The crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) is a species of small, beautiful tree native to Asia that has naturalized in the Deep South of the United States. So often used in landscaping is Lagerstroemia indica that as you travel around some areas of the country, that you will see its presence in almost every yard. Though certainly not unique, its common use is a testament to its stunning blossoms, peeling bark, and attractive fall foliage that gives the crepe myrtle unrivaled all-season interest.
|Common Name||Crepe Myrtle|
|Botanical Name||Lagerstroemia indica|
|Plant Type||Deciduous tree / large shrub|
|Mature Size||6-25 ft. tall, 6-20 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Average, medium moisture, well-drained|
|Hardiness Zones||USDA 6-9|
|Native Area||China, Indochina, Himalayas, Japan|
Crepe Myrtle Care
This species of Lagerstroemia is generally a lower maintenance selection. Though low maintenance, there are some things you can do to help get the best blooms from your crepe myrtle and ensure that your tree thrives. As always, it all starts with planning and selecting the right location. Crepe myrtles tolerate pollution, so they can handle being closer to a street, but their smaller size does not allow the species to act as a street tree. Decide in advance if you want your plant to be a shrub or a tree in form and plan for that growth. The rest of the care is all about site conditions and some basic maintenance. Knowing where to plant your tree and how to take care of it will ensure you get the most beauty for your buck.
Crepe myrtle, though often listed as a shrub, is not really a shrub or low-growing tree. Be prepared for it to grow up to 25-30 ft. tall. Sometimes owners of crepe myrtles who want them to stay shrub-sized will cut the main central branch (i.e., top it),which permanently ruins their growth structure and can make them extremely unsightly and sickly in the long run. Topping crepe myrtles is such a common mistake it has been dubbed "crepe murder." So, if you are certain you don't want a tree and only want a shrub, it might be best to pick a different plant!
To get the most prolific blooms with the best color from your tree, pay attention to the amount of sunlight. Crepe myrtle needs full sun to thrive. You should place it in a spot in your landscape that gets at least six hours of sun a day. Anything less and you will notice a big fall off on blossoms.
Crepe myrtle is not too demanding regarding soil pH, but it prefers neutral or slightly acidic soil over alkaline soil. However, it does get finicky with its soil moisture. The soil must be well-draining; a crepe myrtle cannot tolerate standing water, because it is susceptible to root rot. You will also want to avoid very rich soil since this produces more foliage than the desired flowers.
Unlike most trees, the crepe myrtle needs water often, especially if the soil is not moist. To bolster those beautiful blooms, you need to water the roots deeply, particularly during dry periods. As usual, you will need to water it as it is being established, but if you live in an area that does not get a good amount of rain, it is a great idea to continue watering your crepe myrtle using the same method as you would with a newly planted tree. Water your crepe with two to three gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter. It is important to only water the roots of crepe myrtle, especially if your tree does not have enough space around it for airflow; you want to avoid watering the foliage. Wetting the foliage during watering invites powdery mildew.
Temperature and Humidity
Though the USDA zone map says 6-9, growing crepe myrtles north of zone 7 can be tricky. Roots that are well-protected underground or mulched will be hardy enough to survive colder winters, but exposed branches will not make it through winters that reach less than -5° Fahrenheit. To combat this, consider pruning all branches to the soil level. Crepe myrtles bloom on new wood, so new blooms will come out yearly as the tree emerges in the spring.
You will want only to fertilize your crepe myrtle very lightly or avoid it completely. Supplemental fertilizers tend to increase foliage growth which in turn inhibits bloom production. If you need to use a fertilizer, choose a slow-release fertilizer with high nitrogen content. The content can be found by reading the NPK formulation. Before fertilizing, the best thing to do is to run a simple soil test to see if your soil is really deficient or if there is another issue.
Types of Lagerstroemia Indica
Lagerstroemia indica is just one plant of a genus containing 50 or so species. Straight species of L. indica are not sold in the nursery trade so you will always be buying a cultivar or hybrid, but unfortunately, they are not often marked well and the tag will just say "Crepe Myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica." If you purchase from a reputable nursery this won't be the case and you have the chance to choose from some outstanding cultivars with amazing traits that vary from form, color, and size. Some common cultivars you may see are:
- Lagerstroemia Indica ' Enduring Summer White' – A dwarf variety with white blooms, 4-5’ tall and wide.
- Lagerstroemia Indica ''Tuskarora' - Bright watermelon pink blossoms followed by orange fall color.
- Lagerstroemia Indica 'Catawba' - Purple blooming variety, with great fall color and a rounded habit reaching 10-15' tall and wide.
- Lagerstroemia Indica 'Muskogee' – 22-25’ tall and wide, lavender-blue flowers and light gray bark.
