Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia): How To Grow Healthy Trees

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Lagerstroemia, commonly known as crepe myrtles, are a favored option for landscaping because of their lively and enduring blooms.

However, like any plant, they require certain care and conditions to thrive.

Caring for crepe myrtles involves providing them with full sun, well-drained soil, and regular watering. They benefit from annual pruning to maintain their shape and promote blooming. Additionally, a balanced fertilizer can be applied in early spring to support their growth and flowering.

If you’re considering adding a crepe myrtle to your landscape or if you already have one and want to learn more about its care, read on.

This guide covers everything from the tree’s appearance and growth habits to its care and maintenance, diseases and pests, propagation methods, and more.

Crepe Myrtles at a Glance

Crepe myrtles are admired for their stunning summer blooms, attractive bark, and graceful form.

They come in a range of sizes, from small shrubs to large trees, and their flowers can be white, pink, red, or lavender.

The leaves are dark green in summer, turning to vibrant shades of yellow, orange, or red in fall. Crepe myrtles grow at a moderate rate and are hardy in USDA Zones 7-9.

Tree Appearance & Size

Crepe myrtles come in a range of sizes, from dwarf varieties that grow only 3 to 6 feet tall to standard varieties that can reach over 20 feet in height.

The bark is smooth and peels away in thin flakes to reveal a mottled, multicolored surface underneath. This peeling bark provides interest in the winter landscape.

Crepe Myrtle Flowers

Crepe myrtle flowers are one of the tree’s standout features. They appear in large clusters and can be white, pink, red, or lavender, depending on the variety.

The flowers typically bloom in summer and last for several weeks, providing a spectacular display of color.

Crepe Myrtle Leaves

The leaves of the crepe myrtle are dark green in summer, providing a lush backdrop for the vibrant flowers.

In fall, the leaves turn to vibrant shades of yellow, orange, or red, adding to the tree’s seasonal interest.

The change in leaf color is one of the features that make crepe myrtles a favorite among gardeners.

Growth Habit & Rate

Crepe myrtles have a graceful, upright growth habit with multiple trunks and a rounded canopy. They grow at a moderate rate, typically adding 1 to 2 feet of growth per year.

With the right care, these trees can provide a spectacular display of color in your landscape.

Crepe Myrtle in Fall & Winter

In fall, crepe myrtle leaves turn vibrant colors before dropping for the winter. The peeling bark provides interest in the winter landscape.

This bark shedding is one of the characteristics that make crepe myrtles a year-round focal point in the garden.

Crepe Myrtle Grow Zones

Crepe myrtles are hardy in USDA Zones 7-9. They can tolerate colder climates with proper winter protection.

However, they thrive best in warmer climates where they can fully express their growth and flowering potential.

A large, showy, light-pink flower panicle on a crepe myrtle tree.

Crepe Myrtle Care and Maintenance

Crepe myrtles are relatively low maintenance but do require some care to thrive. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil.

Regular watering is important, especially during dry periods, but avoid waterlogging the soil. A balanced fertilizer can be applied in early spring to support growth and blooming.

Growing Conditions

Crepe myrtles prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They can tolerate a range of soil types, but perform best in slightly acidic to neutral soil.

These conditions allow the tree to grow robustly and produce abundant, vibrant blooms.

Watering Needs

While crepe myrtles are tolerant of drought once established, they appreciate regular watering during dry periods.

Newly planted trees should be watered deeply once a week for the first few months. This helps establish a strong root system, which is crucial for the tree’s overall health and vigor.

Fertilization

A balanced fertilizer or one made just for crepe myrtles can be applied in early spring to support growth and blooming. This should be done annually for the best results.

Fertilizing crepe myrtles provides them with the necessary nutrients they need to produce their spectacular summer blooms.

Pruning

Pruning should be done in late winter or early spring to maintain the tree’s shape and promote blooming.

This involves removing dead or diseased wood, thinning out crowded branches, and shaping the tree as desired.

However, avoid heavy pruning as it can lead to weak growth and fewer blooms.

Mulching

Mulching around the base of the tree can help retain soil moisture and suppress weeds. It also helps to protect the tree’s roots from temperature extremes.

A 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or shredded bark, is usually sufficient.

Crepe Myrtle Diseases and Pests

Crepe myrtles can be affected by several diseases and pests. Powdery mildew, a fungal disease, can cause a white, powdery coating on the leaves.

Aphids, small sap-sucking insects, can also be a problem. Scale insects are a relatively new problem, but they are spreading rapidly.

Regular monitoring and prompt treatment can help keep these issues in check.

Propagating Crepe Myrtle

Crepe myrtles can be propagated by various methods, including seed germination, softwood cuttings, hardwood cuttings, grafting, air layering, and ground layering.

Each method has its own requirements and success rates, but all can result in new crepe myrtle trees. This allows you to expand your collection of these beautiful trees practically for free.

Crepe Myrtle Varieties

There are many varieties of crepe myrtle to choose from, each with its own unique characteristics.

Some popular varieties include ‘Tonto‘ with its vibrant fuchsia-red flowers, ‘Pocomoke‘ with its compact size and rosy-pink flowers, ‘Natchez‘ known for its pure white flowers and cinnamon-colored bark, and ‘Pink Velour‘ with its bright pink flowers and burgundy-colored leaves.

Crepe Myrtle Companion Plants

Crepe myrtles pair well with a variety of plants. Perennials like coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, hostas, and daylilies can complement the crepe myrtle’s summer blooms.

Ornamental grasses and evergreen shrubs can provide contrast and year-round interest.

When choosing companion plants, consider their growth habits, care requirements, and how their colors and textures will complement your crepe myrtle.

Best Places To Buy Crepe Myrtle

Crepe myrtles can be purchased from a variety of sources.

Local garden centers often carry a selection of crepe myrtle varieties, and they can provide advice on the best choices for your specific location and needs.

Online nurseries offer a wider range of varieties and sizes, and they can ship the trees directly to your home.

Here are the top recommendations for online purchasing:

Closing Thoughts

Crepe myrtles are a wonderful addition to any landscape, offering vibrant blooms, attractive bark, and year-round interest.

With the right care and knowledge, these trees can thrive and provide beauty for many years.

Whether you’re a novice gardener or an experienced one, we hope this guide has provided you with the information you need to grow healthy crepe myrtle trees. Happy gardening!