Partial shade is not best position for crape myrtle

BACKYARD Q&A

March 03, 2002|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Q. I am looking for a tall flowering shrub to plant in a partially shaded area of my back yard. Will crape myrtle grow well in partial shade?

A. I have seen crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) growing in partial shade, however, they grow best in full sun. When grown in partial shade, they tend to get overly leggy and their flowers are typically smaller and fewer. In addition, many crape myrtles are susceptible to powdery mildew disease, which worsens in shade. If it were my yard, I would try something else. There are a number of nice viburnums that grow well in partial shade. Or if you want something a little taller, you could try a serviceberry (Amelanchier) tree.

Q. I have seen some nice pictures of annual lobelia in flower, and I have seen them sold in flats at garden centers in spring, but I rarely see them planted in the landscape. Why is that?

A. There are several cultivars of annual lobelia (Lobelia erinus) that make excellent edging plants and produce various shades of blue to purple flowers. And you are right, they look great in pictures and at the garden centers in spring. However, they are cool season plants that do not tolerate our hot summer months. If annual lobelia is planted here in early May, the plants may look good until early July, but after then they begin to decline. This is probably the reason you have seen so few in the landscape.

Q. I have read several references that used the term "canker" in describing a plant damaged by disease. What is a canker?

A. A canker is a sunken, discolored area of dead tissue that appears on a stem, branch or trunk of trees and shrubs. The sunken area is usually dark and may be surrounded by callous tissue where the plant is trying to heal itself. Cankers are generally considered a disease symptom. Less frequently, the term is also used to describe damage caused by insects. "Canker" is not used in reference to damage on other parts of the plant, such as leaves, flowers or fruits.

THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST

1. This is a great time to prune many shrubs. Even spring-flowering shrubs can be selectively pruned this time of year.

2. Before you begin pruning, be sure to sharpen your shears. Sharp pruning shears cut with greater ease and make cleaner cuts that heal faster.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1-p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site, www. agnr.umd.edu / users / hgic.

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