The Natchez crape myrtle tree (Lagerstroemia x ‘Natchez’) is a popular sight throughout the Southern United States, prized for its delicate pure-white blooms and distinctive peeling bark.
This beloved landscaping tree is a pretty fast-growing specimen too, but how fast are we talking?
Crape myrtle ‘Natchez’ is a very fast-growing tree with height increases of 3 to 5 feet per year. This tree often reaches its mature height of 25 to 30 feet within just 3 years though some trees will grow at a slower rate depending on climate, growing conditions, and regular maintenance.
Whether you plan to keep it small or let your Natchez crape myrtle reach for the sky, it’s important to cater to its ideal soil, sun, and other environmental needs to bring out its best.
Here’s your guide to the Natchez crape myrtle tree — everything from its flowers and maintenance to the pests you can expect to deal with and how to utilize the tree in your garden space.
For a closer look at the diversity of Crepe Myrtle, check out my article, Best Crepe Myrtle Varieties.
Natchez Crape Myrtle
Crape myrtle ‘Natchez’ is a hybrid combining the Crape Myrtle ‘Kiowa’ (L. fauriei) with the common Crape Myrtle species (L. indica).
This stunning tree was named after the Natchez Native American people and was produced by the National Arboretum in Washington D.C. in 1987.
The Natchez crape myrtle has since become naturalized throughout the US and is especially popular in the South, earning the moniker “The Lilac of the South.”
Let’s take a closer look at this beauty in terms of its appearance, flowers, and how fast it grows.
|Botanical name||Lagerstroemia x ‘Natchez’|
|Mature height||25-30 ft.|
|Mature width||15-25 ft.|
|Light preferences||6 hours full sun daily, south/west-facing location|
|Ideal soil||Slightly acidic, well-draining (loamy/sandy/chalky)|
|Watering needs||6 hours of full sun daily, south/west-facing location|
|Bloom time||June to September|
|Fall foliage||Fiery orange-red|
Natchez crape myrtle is a small deciduous tree with multiple trunks of smooth, gray to light-brown, or cinnamon-colored bark.
It features large clusters of white crepe-like flowers, and its branch tips and long glossy leaves of dark green turn orangey-red in the fall.
Its naturally exfoliating bark also undergoes a beautiful transformation at full maturity, peeling off to reveal a polished inner bark of cinnamon-brown to pink.
Growth Rate & Mature Size
These are fast-growing specimens, reaching mature height within just 2 to 3 years, with growth spurts of 3-5 feet a year depending on climate.
Natchez crape myrtle can reach up to 25-30 feet high and up to 25 feet wide though most garden specimens will grow closer to 20 feet high and 15-20 feet wide.
Natchez crape myrtle flowers bloom around mid-late summer, producing 12-inch clusters of ruffled and crinkled pristine white flowers with a papery crepe quality.
These should continue blooming into September, but dead-heading spent blooms in summer can extend the flowering season.
Once established, these trees have a high drought tolerance and are cold hardy to some northern US states, surviving temperatures as low as -5ºF.
However, colder climates will limit their growth somewhat, keeping them restrained to shrub form.
Flowering may be possible in unusually hot summers in the North, but most years will see little to no flowering in the northernmost climates.
Though severe winters will not entirely kill Natchez crape myrtle, very little of it will remain alive above ground, according to landscaping expert David Beaulieu.
Natchez Crape Myrtle Growing Conditions
Now that you’re familiar with this stunning tree at a glance, let’s delve into what it takes to make Natchez crape myrtle thrive, from ideal planting zones and sunlight exposure to the best types of soil to provide it with.
Natchez crape myrtle will prosper in USDA Grow Zones 7 through 10, but it is cold hardy to Zone 6.
Growth will be much more vigorous in the South as it relishes a warm climate, but wherever you plan to grow your Natchez tree, try and avoid planting when temperatures reach above 85ºF to minimize stress.
A daily dose of 6 hours of full sunlight is ideal for Natchez crape myrtle, preferably in a south- or west-facing planting location.
The harsh afternoon sun will cause yellowing foliage, but too much shade will inhibit flowering, so consider this before planting. Sun mapping can help with this.
As long as the soil drains well, this tree can adapt well to most soil types, though for some TLC, we’d advise a slightly acidic pH soil (between 5.0 and 6.5 is excellent), so you will only need to modify things if your existing soil pH is extremely alkaline.
As for soil richness, chalky, sandy, or loamy soils are perfect and will provide the well-draining quality necessary to thrive.
If you’re in a climate that tests the limits of your Natchez crape myrtle’s temperature extremes, mulching around the base is a great way to retain soil moisture and provide root protection.
A 2-3 inch layer of pine straw, bark, or woodchips is ideal. Just remember to keep the mulch away from the trunk to prevent rot.
Natchez Crape Myrtle Maintenance and Care
After establishing your Natchez crape myrtle in the best possible environment for its needs, you’ll want to make sure it looks its best for years to come.
This can be possible with the right watering balance, fertilizer use, and approach to pruning when your charming tree needs a trim.
Your newly planted Natchez will need to be watered deeply about twice a week for the first 3 months (an inch of water, soaking the roots).
You can then bring the watering down to once weekly during dry conditions to help it establish itself. Keep to this schedule, with a deep watering every other week during especially hot and dry weather.
Plant Addicts suggest looking for fertilizers with an 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 ratio for best results. However, a fertilizer specifically for crape myrtles like this, is great too.
Be sure to water the tree immediately after fertilizing to help the tree soak up the feed and prevent fertilizer burn on dry roots.
Also, take care not to overfertilize your crape myrtle as this can reduce blooming in favor of leaf growth.
If you’re going to carry out structural pruning to shape your Natchez crape myrtle tree, do so in winter or very early spring while they are still dormant to cause less injury and stress.
Weak or damaged branches can be pruned at any time of year.
Try to limit pruning to occasional thinning to help open up the plant, i.e., pruning cross-over branches to promote airflow, and always be sure to use sharp, sanitized pruning tools to prevent disease.
Pests & Diseases
Natchez crape myrtles are not troubled by many pests, though they can be susceptible to aphids (less than 1/8 of an inch long and pale/yellowish green with black spots on the abdomen) and Japanese beetles (½ an inch, copper-brown bodies with metallic green heads).
These bugs feed off the leaf sap, causing sooty (black) mold to appear where they have feasted and secreted their sticky honeydew-like substance.
Thankfully, this mold can be rinsed off with a hose, and the pests can be hand-picked. A gentle homemade soapy water insecticide is all that’s needed to help control pest issues.
Another thing to watch for is crape myrtle bark scale, a relatively new problem that is spreading rapidly.
Many crape myrtle varieties are plagued by powdery mildew, but Natchez crape myrtle is highly resistant.
Regular pruning to keep air flowing to the canopy and avoiding shady, damp planting areas can help reduce the risk of disease even further.
TIP: If you add mulch around the roots, be careful not to let the mulch touch the trunk as this can increase the risk of a pest infestation and disease.
Due to their rich bark color and profuse blooms, Natchez crape myrtles make fantastic focal-point specimen trees, but they can look equally stunning when planted together to form a decorative border.
They also are ideal for creating a privacy hedge as the numerous branches and abundant flowers make for a great privacy screen!
Flowering plants that can handle the shade beneath your crape myrtle tree can be great companions — even better if they can also tolerate shallow soil conditions to prevent disturbing the tree roots.
Consider some of these gorgeous picks:
- Rain Lily
- Lily of the Valley
Where To Buy
It’s easy to find Natchez crape myrtles in various online tree nurseries with most companies stocking various sizes to suit each landscape from 2-quart trees up to larger 6- and 7-foot specimens!
Most trees are nurtured with care from seed before being delivered to your door, often within a matter of days.
Some of the top-rated places to find your Natchez crape myrtle include:
With its brilliant white crepe-like blooms and two-toned exfoliating bark, the Natchez crape myrtle tree makes a wondrous addition to any green space that can provide it with its basic needs.
While low-maintenance when it comes to soil type and disease, these trees require a specific Grow Zone range and sun conditions to thrive; otherwise, your beautiful flower-dense tree will turn bare and retreat to a shrub-like form.
So be sure to plant it in the appropriate climate to enjoy healthy and long-lasting blooms!
Still not sure which Crepe Myrtle you like the best? Here are 2 other popular varieties to consider: