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IN THE GARDEN: Crape myrtles are always among the last to leaf out

by Janet B. Carson | May 1, 2021 at 1:35 a.m.
Remove all but three to five of the shoots a winter-wrecked crape myrtle sends up from its roots. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

Q You may have touched on this already: What about large crape myrtles? Mine are sending up new growth from the ground and a few leaf buds on the very lower trunks. When I snap an upper twig or branch it seems dead. I live in Farmington. They said it got to 20 degrees below 0 in Fayetteville. I know to be patient with these plants but ... if I need to cut all the dead off, I need to do it now before the new stuff gets too high.

A Crape myrtles are notoriously one of the last landscape plants to leaf out. That being said, I do think there will be significant damage to crape myrtles in the northern tier of our state that received the extremely low temperatures. Give the trees another few weeks to begin growth. If you still have no new leaves by mid-May, start cutting. You will notice way more sprouts at the base than you will need. If you do have to remove older branches, you will need to retrain the tree back into a tree. Only leave three to five sprouts, evenly spaced out, and prune out the others.

Q It appears a variety of plants have foliage damage due to the cold period in February. However, the dark spots and the extent of yellowed leaves in our magnolia are a concern. What is your diagnosis?

Spots and yellowing on older evergreen leaves after a freeze are typically not a sign of trouble, but such damage on new growth would be. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)
Spots and yellowing on older evergreen leaves after a freeze are typically not a sign of trouble, but such damage on new growth would be. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

A I am not concerned about older leaves that were damaged. We have a lot of evergreen plants that turned totally brown. Damaged leaves should begin shedding as new foliage comes on to replace them. I would monitor the new growth. If those leaves begin to show leaf spots or yellowing, that would be cause for concern.

Q I recently went to Montgomery County in western Arkansas where I have planted a few fruit trees. In the forks of some of the fruit trees I noticed a white silk web filled with caterpillars. I manually dispatched the webs and caterpillars, but I don't think the problem is solved. Assuming this was a webworm infestation, I went online to research how to remove the caterpillars. However, the information online seemed to say webworms were a problem in the fall, not the spring. As it is spring, and assuming that webworms are not the problem, I was hoping you could identify the problem and can provide me a method to eliminate my infestation. I have attached a photo of a plum tree with the infestation.

Eastern tent caterpillars turn into moths after six weeks and fly away; but a similar pest that arrives later in the year, webworms, produce several generations. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)
Eastern tent caterpillars turn into moths after six weeks and fly away; but a similar pest that arrives later in the year, webworms, produce several generations. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

A There are two web-forming caterpillars that make a nuisance of themselves in Arkansas. What you have are the earlier pests called tent caterpillars. The fall webworms show up later in the season and can produce several generations in one year. Luckily the spring tent caterpillars are much shorter lived. If they are low enough to the ground for physical removal, that is ideal. Tent caterpillars make a web and then leave the web to feed, going back to the web (or tent) for the night. They are usually around for about six weeks, and then they transform into moths and fly away until next spring. While they are here, there can be a lot of them.

Q Attached are pics of the yucca plants at our new home. They are growing next to our driveway and are shaded part of the day by a large tree. They are all spotted, and the trunks lie along the ground. I have trimmed a lot of the dead parts. Is there anything I can do to care for them? Or should I remove them? I have always wanted yucca. Appreciate your advice.

Lower foliage on a yucca dies back annually and should be removed. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)
Lower foliage on a yucca dies back annually and should be removed. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

A I have often said that yuccas are appropriately named — yuck! I know many people love them, and I do enjoy some of the variegated forms. The flowers can be showy, too. That being said, rarely will you find a yucca plant without some damaged foliage. Cut off the damaged leaves. The bottom, older leaves will turn brown and die back annually. Pruning yuccas should be an annual job. Wear protective clothing, as they are not the most finger-friendly plant. If you do cut them off at the soil line they will send up lots of new yucca plants, but it will delay flowering.

COMMUNITY TIP

DEAR READERS: Fresh local produce should be available to everyone — no matter where they live. To support the good that happens in community green spaces all across the country, Pure Farmland is kicking off year two of the Pure Growth Project grant program, offering grants to community gardens. In the first year, 50 deserving organizations were selected to receive grants, providing a total of $100,000 in financial support. This year, the brand is increasing its commitment by contributing $25,000 more. To apply for a community garden grant, visit the Pure Farmland website puregrowthproject.com. A link to the application is on the homepage; apply before June 15.

Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas' best known horticulture experts. Her blog is at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet. Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email [email protected]

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