Written by Ivy
Jan 12 2023
Provide well-draining soil made of loamy sand, clay, and loamy sand for crepe myrtle tree care. Place the plant where it will receive direct sunlight. Throughout the growing season, water just once a week. tolerates temperatures as low as 0°F (-17.7°C) and as high as 115°F (-46°C).
Crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia) are year-round garden performers because they produce eye-catching summer flowers, attractive bark, and brilliant fall color. Get our guide to the best procedures, pruning advice, and planting recommendations to assist you in taking care of this traditional Southern tree.
|Synonyms||Crepe myrtle, Crape Myrtle, Crepe flower|
|Soil||Well-draining soil. Loamy sand, clay|
|Watering||Water every 7 days|
|Temperature||0 to 115°F|
|Toxicity||Crepe myrtle is non-toxic to animals and humans|
One of those all-too-rare plants that checks so many boxes for today's gardens is the crepe myrtle. Any situation, from a balcony or courtyard to a rolling acreage, can be accommodated by a size. When they are covered in foliage, they appear truly lush and lovely. They bloom in the height of summer in a wide variety of colors, many of which color exquisitely in the autumn before their leaves fall, and then they look stunning in the winter when their colorful bark is on full display. In addition to all of this, they are also fairly easy to maintain and, once established, quite hardy.
If given the freedom to grow, a crepe myrtle will have a very tidy shape. It will grow multiple branches from a single trunk to create a distinct, moderately open vase-like shape. But since pruning is a common practice for crepe myrtles, the pruning process will have some effect on this form. While the stems and new growth are frequently whippy, the trunk can get quite stout with age. One of the tree's characteristics—the incredibly attractive bark—becomes more noticeable as it ages. This will be mottled in different tones of salmon-pink, brown, and silvery-grey.
Known technically as terminal panicles, the summer flowers are held in protracted trusses at the tips of branches. Despite the fact that the flowers are quite small, the panicles can be very large; in the case of modern varieties, sizes of over 15 cm wide by more than 30 cm long are not unusual. The petals of the flowers themselves are quite ruffled, like crepe paper, making them very distinctive.
As a deciduous tree, the tree loses its leaves in the fall. Many of them have gorgeously colored leaves that will turn red, yellow, and orange as they fall. The tree will be bare throughout the winter, but its stunning bark and sculptural form ensure that it will still make a striking garden feature.
Given the essentials—sun, water, and the occasional light trim—crepe myrtles are low-maintenance trees that flourish with little fuss.
Crepe myrtles require direct sunlight to thrive, so the location of your planting should be in full sunlight for the majority of the day and have enough space for the tree to grow to its intended height properly. Crepe myrtles will probably not bloom in shaded areas, and they won't do well in partial sunlight. Provide enough horizontal space for the crepe myrtle's roots to spread, but keep in mind that some varieties can only grow to a certain height to avoid interference from porch ceilings or other overhanging structures. In order for these trees to receive sunlight without competing for space, it is best to have an open area, such as a driveway or fence line.
The best soil for crepe myrtles to grow in is partially acidic soil. To find out the ph of your soil, speak to your local extension agent about having a soil sample tested. There are also soil testing tools and at-home kits available, but they might not offer the same follow-up actions for soil amendment as the extension services do. Garden sulfur is the best method for lowering soil pH if it is higher than 6.5. Read the application instructions carefully because too much garden sulfur can be harmful. Every year, water soluble acidic fertilizers can be used in the spring. If you regularly drink coffee, you can gradually lower the ph of the soil by sprinkling coffee grounds around the base of your crepe myrtle trees. This soil ought to have good drainage.
Start with moist soil and keep it that way throughout the first growing season to avoid air pockets or drying out the roots. This is the best recipe for crepe myrtle success. These plants can be reasonably drought-resistant if you water them once every two weeks after their initial growth, but you don't want to overwater them.
If you live in the Upper South, make sure to plant cold-hardy varieties like "Acoma," "Centennial Spirit," or "Hopi" because crepe myrtles can be damaged by cold in colder climates.' If you live in areas that are consistently wet and humid from midsummer to fall, plant varieties that are found to be more resistant to the leaf spot damage caused by the fungus Cercospora lythracearum such as ‘Tonto, "Catawba," "Sioux," or "Tuskegee."
In the spring and summer, fertilize sparingly twice a month. (Read More: When to Fertilize Your Crape Myrtle)
As the plant emerges from its winter dormancy in the spring, reapply fertilizer around its roots.
This will help boost nutrition while also making sure that any nutrients the plant may have depleted during the previous growing season are replaced.
Once a month during their first spring or summer growth period, young trees need a light fertilizing.
Slow-release fertilizers that are sprayed on mature trees and shrubs at the first signs of new shoots in early spring are beneficial.
To keep the roots healthy over the winter, add compost and thoroughly water after each fertilizer application.
Well-balanced garden fertilizers like NPK 16-4-8, 12-4-8, 10-10-10, or 8-8-8 are ideal for crepe myrtle growth. Over-fertilization causes excessive leaf development and subpar flowering.
For support, use an acid mulch, such as pine bark or oak leaves.
It is best to prune crepe myrtles in late winter or early spring because they bloom on new growth. Only minor, cosmetic pruning is necessary for dwarf and short types. Prune medium-sized and tall varieties into a tree form. Get rid of suckers at the base, twigby growth, branches that cross over one another, and branches that are growing inward toward the center of the plant. A bird should be able to fly through the tree unhindered. Additionally, gradually remove side branches on main trunks up to a height of 45 feet. This reveals the attractive bark and enhances air circulation, reducing the likelihood of leaf diseases like mildew and leaf spot.
Do not cut your large crepe myrtles down to unsightly stubs each spring when pruning them just because your neighbors do. This practice—often called "crepe murder"—ruins the natural form and encourages the growth of spindly, whiplike branches too weak to hold up the flowers. During the late winter, use hand pruners or loppers to trim the topmost branches of a crepe myrtle by 2-3 feet, always pruning back to a side branch or bud. Always trim back to the crook or trunk of branches that are more than 2 inches thick. Avoid leaving obtrusive, large stubs.
Cut off spent flowers to encourage a second, lighter bloom during the growing season. Additionally, prune dwarf forms on a regular basis throughout the growing season to remove spent blossoms and thin out small, twiglike growth.
Consider moving a crepe myrtle you've already planted if it's outpacing its current location. These trees are simple to transplant and only require a small root ball to be successful. It is best to move them in the late fall or winter, when they are dormant and leafless.
Crepe myrtles require little winter maintenance. During the drier winter months, a thin layer of 1-2 inches of pine straw or fines can be used as a mulch to help retain moisture around the roots. A gap should be left around the trunk of the tree for airflow, and the mulch should not be piled up around the tree's base.
Crepe myrtles' blooms are among their best qualities. Its sculptural branches are covered for months in the summer by audacious spikes of pink, purple, white, and red flowers. Crepe myrtles can bloom throughout the summer, in contrast to cherry trees in spring, which have delicate flowers that may only last a week or two. More flowers will bloom if you prune lightly or remove any old blooms.
Crepe myrtles will set seed after blooming and losing their initial flowers. The small round seed pods or capsules frequently weigh the limbs down and cause them to sag. When the seeds are removed, the branches expand because the weight is removed. Additionally, if you remove the seed pods early enough in the year, say in late July, you'll probably get a second flush of blooms in September.
Cut the seedpods off using a pair of precise clippers. You'll get a second bloom as soon as new shoots with buds start to emerge. You might get a third or fourth flower if the temperatures stay warm into the fall and you keep picking off the old blooms.
In the summer, you can encourage a second flush of blooms by pruning off spent flower clusters (if you can reach them).
Most crepe myrtle trees planted today are selections of Lagerstroemia indica or hybrids between this species and Lagerstroemia faurei. There are constantly new options available. The mature size of many selections, especially those named after Native American tribes, such as "Natchez," tends to be larger than initially predicted, as we've learned over the past 20 years. Planting them in small yards or close to the house may cause them to quickly outgrow the area, leading to the winter-spring pruning practice known as "crepe murder," in which innocent trees are cut back into unsightly, knuckled trunks.
The best summer-flowering tree in the South is this one. As long as the soil is well-drained, it can withstand heat and drought and thrives in most conditions. In the Upper South, they may freeze to the ground during harsh winters, but they will resprout. There, gardeners should grow hardy varieties like "Acoma," "Centennial Spirit," and "Hopi."'
This variety comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, including dwarf shrubs, small trees, and large shrubs. It also comes in spreading or upright forms. With a length of 1 to 3 inches, dark green leaves change color in the fall to yellow, orange, or red. The flowers are carried in dense clusters and are crinkly, crepe-paper-like, and 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide. They can be white or various shades of pink, red, or purple. The tree's trunk pattern is appealing: Reddish inner bark is revealed when the tree's smooth gray or light brown outer bark peels off.
These trees, which are native to Japan, have upright trunks and outward-arching branches and can reach heights of 20 to 30 feet. The leaves are green and can grow up to four inches long. These trees also have particularly attractive bark: When the smooth gray outer bark flakes off, the glossy cinnamon-brown bark beneath is revealed. During the summer, tiny white flowers bloom.
Japanese crepe myrtles are also resistant to mildew and best known as a parent of hardy, mildew-resistant hybrids with L. indica. 'Fantasy' has even more impressive white flowers, and 'Kiowa' has outstanding cinnamon-colored bark.
The most spectacular and delicate of the crepe myrtles, this tree grows 30 to 60 feet tall and blooms in June and July with enormous clusters of pink or lavender flowers. The length of a blossom is up to 2 inches. In the fall, the leaves turn red and are 4 to 12 inches long. The tree's bark is scaly and spotted. Because of its rapid growth, annual winter pruning is crucial for regulating size and form.
If you aren't starting with a plant that is protected by a patent, crepe myrtle can be grown from both mature tree clippings and seeds. Because growers invest a lot of time and money in breeding particular plant cultivars, they frequently patent these plants. Therefore, even if you propagate the Crepe Myrtle for personal use, doing so technically violates the patent. Checking the label on your crepe myrtle will show you if it is protected. Tags on patented plants will typically have PP for "plant patent" or PPAF for "plant patent applied for" followed by a series of numbers.
Cuttings of the roots can be used to multiply crepe myrtles. In the spring, start removing a mature ree.
With a paring knife or pair of scissors, cut away some of the roots. Once you've taken a root cutting, return the tree to its original position.
Insert the cutting into a container filled with good dirt or soil. The container needs to be placed in a cozy area with strong indirect light.
For the following few weeks, give the roots plenty of water as they establish their own root systems.
The cutting won't be fully rooted until the roots have been allowed to settle in the containers for about two to three months. The new tree can then be moved to its final location.
Another choice is to immediately bury the root cuttings in their new home. Leave a six-inch space between each root cutting as you bury the roots four inches deep in the soil.
Over time, the root cuttings will develop a root system and mature into plants. Make sure the plant's roots receive enough water as they expand.
Observe a mature Crepe Myrtle. Locate the point where a younger branch and the tree's new shoots, which contain nodes, meet.
Maintaining a cutting length of between six and seven inches, trim it where it touches the branch.
There should be three nodes minimum per cutting. On the cutting, there should only be four leaves. The rest should be thrown away.
After dipping the cutting in the hormone for rooting, place it in a container filled with sand. Give enough heat, light, and moisture over the next two to three months.
By the end of this period, the cutting ought to have developed a root system and be ready to be transplanted into a larger pot or perennial bed.
Standard single-trunk and multi-trunk trees can grow as much as 3 feet (1 meter) per year and can reach heights of 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) and widths of 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 meters).
Smaller varieties range in height from 6 to 12 feet (1.8 to 3.6 meters), semi-dwarf shrubs are 3 to 6 feet (1 to 1.8 meters), and dwarf shrubs are 2 to 5 feet (0.6 to 1.5 meters) tall.
Choose a Crepe Myrtle shrub or tree that is appropriate for your environment and aesthetic.
Aphids are sap-sucking insects that can occasionally attack plants, but they can be stopped by using insecticides or a milder preventative measure like soap and water.
Another issue that affects trees planted in shady areas with damp or humid growing conditions is that they become hampered. A fungus called powdery mildew grows on leaves, inhibiting new growth and harming leaves.
Thankfully, crepe myrtles are usually resistant to deer damage, so you won't have to worry about them munching on tree leaves.
The crepe myrtle requires some care even though it is a low-maintenance tree. Peat moss can be used as a mulch to help the crepe myrtle retain moisture by keeping the soil around the tree dry. On the plant's base, suckers—small branch growth—should occasionally be removed. After they have bloomed, cut off the spent flowers to promote a second bloom in the late summer.
For best results, crepe myrtles should be pruned in the winter or early spring. Additionally, overpruning to drastically reduce height, also known as crape or crepe murder, is discouraged by growers because it weakens the plant. Instead, trim the tree branches a few inches before the growing season starts to perfect the plant's shape.
Be patient if your crape is still establishing itself since newly-planted crapes may not bloom fully until their second season. Less blooms might also result from too much shade. As your tree's energy will be directed toward growing new branches rather than blooms, excessive pruning can reduce flowering. The production of blooms can be harmed by excessive water or fertilizer use, which can promote foliage growth.
Although the roots of a crape myrtle may extend over a wide area, they are not particularly strong or aggressive. They don't produce large side roots that would rip up driveways, walkways, or foundations. There may be water competition between nearby grass and shallow crape myrtle roots.
According to the University of California, Davis, crape myrtles are classified as a safe plant. They are also listed by the ASPCA as non-toxic to horses, dogs, and cats. See 20 Common Plants Safe for Cats & Dogs for a list of additional safe plant options.
Crape myrtles are rarely eaten by deer, despite the fact that no plant can be said to be completely deer proof.