Why does my Crape Myrtle still have its leaves?

Posted by Mike Bowles on Feb 28, 2018 11:25:33 AM

Does it seem like your Crape Myrtles or Japanese Maples are confused?

We’ve had some calls from clients that have noticed their Crape Myrtles and Japanese Maples are still holding on to their leaves. Is this happening to you too?  If you remember the first week in November, there was a hard freeze where temps fell into the teens overnight. Unfortunately, this happened before the plants had a chance to fully go dormant and prepare for winter.  20180208_115729.jpg

Typically, what happens as days shorten and temperatures gradually cool, leaves stop producing chlorophyll and begin to expose the pigments that give them their typical bright fall foliage.

At the same time, the branches start to form abscission cells that push off the dying leaves and seal the little openings where the stems attach.

A sudden cold snap can thwart that process. Not only does the leaf color go directly from green to brown, the leaves stay attached because abscission tissue hadn't sufficiently developed.

If the wind doesn’t knock off the leaves in the winter the tree will push the dead leaves off in the spring when it begins to grow. Helpful Hint: Do not attempt to remove the leaves by hand.

As the trees start to break dormancy and begin to grow again there may be parts of the trees that don't leaf out.  If this happens just remove the dead branches and prune to shape the rest of the plant.  

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Topics: Customer Tips, Winter Damage