Pruning your crepe myrtle is a chore that needs to be done for a few reasons. Pruning can aid in bloom production and help beautify the plant by exposing the exfoliating bark, increasing seasonal interest, and establishing the best size and form by removing suckers and errant branches. Crepe myrtles bloom on new wood, so pruning in the winter or early spring will promote prolific blooming. If you are trying to establish your plant as a tree form, it is important to prune all but one trunk off to establish a leader. Creating a tree form, in turn, will create the chore of tidying suckers and structural pruning until a single leader is developed. A single trunk creates the stunning visual of the peeling bark that makes the Lagerstroemia indica shine even in the winter.
Common Pest and Plant Diseases
Luckily crepe myrtles don't deal with too many pest issues, but they are susceptible to powdery mildew, sooty mold, and other fungal infections. The best way to deal with these issues is, of course, prevention. To prevent these issues from arising, water the roots rather than the foliage and allow your tree to have plenty of space to air dry after rainstorms. Yearly treatment with a general fungicide can also reduce the risk of an infected plant.
Are all crepe myrtles shrubs?
No. It depends on the cultivar and how you wish to prune and train your plant.
Can crepe myrtles be used as hedges?(Video) Techniques for Limbing Up Your Crepe Myrtles
Yes, crepe myrtles make excellent hedges, though they do require regular pruning.
Do Crepe myrtles only come in pink?
Some cultivars give white, lavender, red, purple, burgundy, pale blue, purple, and mauve and different sizes and forms. If you choose a different species of Lagerstroemia, you can even find evergreen crepe myrtles.
To get the most prolific blooms with the best color from your tree, pay attention to the amount of sunlight. Crepe myrtle needs full sun to thrive. You should place it in a spot in your landscape that gets at least six hours of sun a day. Anything less and you will notice a big fall off on blossoms.How do you grow crepe myrtles easily? ›
To get the most prolific blooms with the best color from your tree, pay attention to the amount of sunlight. Crepe myrtle needs full sun to thrive. You should place it in a spot in your landscape that gets at least six hours of sun a day. Anything less and you will notice a big fall off on blossoms.Do crepe myrtles like a lot of water? ›
Established Crape Myrtle are drought-tolerant and will not require frequent watering. However, the plant may need help during a dry spell, so check in on your Crape Myrtle during a drought. Giving the plant water during an extended dry period can help support healthy growth and maintain striking blooms.How long does it take for a crepe myrtle tree to grow to full size? ›
Crape myrtles grow quickly. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, “this shrub grows at a fast rate, with height increases of more than 24 inches per year.” Crape myrtles generally grow between 15-25 feet tall, so most trees take five to 10 years to mature.Where should you not plant crepe myrtles? ›
The site should be in the bright, hot sun: full or partial sun (6hrs min). No heavy shade for Crape Myrtles. If the site gets sun for part of the day then it's fine. But they do best in Full, Hot Sun.What time of year is best to plant crepe myrtles? ›
The best time to plant crape myrtle is June to late September while soils are warm. Watering during summer hot and dry spells is also beneficial to flowering, but overall crape myrtle is very drought tolerant once established in the landscape.How many years does it take for a crepe myrtle to bloom? ›
Your crepe myrtle may not be blooming if it is only a young tree – it can take 3-5 years for a tree to become established enough to flower. This may sound like a long time, but bear in mind that the trees take 5-10 years to mature, and 20-50 years to reach their ultimate size.Where does myrtle grow best? ›
Myrtle, Also Called Vinca or Periwinkle
It prospers in dappled sunlight but will also grow in full sun and even in dense shade. Use it instead of mulch under trees and shrubs to control weeds, or plant it in difficult-to-mow areas.
Crape myrtles require eight hours of direct sun daily to bloom well. Crape myrtles planted in areas that receive less than six hours of direct sun do not get enough sunlight for adequate bloom development. – Variety. Some varieties don't flower as vigorously as others.What are common problems with crepe myrtles? ›
Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) are essentially trouble-free small trees. The most common problems include powdery mildew, Cercospora leaf spot, aphids, Japanese beetles, and sooty mold.
One of the disadvantages of crape myrtles shows up when conditions are damp and humid: powdery mildew. A fungal disease, it appears as white powdery spots on the leaves and stems. The lower leaves are usually the most affected, but powdery mildew can appear on any part of the tree.What is the best fertilizer for crape myrtles? ›
Fertilizers including 8-8-8, 10-10-10, 12-4-8 or 16-4-8 will work fine and are ideal for crape myrtles, but don't go overboard. Overfertilizing trees will cause excess growth and reduce the number of blooms on each tree.What is the lifespan of a crepe myrtle tree? ›
Crepe myrtles have a lifespan of around 25 years. However, some crepe myrtles have been known to live for 100 years or more! This tree does best in full sun and well-drained soil. It is drought-tolerant and can withstand extreme heat.How often do you water a crape myrtle? ›
After planting, the crepe myrtle should be immediately watered thoroughly, and then watered thoroughly once every 3-5 day for 2-3 times. Within two months after planting, if there is no rainwater, they should be watered once a week.How many trunks should a crepe myrtle have? ›
For most crape myrtles, there will be three to seven main trunks. Having an odd number of trunks will be more pleasing to the eye than an even number. Be sure to keep the trunks that have ample space to grow and are growing straight and strong. Trim away the others.Do crepe myrtles need to be covered in winter? ›
It is advisable to wrap young (1 year or less) and small Crepe Myrtle trees. Wrap burlap around the branches and then add an insulating filler such as leaves or straw to provide additional protection. Use bush jackets for dwarf plants. Bush jackets are reusable insulating covers that cover the plant.How far from my house should I plant a crepe myrtle? ›
Plant large type crape myrtles a minimum of 6ft away from a structure (house, etc). To create a look where the canopies of the plants will grow together and provide shade, plant Medium Crape Myrtles 6'-10' apart, and Standard (Tree) Crape Myrtles 8'-12' apart.What happens if you don't prune crepe myrtles? ›
Leaving it alone will result in a pretty raggedy-looking tree, and it won't grow as quickly either. The new growth will emerge on its own from the fresh cuts, and if you trim at just the right point, you'll encourage way more blooms to appear.Do crepe myrtles need to be trimmed every year? ›
“Crape myrtles are beautiful trees. They do not require any pruning to encourage summer blossoms, and can grow to be tall, prolific showpieces for any landscape,” said Strickland.What month is best to trim crepe myrtles? ›
February is a good time to prune crape myrtles. It should be done before fresh growth appears in March. Its toughness makes crape myrtle a popular plant. They are fast-growing and highly adaptable.
The experts at Florida's Crape Myrtle Company say: '"Basham's Party Pink' is the fastest-growing crepe myrtle tree we have ever seen. It is not unusual for 'Basham's Party Pink' to grow 12 to 15 feet per year!Should you cut dead blooms off crepe myrtle? ›
ANSWER: Cutting the clusters of faded flowers or seed pods off is optional. Most gardeners consider deadheading crape myrtle trees more trouble than it's worth, but it's certainly something you may do. Sometimes it's recommended to ensure another flush of late-summer blooms.Is Epsom salt good for crepe myrtles? ›
– Do Crepe Myrtles Require Epsom Salt? These trees do not require Epsom salt for their growth or development. However, adding Epsom salt to the soil around your plant can help promote blooming and increase the tree's overall health.Why is my crepe myrtle not thriving? ›
Your plant isn't getting enough sun. Too little sun can depress blooms or keep your tree from blooming at all. Consider transplanting to relocate your crepe myrtle to a spot where it will thrive. Some crepe myrtles bloom better than others.Is Miracle Grow good for myrtle? ›
Using these types of fertilizers will cover your bases if the soil in your area is deficient in a certain element or trace mineral. The easiest to use and most well known fertilizer is Miracle Gro. However, if you have many Crape Myrtles you wish to fertilize, using Miracle Gro can become expensive.Is there a difference between crepe myrtle and myrtle? ›
In general, the spelling “crape myrtle” is more common in North America, while “crepe myrtle” is more common in Europe. In the Southern US, however, we love to do things our own way from the rest of the United States.How hard is it to grow a crepe myrtle? ›
Crepe myrtles are ridiculously easy to grow. Simply choose a sunny, well drained position and plant your tree. Water in with OCP eco-seaweed and apply some mulch to keep weeds away and help retain moisture. In heavy clay soils add gypsum to break up the clay and improve drainage.Is Miracle Grow good for crepe myrtles? ›
Best Fertilizer For Crape Myrtle
Always water the plant immediately after applying slow-release fertilizer to help the roots soak up the plant food. Generic products like Miracle Grow can also provide a balanced mix of nutrients and support new growth and plentiful blooms.
Another natural additive you can use around your Crape Myrtle is coffee grounds. While many people like to place them directly in their gardens, we recommend composting them first. Crape Myrtles love the nitrogen that coffee grounds add to compost, and they need it to bloom.How do you get crepe myrtles to bloom twice? ›
Deadhead your crape myrtles at the end of July, so they will rebloom in the next summer.
Goldfinches, dark-eyed juncos, house finches, cardinals, and house and white-throated sparrows visit the trees continually from early December through late February to devour the abundant seed crop that crape myrtles provide.Can I cut my crepe myrtle to the ground? ›
If you've beheaded a big crepe myrtle to within a few feet of the ground, there's only one solution. Cut the sorry plant completely to the ground. It will grow back very quickly.What is the prettiest crape myrtle? ›
- Red: Petite Red Imp, Petite Red Embers.
- Pink: Petite Pinkie, Pokemoke.
- Lavender: Petite Orchid.
- Purple: Petite Plum, Centennial, Velma's Royal Delight.
- White: Petite Snow.
Answer: To stop the crape myrtle from coming up from the roots you can apply a phenoxy herbicide product like Dicamba or 2,4D. The herbicide will kill the roots too. You can also use sucker stopper which is a plant growth regulator.How do you save a dying crepe myrtle? ›
- Remove any dead or dying branches.
- Thin out twiggy growth to allow air to better circulate.
- Remove the weaker of two crossed branches.
Crepe myrtle roots do not sink taproots deep into the ground or send lateral roots out to crack anything in their path. In fact, the entire crepe myrtle root system is shallow and fibrous, spreading out horizontally up to three times as far as the canopy is wide.Why is my crepe myrtle not growing or blooming? ›
Not enough sunshine will curtail blooms on a crape myrtle. Being in a place where the tree does not get significant sunshine is a recipe for a non blooming tree. Make sure that the tree is not planted in an under-story position as the shade from larger trees and shrubs will block the needed sunshine to the tree.How can you tell if a crape myrtle is overwatered? ›
- The area around the tree is constantly wet.
- New growth withers before it's fully grown or becomes light green or yellow.
- Leaves appear green but are fragile and break easily.
Crape myrtles require fertilization for new growth. If new growth doesn't occur in the spring (because of nutrient depletion or cold weather), flowering may be greatly reduced. Improper pruning. Drastic pruning or pruning after new growth in the spring can delay summer flowering.What month do crepe myrtles leaf out? ›
Crape myrtles are heat loving trees and often they are one of the last trees to leaf out in spring. They require at least three days above 70ºF to wake and show bud break. This can be as early as April or as late as early May.
Crape myrtles grow quickly. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, “this shrub grows at a fast rate, with height increases of more than 24 inches per year.” Crape myrtles generally grow between 15-25 feet tall, so most trees take five to 10 years to mature.Should I cut the seed pods off crepe myrtle? ›
A: The short answer is no. You do not need to cut off the balls at the end of the branches. These are seed pods that formed from the flowers last summer. They do not hurt the tree and will not affect flowering this summer.How close to a house should you plant a crepe myrtle? ›
Plant large type crape myrtles a minimum of 6ft away from a structure (house, etc).Why not to plant crepe myrtle? ›
One of the main reasons people don't plant Crape Myrtles is because they can bring pests, especially spiders, into your yard. Southern Living explains: “As soon as crepe myrtle leaves unfurl, look for aphids. Their sugary excretions causes sooty mold.What is the difference between crepe myrtle and crape myrtle? ›
So, which spelling should you use? In general, the spelling “crape myrtle” is more common in North America, while “crepe myrtle” is more common in Europe. In the Southern US, however, we love to do things our own way from the rest of the United States.Should you put mulch around crepe myrtles? ›
Mulch to fight weeds, trap moisture
When planting crape myrtles, gardeners should install a layer of mulch about 3 to 5 inches deep in an area twice as large as the planting hole. Insect damage is a frequent problem on crape myrtles and aphids cause much of that damage.
A crape myrtle tree lacks a taproot; instead, it has fibrous roots 10 to 12 inches deep. So, if you're willing to re-landscape a chunk of your lot, it might be possible to remove the roots and eliminate the problem permanently.Can you dig up and replant crepe myrtles? ›
Yes you can as long as the suckers have roots on them. University of Memphis Director of Landscape Joellen Dimond has done this. She says you need to dig up a sucker and some roots that are growing away from the trunk and plant them. Then make sure you keep the ground watered until the new tree is established.What kind of mulch is best for crape myrtles? ›
During spring and summer, 4-6 inches of mulch should be placed a few inches away from the trunk to provide good air circulation. The best type of mulch for your crape myrtle is acid mulch, pine bark or oak leaves. Do not mulch with mushroom compost.What is the best way to plant myrtle? ›
Prepare the ground by tilling in a one-inch layer of peat moss or compost and an application of complete 5-10-5 fertilizer to a depth of six inches. Space the young plants or divisions about eight inches apart. When you are finished, soak the entire planting, and mulch the area lightly with pine needles or bark.
If you've beheaded a big crepe myrtle to within a few feet of the ground, there's only one solution. Cut the sorry plant completely to the ground. It will grow back very quickly.Can you use Miracle Grow on crepe myrtle? ›
Using these types of fertilizers will cover your bases if the soil in your area is deficient in a certain element or trace mineral. The easiest to use and most well known fertilizer is Miracle Gro. However, if you have many Crape Myrtles you wish to fertilize, using Miracle Gro can become expensive.