How to Plant and Care For Crape Myrtle Trees
Save For Later
Save For Later
Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.) is a beautiful deciduous tree or shrub prized for its colorful summer flowers. It provides summer-long blooms in many shades of white, pink, purple/lavender, and red.
Not only this, Crape myrtle (or crepe myrtle) adds interest and color to gardens and landscapes all year-round with attractive foliage and exfoliating bark.
These flowering trees are the favorites of Southern gardeners because of their showy and long-season flowers from late spring to summer and fall. They fondly call them lilac of the south. Another best feature of these summer flowering trees/shrubs is that they bloom at a time when most garden plants are not flowering.
Their flowers continue to add glorious colors to gardens and landscapes while providing nectar to pollinators.
This write-up aims to provide information on crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), its various cultivars, and how to grow and maintain them successfully in home gardens and landscapes.
About Crape Myrtle Trees
Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) is a small flowering tree of the genus Lagerstroemia and family Lythraceae. It is native to Asia, including China and Korea, and produces striking summer flowers in different shades. It is a fast-growing perennial that can withstand adverse growing conditions once established.
Crape myrtles prefer full sun (at least six hours of sun exposure) to bloom and can grow in all soil types: sand, loam, and clay. However, if grown in moist and well-draining soils, Crepe myrtles will bloom for months, even during the hottest summer days.
They are alkaline and drought tolerant (somewhat) and add the best winter texture.
Moreover, these low-maintenance plants can be maintained as single to multi-stemmed garden specimens. With the development of many new cultivars, crepe myrtles are available in different flower colors and sizes.
Their size varies from small shrubs to taller trees, thus making them the most versatile plants to add to landscaping.
Crape Myrtle Trees Features
Crape myrtles are small flowering trees admired for their striking and long-period summer flowers. Their distinctive blooms decorate the outdoors, borne on terminal panicles in large clusters.
These flowers add many shades of magenta, pure white, red, deep purple/lavender, and pink colors from late spring through summer. Flower colors vary based on different cultivars; their size and grow forms differ for various landscape purposes.
For instance, dwarf varieties are perfect for borders and beds, while large shrub grows as garden specimens.
Another best thing about these small trees is that they are low-maintenance and drought-tolerant, making them the most versatile and different garden perennials.
Landscape Uses of Crape Myrtle Trees
Crape myrtles are versatile trees with many creative uses in home gardens and landscapes. It looks stunning when a large, multi-stemmed variety is planted in the park's center as a focal point.
They produce showy crepe paper-like conical flowers that enhance the beauty of gardens with other evergreen perennials and attract pollinators and birds.
Crape myrtles have a non-invasive root system and can tolerate pollution, so they are best for walkways and driveway plantings. They will add a pleasing appeal with their colorful and fragrant flowers.
When crape myrtles are planted together, they make the best hedges and privacy screens. Dwarf crape myrtle varieties make the best container plants, garden beds, and borders.
Crape Myrtle Trees Care Guide
USDA hardiness zones
Where to buy
FREE Crape Myrtle Care Guide
We'll send you a FREE Crape Myrtle Care Guide so you can access it anywhere, anytime. Pop in your email below, and get straight back to your day.
How to Grow Crape Myrtle Trees
Crape myrtles are low-maintenance trees/shrubs that can survive adverse soil conditions. Also, these summer flowering trees are heat, drought-tolerant, and cold-hardy in the USDA hardiness zones 6-10. However, they will perform well in moist, nutrient-amended, and well-draining soils with full sun exposure and good air circulation.
Be sure to select the suitable cultivar based on growth habits and size for your garden and landscape needs. The medium size varieties (12 to 15 feet tall) are perfect for home gardens, while the dwarf hybrids are best suited to perennial flower beds, containers, borders, and foundation plantings.
For best results, grow these sun-loving and dry climates trees in a direct sunlight location with six hours of daily exposure in your garden or courtyard. This is because planting in full or partial shade reduces flowering and increases powdery mildew disease susceptibility.
Also, grow them in soils with pH levels slightly alkaline to acidic for the best blossoms; otherwise, the more alkaline soils will impact flowering. They produce striking flowers from late spring through the summer.
When & How to Plant Crape Myrtle Trees?
Like other deciduous trees/shrubs, crape myrtles can be planted anytime, even in summer, by maintaining a regular watering plan.
However, the best time to plant crape myrtle trees is early spring and fall, allowing the plants to establish a more robust root system to tolerate the cold temperatures and summer heat. To plant the crape myrtles in your garden;
- Select a site in your garden that receives direct sunlight, and amend it with organic matter and compost.
- Dig a hole two times wider than the root ball but of the same depth in which the plant initially grew (container).
- Set the plant in the center of the hole and backfill it with the same soil removed to make the hole.
- Water thoroughly after planting to level the soil around roots and use a leaf mulch to conserve moisture. Or you can insulate roots with pine with Also remove weeds and debris from the newly transplant.
- Check the plant regularly and water it every three to five days until this fast-growing woody shrub establishes.
Mulching and nutrient amendments are a great way to promote healthy root growth and establishment. Use three to five inches of mulch of pine straw, pine bark, and shredded leaves to insulate roots against extreme hot and cold temperatures.
Be sure not to overdo soil amendments with animal manure because it will lead to poor soil drainage, encouraging root rot and fungal pathogens.
What to Plant with Crape Myrtle Trees
Crepe myrtles are iconic woody perennials with a unique texture, growth form, and flower colors that beautifully pair with other plants. Plant the crape myrtles with cherry trees for a lovely bloom throughout the spring and summer.
The cherry trees bloom through the spring, and as they finish their bloom cycle in late spring, the crepe myrtles show great blooms. Also, pair the crepe myrtles with nandinas to complement their flower colors through the summer.
Another best companion plant for crape myrtle is ‘Limelight hydrangea’ becasue it has the exact growth requirements and the best white flowers to enhance the beauty of a formal garden.
How to Care for Crape Myrtle Trees
Crapemyrtle trees are perfect summer flowering perennials for the colorful decor of home gardens. They are easy to care for and do not need special growing conditions.
These fast-growing trees can grow in any soil type and tolerate drought, salt, and pollution, making them perfect for street plantings. Here are the essential care factors of crape myrtles when growing and maintaining them in home gardens;
Crape myrtle trees need regular watering, unlike other hardy perennials, because they thrive best in moist soil conditions. Water regularly the newly transplanted crape myrtles (almost two years) until they are matured.
Apply around two to three gallons of water daily during hot summer days near the tree trunk without wetting the foliage and flowers. Otherwise, the wet leaves with no air circulation will encourage powdery mildew infections.
Crape myrtles require full sun locations in your gardens to produce the most colorful seasonal blooms. So grow them in your garden, which receives sun exposure for six hours daily.
If your crape myrtles are in the heavy shade to partial, they will produce little to no blooms and are more prone to aphid infestations and black sooty mold.
On the other hand, the more giant trees in your landscapes will compete for moisture and sunlight with medium-sized crape myrtle shrubs, resulting in poor growth. Therefore, the right location is key to enjoying these fast growers' prolific blooms.
🌡️ Temperature and Humidity
These sun-loving and warm climate plants are cold hardy in the USDA hardiness zones 6-9 and can withstand the cold temperatures by shedding their foliage and dormant period.
Once the soil temperatures warm in spring, they will regrow and produce new growths and flowers.
Crape myrtles can tolerate drought but need regular irrigation with good air circulation during no rain.
Overwintering Crape Myrtle
In warmer climates, crape myrtle trees overwinter (dormant state) and keep their orange-red fall foliage. While in cooler growing zones (below 7), crape myrtle trees need winter protection to keep the plant and its root system healthy.
It involves the removal of old and weaker branches along the shrub base. Prune off the branches at a 45-degree angle where they meet with the parent stem. Cut off the new growths, flower buds, and spent flower panicles (deadheading) near the plant base.
Deadheading and pruning old shoots will help the plant serve more energy in root development instead of seed production. Now mulch the plant base with pine straw or bark around 3 to 4 inches of the layer to insulate the roots. Be sure to leave holes in the mulch layer for better air circulation.
🌱 Best Soil for Crape Myrtle
These fast growers can grow in any soil type, but for best results, grow crape myrtles in moist, well-prepared, and well-drained soils.
When these summer-long flowering trees grow in good air circulation with soil pH levels from slightly alkaline to acidic, they reward the Gardeners with prolific blooms. Do not plant them in high alkalinity soils because Crapy myrtle foliage will turn yellow with tree growth reductions.
Also, use 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the crape myrtle base to conserve moisture and protect roots from temperature fluctuations.
It is wise to check the soil pH levels, moisture content, and drainage before planting these deciduous trees/shrubs.
Crape myrtles need fertilizer applications through the growing season. Use an all-purpose garden fertilizer with formulations such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 (these are ideal ratios for crape myrtle).
For younger and newly transplanted, mix one teaspoon of fertilizer per gallon of water, and apply this dilution monthly (from early spring to august).
On the other hand, the established flowering trees will benefit from the slow-release fertilizers and produce beautiful flower colors on terminal panicles.
Avoid heavy nitrogen applications because it will encourage more foliage and shoot growth with fewer flowers, making the plants more vulnerable to winter injury.
😎 How to Prune Crape Myrtle
These majestic trees bloom from late spring through summer on the season's new growths. Therefore, the best time to trim the old plant parts is late winter to early spring.
Prune off the weaker branches and suckers (“basal sprouts”) from the base of the plant to give the crape myrtle a tidy look. Trim off the damaged and infested foliage before it spreads any diseases and discards them.
One of the common mistakes in the care and maintenance of crape myrtle trees is over-pruning (also known as “crape murder”) for tree form and blooms.
It results in crape myrtles concentrating all their energy on new growths (branches and flower buds) with poor blooms and also enhances the chances of winter injury and aphid infestations.
Also, do not prune the crape myrtle trees in the fall before the first frost. It will force the trees to continue to produce new growths and shoots rather than undergoing a dormant state.
Receive a FREE Crape Myrtle Care Guide
We'll send you a FREE Crape Myrtle Care guide that you can access anywhere, anytime. Just pop in your email below, and get straight back to your day.
Common Crape Myrtle Problems (Diseases)
Crape myrtles are sensitive to fungal diseases and root rots (due to standing watering conditions in soil with poor aeration).
This is the most common disease of crape myrtles, and infection occurs in spring and fall due humid environment and poor aeration.
Powdery mildew pathogen damages the leaves, flower buds, and young shoots, covered with powdery white mold. The leaves turn brown and fall off the plant as the infection proceeds.
The best way to prevent powdery mildew infections is to plant the crape myrtles in full sun and maintain good air circulation. Or grow disease-resistant varieties as mentioned above.
Common Crape Myrtle Pests
The following are the major pest problems of crape myrtles;
These tiny, soft-bodied, and pear-shaped pests infest the crape myrtles in poor sunlight (partial shade or full). Aphids infest the underside of foliage and vigorously feed on flower buds.
Their feeding damage reduces the plant's vigor by interfering with photosynthesis. They cause the foliage to curl, yellow, and fall off prematurely.
Aphids excrete honeydew on infested foliage while feeding, thus attracting the invasion of secondary pathogens such as ants and black sooty mold fungus.
To eliminate aphids, prune off the infested plant parts and apply neem oil sprays thoroughly. Ensure the underside of leaves is also treated well to deter the aphid eggs and young.
Crapemyrtle Bark Scale (CMBS)
It is a recent insect pest of crape myrtles, introduced from Asia and first reported in South Carolina. Crapemyrtle bark scale infestations reduce plant growth, bloom numbers, and size.
To control their infestations, apply systemic insecticides such as Imidacloprid and warm soapy water to destroy the hard body coverings.
Glassy Winged Sharpshooters (Homalodisca vitripennis)
It is a large leafhopper and, like aphids, feeds on plant fluids, sucking out through needle-like mouthparts. Their feeding damage does not cause severe damage to trees but reduces their cosmetic value (excretions appear as whitewashed when dry).
However, the major problem associated with their infestations is that they transmit the disease-causing bacterium Xylella fastidiosa that slowly kills the crape myrtle trees. To prevent glassy-winged sharpshooters damage, use their natural enemies such as parasitic wasps and horticultural oil sprays.
Choosing the Right Variety of Flowering Crape Myrtle Trees
Many crape myrtle hybrids (Lagerstroemia indica × Lagerstroemia fauriei) have been developed to satisfy gardening and landscape applications. These varieties are bred for disease resistance, colorful flowers, barks, growth forms, and sizes.
Plant height ranges from 3 feet (dwarf varieties) to 40 feet (towering trees). So choosing the suitable variety for your site by knowing its growth form and size will save time and energy.
Varieties of Crape Myrtle Trees
These are the best crape myrtle varieties with exquisite blooms, attractive bark, growth size, and powdery mildew disease resistance:
‘Natchez Crape Myrtle’– features stunning white flowers with unique peeling bark. It grows well in the USDA hardiness zones 6 to 9. This variety reaches a mature height of 25 feet tall and can be grown as small shrubs and large trees.
‘Muskogee Crape Myrtle’– it grows up to 20 feet tall with 15 feet wide and produces lavender-pink flowers, while the tree bark is light gray.
‘Black Diamond Crape Myrtle’– This is a favorite and a must-have for home gardens due to its deep purple to black foliage and vibrant flowers in different colors. It is a dwarf variety and grows only 12 feet tall, and is perfect for confined spaces.
‘Tuscarora Crape Myrtle’– offers deep coral pink flowers and grows as a large shrub and winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 10.
‘Dynamite Crape Myrtle (Red crape myrtle)’– can be grown as a single or multi-trunk tree and produces red flowers and orange-red fall leaves.
‘Tonto Crape Myrtle’– is a semi-dwarf variety and reaches a mature height of 10 feet and makes fuchsia red flowers, followed by orange-red foliage in fall.
‘Red Rocket Crape Myrtle’– its fiery red flowers with dark green foliage adds a striking appeal to landscapes and borders. It is a multi-stemmed shrub that grows up to 15 feet tall and is winter hardy in the USDA hardiness zones 6 to 9
‘Infinitini Watermelon’– it is a dwarf crape myrtle and only reaches a mature height of 2 to 3 feet tall. Blooms appear in pink/red, magenta, purple, orchid, and bright pink that contrast with dark green foliage in an attractive way.
Disease resistance means plants will not let the infection occur and progress using defense molecules.
Where to Buy Crape Myrtle?
Crape myrtle is the small perfect tree for home gardens and landscapes that produces majestic blooms and incredible bark that radiate beauty when low winter lights hit the branches. You can purchase this stunning shrub from Neverland with a thorough care guide.
FAQs on Crape Myrtles
How fast does crape myrtle grow?
Crape myrtle trees are fast growers with an average mature height of 40 feet and a growth rate of 4 feet yearly.
When to trim a crape myrtle?
The best time to cut the crap myrtle trees is late winter when they are in a dormant state.
When to plant a crape myrtle?
These deciduous trees can be planted any time of the year, but a suitable time is a fall or early spring.
When does crape myrtle bloom?
It is a long-season summer flowering tree/shrub and flowers from late spring to summer.
How to Plant and Grow Sweet Potato Vine: A Thorough GuideOrnamental sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) is a seasonal tropical plant adorned with exotic-looking foliage that comes in many shades of green, red, purple, brown, and gold. In this guide, we'll cover several varieties and everything you need to know to plant and grow them.
How to Plant and Care For Puya Alpestris (Sapphire Tower)Sapphire Tower plant or Puya Alpestris is a unique, turqouise blooming flower that's ethereal and out of this world! In this guide, we'll show you how you can grow and care for one of your own.
How to Plant and Overwinter Canna Lily BulbsCanna Lilies (Cana), not to be confused with Calla lilies, are tropical plants that are easy to grow and produce beautiful, dramatic, and colorful blooms. Although aptly named as lilies, they are not actually true lilies. In warmer climates, from USDA hardiness zone 8 and up, they can be grown perennially.
How to Grow, Propagate, and Care For Pineapple PlantsPineapple plant, scientifically known as Ananas comosus, is a popular, fruiting indoor plant part of the Bromeliad family. In this guide, we'll show you how you can care for your pineapple plant.
How to Plant and Care For New Guinea ImpatiensBearing dramatic and colorful blooms, New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) are a herbaceous annuals or perennials with succulent stems from the family Balsaminaceae native to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
How to Plant and Care For Loofah PlantThe Loofah Plant (Luffa) is a vegetable vine from Southeast Asia that produces the fibers of Luffa Sponges. In this guide, we'll cover how you can make luffa spongers and even grow your own loofah plants!