Choosing the right tree for your landscape can significantly enhance its beauty and functionality. Among the many options available, crepe myrtle and wax myrtle are two popular choices.
Both offer unique aesthetics and characteristics, but they also have distinct differences.
What’s the difference between a crepe myrtle and a wax myrtle? Crepe myrtles are known for vibrant summer blooms and attractive, exfoliating bark while wax myrtles are evergreen shrubs or small trees with aromatic foliage and waxy, blue-gray berries. Crepe myrtles prefer full sun and well-drained soil while wax myrtles can tolerate a wider range of conditions.
To fully appreciate the differences between crepe myrtle and wax myrtle, it’s important to explore their features, growing requirements, and care needs.
In the following sections, we’ll compare these two plants and explore their features in more detail.
If you thought there was just one type of crepe myrtle, think again. I present the most popular choices in my article, Best Crepe Myrtle Varieties.
Crepe Myrtle vs. Wax Myrtle at a Glance
|Crepe Myrtle||Wax Myrtle|
|Botanical Name||Lagerstroemia||Morella cerifera|
|Growth Rate||Fast||Moderate to Fast|
|Average Size||10-30 feet||10-20 feet|
|Light Requirements||Full sun||Full sun to partial shade|
|Watering Needs||Regular watering, prefers well-drained soil||Adaptable, tolerates wet soil|
|Flowering||Yes, vibrant and showy summer blooms||No, but produces waxy, blue-gray berries|
|Leaves||Deciduous, some varieties offer fall color||Evergreen, aromatic|
|Key Features||Stunning summer blooms, attractive bark||Aromatic foliage, waxy berries|
Crepe Myrtle vs. Wax Myrtle – Features
Crepe myrtle and wax myrtle have distinctive features that make them unique. Let’s take a look at their individual characteristics.
Tree Size and Shape
Crepe myrtles are larger trees, typically reaching heights of 10-30 feet. They develop a rounded, vase-like shape over time and have multiple trunks, which create a full appearance and provide visual interest.
Wax myrtles, on the other hand, are smaller and can be grown as large shrubs or small trees.
They typically reach heights of 10-20 feet and have a dense, bushy form that makes them excellent for hedges or privacy screens.
Crepe myrtle leaves are oval in shape and dark green in color, providing a nice contrast to the brightly colored flowers.
In autumn, these leaves slowly change to shades of yellow, orange, or red, depending on the variety, adding a splash of nice color to your garden.
Wax myrtle leaves are evergreen, remaining vibrant throughout the year. They are narrow and aromatic, releasing a pleasant fragrance when crushed.
Flowers & Ornamental Appeal
Crepe myrtles are celebrated for their stunning summer blooms in white, pink, red, or lavender, depending on the variety.
The trees continue blooming for several months, providing a long-lasting and welcome pop of color to your yard.
Wax myrtles do not produce noticeable flowers, but they do produce small, waxy, blue-gray berries in the fall and winter.
These berries add a touch of color to the landscape and are a food source for birds.
The crepe myrtle is known for its attractive, exfoliating bark. As the tree grows, the outer layer of the bark peels away to reveal a smooth lighter-colored surface.
The peeling of bark creates a mottled pattern of grays, browns, and creams on the trunk, which many people find very appealing.
Wax myrtle has a grayish-brown bark that is relatively smooth and does not peel.
Growth Rate & Habits
Crepe myrtles are fast-growing trees. As long as their basic requirements are met, they’ll establish themselves in a relatively short period.
Wax myrtles have a moderate to fast growth rate and can quickly form dense hedges or screens when planted in groups.
Some varieties of crepe myrtle offer attractive autumn colors with leaves turning to beautiful shades of yellow, orange, or red.
While not as dramatic as some other deciduous trees, the crepe myrtle’s fall display still adds a nice display of color to your yard.
As an evergreen, wax myrtle does not offer fall color, but its leaves remain vibrant throughout the year, providing consistent greenery in your landscape.
Crepe Myrtle vs. Wax Myrtle – Growing Requirements
While both crepe myrtle and wax myrtle are relatively easy to grow, they do have specific growing requirements that need to be met to ensure their health and vitality.
Understanding these requirements can help you choose the tree that is best suited to your garden’s conditions.
Crepe myrtles thrive in full sun. They need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day for optimal growth and flower production.
Wax myrtles are more adaptable when it comes to light conditions. They can grow in full sun to partial shade, making them a versatile choice for different areas of your landscape.
Soil Type and pH Requirements
Crepe myrtles prefer well-drained soil and can tolerate a range of pH levels, from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. They do not do well in overly wet soil, so good drainage is essential.
Wax myrtles are more adaptable when it comes to soil conditions. They can grow in a variety of soil types, including clay, loam, and sandy soils, and they can tolerate both acidic and alkaline pH levels.
They are also able to tolerate wetter soil conditions, making them a good choice for areas with poor drainage.
Cold Hardiness and Adaptability
Crepe myrtles are hardy in USDA Zones 6-9, making them suitable for a wide range of climates. They are tolerant of heat and can thrive in areas with hot, humid summers.
Wax myrtles are even more adaptable, being hardy in USDA Zones 7-11. They can tolerate both heat and cold and are able to withstand salt spray, making them a good choice for coastal areas.
Crepe Myrtle vs. Wax Myrtle – Maintenance and Care
Proper maintenance and care are key to keeping your crepe myrtle or wax myrtle healthy and beautiful.
While both trees are relatively low in maintenance requirements, they do have specific care needs that should be considered.
Crepe myrtles prefer regular watering, especially during dry periods. However, they do not tolerate waterlogged conditions, so it’s important to ensure good drainage.
Wax myrtles are more tolerant of drought, but they still benefit from regular watering, especially during dry spells.
Crepe myrtles benefit from a balanced fertilizer or special crepe myrtle fertilizer to support their rapid growth and prolific flower production. Fertilizer should be applied in early spring and again in mid-summer.
Wax myrtles are not heavy feeders, but they do benefit from a balanced, slow-release fertilizer like this one applied in the spring.
Pruning is important for both crepe myrtles and wax myrtles to maintain their shape and remove dead or diseased wood.
For crepe myrtles, pruning should be done in late winter or early spring before new growth begins.
Wax myrtles can be pruned at any time of the year, but major pruning is best done in late winter or early spring.
Pests and Diseases
Crepe myrtles can be affected by aphids, powdery mildew, and scale, but with regular monitoring and early intervention, these issues can be managed.
Wax myrtles are generally resistant to most pests and diseases, but they can occasionally be affected by scale insects or fungal diseases like leaf spot.
Fall cleanup is important for crepe myrtles to prevent the buildup of fallen leaves and debris, which can harbor pests and diseases.
Since wax myrtles are evergreen, fall cleanup is less of an issue, but it’s still a good idea to remove any fallen berries or branches.
Crepe Myrtle vs. Wax Myrtle – Landscape Uses
Crepe myrtles, with their vibrant summer blooms and attractive bark, are excellent as specimen trees, in borders, or as privacy screens.
Their fast growth and larger size make them suitable for larger landscapes or areas where quick coverage is desired.
Wax myrtles, with their dense growth and evergreen foliage, are excellent for creating hedges, windbreaks, or privacy screens.
Their ability to tolerate wet soil conditions also makes them a good choice for rain gardens or wetland areas.
There are many popular varieties of both crepe myrtles and wax myrtles, each offering unique characteristics.
Some popular crepe myrtle varieties include ‘Natchez‘, ‘Tuscarora’, and ‘Dynamite’, each known for their vibrant flower colors and growth habits.
Popular wax myrtle varieties include ‘Don’s Dwarf’, known for its compact size, and ‘Pumila’, a dwarf variety that is excellent for hedges.
What Are the Cons of Crepe Myrtles?
While crepe myrtles are generally easy to grow, they can be susceptible to a few issues. They can be affected by aphids and powdery mildew, and they do not tolerate waterlogged soil.
Also, their fast growth rate means they may require more frequent pruning to maintain their shape.
What Are the Cons of Wax Myrtle?
Wax myrtles are generally low-maintenance, but they can occasionally be affected by scale insects or fungal diseases.
Also, while they are tolerant of drought, they will look their best with regular watering, especially during dry periods.
Choosing between a crepe myrtle and a wax myrtle depends largely on your specific landscape needs, aesthetic preferences, and local climate conditions.
Both trees offer unique features and can add significant beauty to your garden.
Whether you prefer the vibrant summer blooms and fast growth of the crepe myrtle or the evergreen foliage and adaptability of the wax myrtle, either choice is sure to enhance your landscape and provide year-round interest.
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