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Garden Lost to Crape Myrtle Scale

Last summer our water bill nearly broke us. Water cost as much as food! What to do?

First plan a smaller garden. Give super-thirsty perennials away. You could create a Japanese style garden (stones, plants, a small water feature). Or a shade garden (trees, shrubs, perennials with beautiful leaves). Or choose drought-tolerant sun-loving plants. If you’re tired of Black-eyed Susans (Rudbekkia), or Butterfly Weed (Asclepias Tuberosa) find other drought-tolerant plants. If roses you must have, plan for watering and bills.


Help! My crape myrtles developed white spots on the trunk and stems and black splotches all over their trunks.  What are they? Will they kill the trees? Can I get rid of them? This scale has the ability to infest all of our crape myrtles.

Vira Sisolak shares this, her sad story. Her Crape Myrtles did have to be cut down from the strip of land beside the red brick Verizon building at 200 7th St. NE where Vira had transformed a derelict trash dump into a beautiful shade garden. She blames herself for not paying attention in time.

Those white spots are “scale”. They contain tiny insects that suck sap and nutrients from trunks and stems. The black splotches are mold, endemic in shade. Scale is deadly unless removed early by hand, knife or water stream. Ladybugs eat scale in its young, larval stage only. If scale infestation is widespread, the branch — or tree — must be removed.

P.S. Vira wrote to DDOT, which responded immediately saying “Yes, we became aware of crape myrtle bark scale (CMBS) in the District in 2021. We are taking action to ensure we can maintain the crape myrtles we have and change our planting and pruning activities to reduce further spread of CMBS. We are also in contact with the Extension agents from Texas A&M University who are leading research and extension efforts to improve management of CMBS. They also maintain this very helpful website, https://stopcmbs.com/

“We set up training with the group at Texas A&M, and they are hosting a webinar and Q&A session at the end of the month for us, along with the US Architect of the Capitol. You are welcome to join. I attached the invite email above, registration is required (and FREE) via Zoom.

“We are developing a management plan that will address planting of crape myrtles, inspections for CMBS, sanitation methods, control methods, and guidance for the general public. We will share this on our forest health website here, https://trees.dc.gov/pages/forest-health.”

Capitol Hill Garden Club meetings are free and open to all. On March 8, 2022 the club will focus on ways to get your garden ready for Spring. Please contact the website Capitolhillgardenclub.org to find the invitation and link to this Zoom meeting. 

Feeling beset by gardening problems? Send them to the Problem Lady c/o the Editor, Hill Garden News. Your problems might even prove instructive to others, and help them feel superior to you.  Complete anonymity is assured.

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