Autumn is coming. Camping, football, pumpkin spiced beverages, leaf peeping in the mountains — and tree planting!?!
Fall is a great time to plant trees. The roots have plenty of time to get re-established before the next hot, dry summer season.
Crepe myrtles have been a longtime favorite tree to plant in the Richmond area. Crepe myrtles come in a variety of sizes, so you can find one that fits your space. They also will thrive in some spots that have limited root zones, where other trees will struggle. The long-lasting summer flowers, beautiful vase shaped form, and various colors of bark make these trees easy to love.
Up until recently, Crepe myrtles had relatively few problems with pests. The may have an occasional aphid outbreak, but that was about it.
That has recently changed though. Crepe myrtle bark scale has found Richmond. The scale was introduced in Texas around 2004 and has spread quickly. This scale can have amazing populations, happily sucking the sap out of the trees. They pull enough sap out of trees that some of the sugars pass through them undigested. This leads to a gooey coating of honeydew, a nice name for sweet bug poop. Honeydew leads to black, sticky sooty mold; which covers branches, leaves and everything under the tree.
Trees are able to handle a moderate scale population; but this insect has had extraordinary populations in some Richmond neighborhoods this year. This can severely weaken the tree and make an impressive sticky mess.
This insect is new to our area. Nobody likely knows if this scale will continue to have outbreak-sized populations in Richmond, or if it will be found by more predator insects and “naturalize” in time. Not knowing the future of crepe myrtle bark scale, you should probably find other trees to plant, at least for the next few years.
What should you plant?
Do a little research and try to find something that will grow well in your space, and is not that popular. The more common a tree is in an area, the bigger a pest outbreak can be.
Here are a few trees that are about the same size as some crepe myrtle varieties: