15 of the Best Shrubs To Plant Under a Crepe Myrtle Tree

Were you aware that besides enhancing the appearance of your landscape, crepe myrtle trees also provide ample space under their canopy? With a long blooming period and compact size, they make for the perfect addition to your outdoor area.

Planting other varieties underneath to fill in the space and make the most of your garden is a great gardening trick.

Check out this list of 15 great underplantings to pair with your crepe myrtle tree!

You’ll find some great details like their mature size, their bloom time, how much sun they need, and other unique characteristics, so read on to learn more about maximizing the space in your landscape!

Explore even more potential pairings for your Crepe Myrtle in my article about Crepe Myrtle companion plants.

1. Dwarf Fothergilla

A fothergilla shrub in full bloom with bottle-brush flowers.

Dwarf fothergilla is a small shrub with dense foliage that will spread by suckers to fill in any space. It prefers full sun or partial shade and can handle most average soils, but it prefers nutrient-rich and acidic soil.

It blooms with spikes of white flowers that resemble a pipe cleaner, and its foliage will turn a golden-burgundy color in the fall.

  • Mature size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide
  • Bloom time: Late spring through summer
  • Light preferences: Full sun, partial shade
  • Key features: Pest and disease resistant, honey-scented blooms, spreading growth habit

2. Dwarf Bottlebrush

A red bottlebrush shrub in full bloom.

This evergreen variety is extremely hardy to cold and warm temperatures. Blooming with crimson-red flowers throughout the year, it will bring color to your landscape no matter the season!

Drought tolerant once established, this is a great shrub to plant in less-than-favorable conditions, such as those under a large crepe myrtle.

  • Mature size: 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide 
  • Bloom time: Year round
  • Light preferences: Full sun to partial shade
  • Key features: Deer resistant, attracts pollinators 

3. Dwarf Nandina

The colorful foliage of dwarf nandina.

A variety of heavenly bamboo, this small shrub is known for its burgundy and green foliage.

With inconspicuous white flowers that develop into clusters of red berries, plant this shrub for its evergreen habit that brings green and red to your landscape all year.

While its foliage is unique, don’t plant this variety if you’re hoping to see a bountifully blooming shrub. 

  • Mature size: 2 feet tall and wide
  • Bloom time: Mid to late summer
  • Light preferences: Full sun to partial shade
  • Key features: Toxic to pets, drought tolerant, rabbit and deer resistant, pretty red berries in fall and winter

4. Compact Azalea 

The pretty, pink blooms of azalea Satsuki.

Azaleas are one of the most loved garden shrubs since they grow in evergreen and deciduous varieties.

Blooming with red, pink, white, purple, orange, or yellow flowers, there is a variety for every garden! They have waxy, dark-green leaves that create a great backdrop for their colorful blooms.

  • Mature size: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide
  • Bloom time: Early spring or summer
  • Light preferences: Full sun or partial shade
  • Key features: Long bloom time, widely adaptable, a vast array of varieties 

5. Dwarf Abelia

An up-close look at the flowers of an abelia bush.

This is a hardy and widely adapted species. Plant a dwarf abelia as a singular shrub or as a hedge.

With a few variations, their leaves range from green and white variegated to red and green variegation. Blooming with white or pink flowers, they are quite showy in combination with their leaves.

  • Mature size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide
  • Bloom time: Summer
  • Light preferences: Full sun or partial shade
  • Key features: Heat, drought, frost tolerant, butterflies love them 

6. Indian Hawthorn

An Indian Hawthorn bush in full bloom.

A beloved evergreen shrub that can be sculpted into a small tree, you’ll enjoy this plant’s dense foliage and bountiful blooms.

With white and light-pink flowers set among the dark-green, waxy leaves, plant this as a hedge or a specimen tree in your landscape. 

  • Mature size: 3 to 6 feet tall and wide
  • Bloom time: Spring
  • Light preferences: Full sun
  • Key features: Dense foliage, hardy foliage, drought tolerant

7. Dwarf Yaupon Holly

Red berries on a yaupon holly bush.

This is an evergreen ground cover that will spread easily wherever it can. Known for its ornamental red berries, it brings a pop of red and green to your garden in the fall.

While the berries add bright red to the color scheme, its flowers are not impressive and are not showy.  

  • Mature size: 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide
  • Bloom time: Summer 
  • Light preferences: Full sun to partial shade
  • Key features: Salt and drought tolerant, red berries

8. Korean Spice Viburnum

Korean Spice viburnum shrub in full bloom.

If you’re looking for fragrance, this is your plant! Its highly aromatic clusters of light-pink flowers bloom in the spring.

As a deciduous species, expect to see some red and purple leaf color changes in the autumn. 

  • Mature size: 4 to 6 feet tall and 4 to 7 feet wide 
  • Bloom time: Early spring
  • Light preferences: Full sun or partial shade 
  • Key features: Larger size, heavy bloom clusters, fragrance

9. Sweet Box

White flowers on a sweet box shrub.

Growing large as a hedge or trimmed to be kept short like a shrub, sweet box has the most interest in the winter when it blooms.

When it is blooming with countless white flowers, it will grace any passerby with a lovely fragrance when most plants won’t even be green. Be cautious because this variety is not drought tolerant. 

  • Mature size: 10 to 13 feet tall and wide (variable based on trimming)
  • Bloom time: Winter 
  • Light preferences: Full sun to part sun
  • Key features: Excellent for pollinators, easily trained, winter bloom season, red berries in winter

10. Japanese Skimmia

Japanese skimmia in full bloom with a few red berries.

If the sun is not abundant in your garden, this is your species! Preferring shade or minimal sun, the Japanese skimmia will produce large florets of yellow and white flowers in the spring.

This evergreen shrub will bring interest to your garden with flowers in the spring and red berries in the fall and winter. 

  • Mature size: 3 to 4 feet tall and wide
  • Bloom time: Spring
  • Light preferences: Partial shade, full shade
  • Key features: Toxic if ingested in large quantities, small white flowers, cold hardy

11. Wintergreen Barberry

Yellow flower buds on wintergreen barberry.

Drought tolerant and highly adapted to withstand poor soil, the wintergreen barberry variety is great for areas where nothing else seems to be able to grow.

Blooming with yellow flowers in the spring, this evergreen shrub will drop its old inner leaves after turning red, still giving a taste of the autumn leaf change while remaining evergreen. 

  • Mature size: 6 to 8 feet tall and 6 to 7 feet wide
  • Bloom time: Spring
  • Light preferences: Full sun or light shade
  • Key features: Drought tolerant, deer resistant, hardy to varying temperatures, small blue or black berries in fall

12. Dwarf Japanese Pieris

The drooping white flowers of Japanese pieris.

One of the smallest and prettiest options, the dwarf Japanese pieris packs a punch with its short-growing habit and bountiful white bell-shaped blooms.

It is easy to care for, only requiring pruning to remove old flower stalks and dead wood. Be sure to keep it adequately watered because it doesn’t do well in drought conditions. 

  • Mature size: 3 feet tall and wide
  • Bloom time: Spring
  • Light preferences: Full sun to partial shade 
  • Key features: Deer resistant, short growth habit

13. Bluebeard 

A bluebeard bush in full bloom.

With countless shoots of blue flowers, its name fits its appearance! Royal-blue blooms make this shrub unique, and it will add a bright pop of color to your landscape.

It holds its blooms for a long time, into the late summer, making it ideal to add to a spring garden for color through the season. It attracts most pollinators for its sweet nectar and attractive color. 

  • Mature size: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide
  • Bloom time: Summer
  • Light preferences: Full sun or partial shade
  • Key features: Drought tolerant, attracts pollinators, pretty flowers

14. Spirea

A close look at the flowers of bridal wreath spirea.

Blooming with pink, white, red, or mauve flower clusters, this extremely tolerant species is great for difficult growing locations.

Great for attracting pollinators, this species does well as an evergreen perennial in a wildflower garden or under a crepe myrtle.  

  • Mature size: 2 to 10 feet tall and wide
  • Bloom time: Spring and summer
  • Light preferences: Full sun or light shade
  • Key features: Hardy and widely adapted, uniform growing habit, profuse blooms in spring

15. Dwarf Hydrangea

Large blooms on a Little Lime hydrangea.

With giant blooms of flowers ranging in color from pink, white, green, red, purple, and green, there is a color for everyone’s preference!

This plant is great at attracting pollinators, and while many do not have a scent, there are some species that give a lovely fragrance when first blooming. 

  • Mature size: 10 to 15 feet tall and wide
  • Bloom time: Spring through summer
  • Light preferences: Full sun to light shade
  • Key features: Countless colors, easy to grow 

Final Thoughts 

You’ll notice that most of these options are dwarf varieties. That is so that you can keep them under the canopy without them growing too close and lacking enough sunlight exposure.

You can’t go wrong with any of these choices, but feel free to experiment with some of your favorites that share similar growing requirements. Good luck!

Continue learning about Crepe Myrtles with these articles: