Crape Myrtles Planted During Drought in Monrovia Raise Some Eyebrows

- Photo by Terry Miller
Although the city says these crape myrtle trees are drought tolerant, they will require at least five days a week of watering initially to get their roots firmly planted in the new corridor which is part of Station Square. –Photo by Terry Miller
Although the city says these crape myrtle trees are drought tolerant, they will require at least five days a week of watering initially to get their roots firmly planted in the new corridor which is part of Station Square. –Photo by Terry Miller

By Terry Miller

While we have to commend the city of Monrovia for adding some greatly-needed oxygen into the city, some have questioned Monrovia’s introduction of 48 crape myrtles trees along the 210 freeway corridor exit on Myrtle Ave., especially in the midst of a drought.

With rigid restrictions in place for homeowners in Monrovia to meet statewide mandates, the timing of these plantings has been called into question.

Local resident and tree expert Ted Jorgensen said the young newly-planted trees, while beautiful when mature, will require a great deal of water in their early life. And Jorgensen said, “Planting them during the extreme heat of a few weeks ago was a mistake…” They will need “lots of water initially,” he said, citing arborists who say the trees need to be watered at least five times a week. Certainly, this goes against Monrovia’s code.

The Following Restrictions are Now in Place In Monrovia:

-Mandatory 28-percent water conservation for Monrovia as a whole in order to meet the reduction level mandated by the State.

-Outdoor watering should be limited to:

-About once per week (no more than every fourth day)

-No more than 15 minutes per landscaped area.

While crape myrtles are quite drought tolerant once they have become established, “supplemental watering during dry spells will provide better growth and flowering. Using a three to four inch layer of mulch out to the drip line of the tree will help modify the soil temperature, and will help conserve soil moisture,” according to Clemson Cooperative Extension.

According to the cooperative, “Newly planted trees should be watered one to five times per week depending on the time of year they are planted, and the type of soil. If they are planted during the dormant season they need to be watered once each week depending on soil moisture levels. The root system will continue to grow during the winter months. Planting during the hotter times of the year, a new tree in a sandy soil may need water almost daily if we have no rain.”

We contacted City Manager Oliver Chi via email regarding this issue. Mr. Chi said, “Thank you for reaching out to us regarding the watering of the new trees planted as a part of Station Square. We can certainly understand how watering newly planted trees during a drought can send the wrong message. We recognize that this is not ideal, however, not having trees as a part of our landscape and environment is also not ideal.

“Please know that we take our responsibility to conserve water as a City very seriously, and we have implemented numerous water conservation measures throughout the community in response to the drought. As a City, we are proud of the fact that we continue to meet or exceed our State mandated water conservation goal of 28%, and in fact, for the month of September 2015, Monrovians reduced water consumption by 33.8%!

“With that context in mind, we also have balanced the need to conserve water with creating a location at Station Square that gives proper recognition to the importance of the area. As you know, Station Square is a project that has been decades in the making, and those planning efforts have resulted in the creation of a place that includes trees not only in landscaped areas surrounding Station Square, but also has resulted in the establishment of the first park to be built in the south end of Monrovia. Furthermore, all of our design criteria and planting palates have taken into account the need to conserve water.

“In fact, it is important to note that the trees that have been planted within the Station Square area were approved by the State and acquired with Urban Greening Grant funds. The crape myrtle is a drought tolerant tree that does well with limited water, and while the trees do require regular watering to establish, once established, the crape myrtle is resilient and requires very limited water. All of the plants and trees installed as a part of the Station Square project are drought tolerant and irrigated using bubblers and micro-sprayers. It should also be noted that the City will adhere to all water restrictions that are currently in place for the entire community. For instance, if it rains, which we expect to happen a lot this winter if El Nino occurs, we will not water the trees following the rain event for 48 hour.

“Furthermore, based on our Urban Greening Grant application, the State recognizes that there are environmental reasons why planting trees is still smart to do in a drought. Some of those reasons include: 1. Trees help reduce soil erosion, stabilizes the soil, and significantly reduce storm water runoff; and 2. Trees provide shade which helps minimize evaporation loss in the area and reduces energy costs of structures.”

- Photo by Terry Miller
– Photo by Terry Miller
- Photo by Terry Miller
– Photo by Terry Miller

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