventually emerge from the roots. Even when everything seems fine, crape myrtles are always one of the last plants to leaf out, usually in May.

If you do not see any new growth by the end of June, your Crape Myrtle is indeed dead.

The blossoms are scattering off the crape myrtles every time the wind blows, falling like hot pink confetti.

Gin Phillips, author and winner of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award.